What is a Fanlight?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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A fanlight is a kind of semicircular window over a doorway. These can be made of clear or frosted glass. Some types of fanlights also include venting areas to let air in and out of a space.

Lots of traditional home styles feature fanlights, either in interior doorways or at the front of a house above the front door. “Federal” and “Adam” style houses are some of the designs that commonly feature fanlights. Other newer homes may have fanlights with or without venting.

Creating a fan type light glass panel where none previously existed can be a complex process. Builders will have to make room for the glass panel in the space above the door. The semicircular design of a fanlight means that it takes more skill and equipment to assemble one of these features.

In addition to framing out a space and creating the actual fanlight panel, builders will need to secure the finished piece in place to make sure that it doesn’t move too much under direct pressure from wind or other elements. Those installing a fanlight should test its stability to make sure it is correctly situated above the door. Builders can secure the panel in a variety of ways to make it an attractive and functional part of a wall area.


New home accessory designs complement a fanlight. Homeowners can get “sunburst” style mats to go with the semicircular design of this glass panel. In newer homes, fanlights are often ornamental, and add to the visual appeal of the front of a house. Also, just like oval glass panels built into a door, the top panel allows for more sunlight to enter the front room.

Lots of people might confuse the term “fanlight” for an interior light attached to or complementing a fan. In talking about a “bathroom fan light,” for example, one should always specify whether the reference is to the architectural fanlight glass panel or an actual light and fan combination. A bathroom door can have a fanlight glass panel installed, but often when homeowners look for a “bathroom fan light” in a newer home, they are looking for a functional fan and light setup. The same goes for kitchens and other rooms where venting is necessary; although the traditional fan glass panel did allow for some venting, powered fans are much more effective in moving and circulating air.


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