Operable Top-Hinged Transoms?
July 20, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

How does one prop open an interior transom window, traditionally, if the hinges are on top?

After discovering what those wonderful windows above the doors in my newly acquired turn-of-the-century house are called, I'm puzzled as to how they are meant to be propped open. I love the light and ventilation they provide, but with the (original) hinges on the top, how can I take advantage of this? I've found several pieces of hardware meant to mechanize bottom-hinged transoms, but what about top-hinged transoms? How was it done traditionally? Scissor hinges? A chain? Here are a few pics of bottom-hinged transoms propped open: 1 | 2 | 3. I could, of course, just buy some eyehooks and some chains, but I'm interested more in how they were originally kept open. (Mine, b/t/w, look like the third picture but with the hinges on the top, and no latch or chain of any kind.)
posted by HerArchitectLover to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Best answer: Usually some sort of stay, I think. A Victorian house I rented once had sliding stays as shown on this page, but a standard casement stay (also on that page) seems to be quite common, as long as you're not after something you can close without getting up on a chair.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:15 AM on July 20, 2010

I have a 1905 victorian house and the tramsom windows are hinged on the bottom.

Maybe you could move the hinges to the bottom.

Or do a google on "transom hinges"
posted by JayRwv at 7:15 AM on July 20, 2010

Note: I'd attach a casement stay at the bottom of the window, not on the side, as might be implied from the picture I linked to...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:16 AM on July 20, 2010

Best answer: This (store link) would be the fanciest way to do it, but most I've seen just have scissor hinges that lock to hold the window up (unless your pretty tall, that means you need to keep a step stool handy.)
posted by Some1 at 7:17 AM on July 20, 2010

Response by poster: Some1: That is pretty fancy! Probably outside of my budget, but still cool to see evidence of how they were opened. Missed that picture when I was searching. Thanks!

le morte: Thanks! I like the look of the casement stays. Might be my best bet.
posted by HerArchitectLover at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2010

Another way to go (and probably what many people did once the original hardware wore out), would be to get a curtain rod and cut it to length to use as a prop. You could even attach a chain to keep it handy when the window was closed. (I'd probably wind up doing that with a broom handle, because I'm cheap, but I'd paint the handle.)
posted by Some1 at 8:00 AM on July 20, 2010

Response by poster: Like a tension rod? I can see that. With a brass chain and a little eyehook to class it up a bit. Not a bad idea. A trip to the hardware store to weigh my options is definitely in order. Thanks for the advice! How expensive/difficult to install are scissor hinges? Can you even find casement stays at, like, Ace Hardware or Lowe's? (Ignore me if I've overstayed my AskMeFi welcome with follow-ups.)
posted by HerArchitectLover at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2010

In college we had these in my 1800s-built dorm. People propped them up with -- I kid you not -- gym shoes. Aired the stink AND kept the window open!

Probably NOT the route for the mature homeowner, but you can certainly be creative with propping. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:23 AM on July 20, 2010

Casement stays are available in every hardware shop in the UK (and probably Europe too). But the US is generally a law unto itself with these things, so maybe or maybe not.

I don't think scissor hinges are all that difficult to put in, either.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:59 AM on July 20, 2010

Best answer: One of our top-hinged transoms has the exact same mechanism as your first link (but it has been rendered inoperable by several coats of paint). The other transoms have all had the hardware removed.

We use disposable chopsticks from Chinese takeout to prop them all open, one in each corner against the moulding at the bottom. They've stayed open through three moderate earthquakes.
posted by simbiotic at 2:32 PM on July 20, 2010

Response by poster: If I painted the chopsticks white (like the transoms), it might even look built-in! Thanks!
posted by HerArchitectLover at 3:00 PM on July 20, 2010

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