Door Lites and Sidelites Explained

One of the best ways to add light and space (or a sense of space, at least) to the entrance of your home is by incorporating glass into your front door. There are, for the most part, two ways to do this:

  1. Installing glazing into the door itself.
  2. Installing glazing at the side of the door.

What is a Door Lite?

A door lite is a glass panel set inside a door. Each panel is considered a separate lite, even if they’re arranged to form a larger glass structure. 

A real lite is built into the door, though you can also find ‘faux’ lites, which are attached to the glass using snap-in grilles. The use of these devices substantially lowers the cost of manufacture, and in turn the door. This makes them a tempting option for homeowners on a budget. 

Grilles of this sort come in a range of different types, and can be arranged vertically or horizontally to suit your existing windows.

More elaborate patterns of lites can only be created if the glass is built into the door. If budget isn’t so much of a concern, it makes sense to invest in doors with real lites rather than fake ones (this is especially true when you come to sell, since it will up your property’s ‘kerb appeal’). 

What is a Sidelite?

A sidelite, on the other hand, is a window that’s designed to sit alongside a door. They’re used to create the illusion of size, and allow natural light into the home. 

On the downside, sidelites (as well as door lites, if they’re positioned low enough) allow those outside to see into the property. Stained or privacy glass can mitigate these concerns, as can curtains or blinds.

Transom Windows

Transom windows are a relation of sidelites, but instead of sitting alongsider the door, they sit just above it. Transom windows are a common feature in Victorian and Edwardian houses with higher ceilings. 

The picture below shows a door with door lites, sidelites, and a transom window.

front_door___Looks_welcoming__doesn_t_it____liz_west___Flickr

What Type of Glass is Used in Door Lites and Sidelites?

The glass used in sidelites is almost always toughened safety glass. It’s created using a special process which significantly increases its strength. 

Toughened glass is heated intensely and cooled rapidly, so that the interior of the panel sets at a different pressure than the exterior. This creates a differential force between the inside and the outside that needs to be overcome for the glass to shatter. What’s more, if the glass does shatter, this differential force will act like an elastic band, snapping back and shattering the window into thousands of tiny, dull chunks. This is ideal for homeowners with children or pets, that can hurt themselves on the sharp shards that standard glass breaks into.

Are Door Lites and Sidelites Secure?

One of the main reasons people cite for not installing door lites or sidelites is security. 

Of course, any areas of glass are weak points in the home – windows present similar risks and no-one’s going to live in a home without those.

That said, your property will be much more secure if door lites or sidelites are, as above, made from toughened safety glass. 

It’s also worth thinking about the positioning of the glass – ideally your door handle shouldn’t be accessible if a lite is broken.

If you’re particularly concerned about your sidelites or door lites, you might consider installing a security camera.

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