What Are Clerestory Windows And Can Any House Have Them?

Clerestory windows are as old as ancient Egypt. You can find them in churches, train stations, and modern homes.

Clerestory Windows

The windows are more common than you think. They appear on the top floors of homes and on balconies. Most church architecture has them. They can be large and singular or come in a series of smaller panes that line a wall’s roofline.  

History Of Clerestory Windows

According to Britannica, the word clerestory appeared in Egyptian temples. Because their columns were higher in the center, this allowed for more light and were like a nave.

In 300 AD, they were part of Roman basilica architecture. Centuries later, they appeared in gothic churches and Victorian architecture.

What Is A Clerestory Window?

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Image from Western Window Systems

Some designs sit higher than the roof of their home. The rows sit above eye level. The purpose is to allow more light to illuminate a space.  

More common in modern homes than older ones, they provide heat in colder climates and admit light. Residential buildings add them to reduce heating expenses.

Window Vs. Clerestory – What’s The Difference?

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Jeremy Levine

A regular window is an opening in a wall covered by a pane of glass. It can be opened so fresh air can enter your home. A high window an interior design feature and installed along a roofline or upper part of wall space to admit light.

What Is The Purpose Of Clerestories?

They illuminate an interior space. You can use them for more light without them using more wall space. In warmer climates, they allow the same light as lower ones, but not as harsh. As sunlight is filtered from above or the side through a nave, it will leave your room well-lit but not hot.

When added above other panes, the wall will look like it’s made of glass. Use a support beam between the two rows to achieve the same effect.

Are Clerestory Windows Fixed?

This truly depends on the clerestory windows. Most of the time, the clerestory windows are indeed fixed. But there are times when the windows can open just like any other window. However, they are usually opened for ventilation. 

You’d most likely see clerestory windows open like awning windows or hopper windows. So they would open from the top or bottom and not slide like standard windows you’d see that are placed at eye level. 

Which Direction Should Clerestory Windows Face?

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Image from Flickr.

They should face north or south. When facing east or west, it’s because they’re on every wall. Also, south-facing clerestories require overhangs. For those facing north, they’ll receive less light but will not overheat a room.

How Tall Should The Windows Be?

They come in a variety of sizes. There isn’t a standard. Some are a foot wide and two feet long while others are ten feet wide by 20 feet. Narrow is the go-to style for taller walls.


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Via Jeri Koegel

Interior models don’t have to be straight. They also don’t need to be slanted on one side. Try with the pitch of your roof or on the ends of your house as they will have a pitch.


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Via Guild Hall Inc.

With slanted designs, add them to the taller side. For inclined surfaces, exposed rafters are best. It will make your interior area appear larger and provide more.


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Via Mission Tile West Showrooms

For rooms higher than your other spaces, add regular or large panes. You can also achieve this effect by adding floor-to-ceiling windows. This works best in your home’s upper rooms. The effect is modern and offer opportunities to experiment with other ideas like floor-to-ceiling glass.

Natural Light Sunroom

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This style is ideal for a sunroom or naturally-lit bedroom. You can view nature and let natural light in without being hit by intense light. If you have adjacent rooftops or adjoining aisles, then you can include exterior clerestory windows.

To make sure the lighting is right, add a protective gloss. Narrow windows are also good if you want to control the lighting. You can also choose how clear you want them from the outside. 

Separated Windows Admitting Daylight

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Via CLB Network

This style sits higher on your roof. You can install standard ones in the upper part of a roof line and they would be the same.

Dual Options

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You can add them to both sides of a room for more natural light. Lower ones are an option and depend on the climate. However, with warmer homes, lower ones won’t help. If your house is cool, then low panes will allow more natural heat to enter.

Faux Design

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If you don’t have enough room, fake it. You can add clear doors to the bottom level and a support beam above it. A clerestory windows exterior will add curb appeal to your home.

They appear to extend higher, but the opposite is true. They’re different, they have the same aesthetic on your walls.

Clerestory vs Transom Windows

The styles in the photo look similar. However, their placement tells you what they are. Transom windows are installed above doorways. Houses with clerestory windows have them installed inside. Clerestory window design dictates that they sit higher than transoms. With clerestory windows in plan designs you will see this feature.

Above the front door, slits pierced along the upper level or vertical slabs are built to fit the panes. The idea of increasing light or helping with ventilation are primary examples of clerestory windows efficiency.

How Much Do Clerestories Cost?

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Via Acanthus Architecture

Clerestory windows cost between $1,000 and $5,000, but it will depend if they are large windows and heir style. For elegant models or clerestory awning windows, you will pay more based on quality and materials.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How To Pronounce The Word Clerestory?

The pronunciation is “kleer – staw – ree” or say it just like you would “clear story.” An easy way to remember how to pronounce it would be to imagine a “clear story.” If you aren’t sure, you can check a dictionary.

What Is A High Window Roof?

This is a vertical wall which sits between two sloping sides. It has a row that stretches across its span. Most roofing styles are symmetrical, with a hipped or gable-type design, or asymmetrical. The roofing style has a row of panes in the vertical panel between the two sloped sections. Clerestory roof windows require serious planning and design.

Can You Add Clerestory Windows In Kitchen Designs?

A clerestory windows kitchen design is possible with high ceilings. You could add a single row along the top part of a wall. If your kitchen ceiling is low, then add them above. If you have an interior rising space, it will be hard. Once you make a clerestory window sketch, you’ll have a better idea of what you can do. There are plenty of clerestory windows manufacturers that can create what you want.

What Are The Best Clerestory Window Coverings?

Motorized clerestory windows are popular but pricey. To complement them, you would want to get motorized blinds. With motorized blinds, you can block sunlight which would help keep your house cooler. If you have a row of windows, like a stone church, you will need to custom order the coverings.

Sheer vertical or panel track blinds are two options. Because of the clerestory windows passive solar design, blocking sunlight from entering your home can be challenging. You might consider installing a clerestory window pole crank for manual protection when you buy clerestory windows.

With clerestory window bathroom coverings, you might want to make them tighter so they cover the panes. They do make blinds for clerestory windows. Clerestory window blinds are best for bedrooms.

Clerestory windows architecture is fascinating and fun to explore. If you want to add them to your home, you’ll need a windows plan. Maybe the terms are too technical, and if so don’t hesitate to use a dictionary or a textbook to find examples. They look great with stone roofs and vaulted ceilings.

Curtains for clerestory windows can be tailor-made for your mid-century modern clerestory windows for example. Floor-length drapery panels are common. As a second option, you could try wooden shutters. When you buy them, ask the retailer about ordering curtains.

If you want your dream home to have an aisle roof look like a gothic cathedral, then find a clerestory windows definition or examples of interior clerestory windows before deciding. Your clerestory windows images should project your personality. With more definitions, you’ll have more options. A dictionary can only help so much. By now, your clerestory windows pronunciation skills are sharp so the next step is learning more about them. It only takes one window to change. a home.