View of the interior of a luxury home with large skylight windows

Skylight Basics for Curious Homeowners

For lovers of natural light and open, spacious rooms, a skylight can be the perfect addition to a roof.  There are several considerations to keep in mind, including style and location, when contemplating a skylight installation.

Benefits and Concerns

Before installing a skylight, you need to be aware of not just the advantages but also the disadvantages of roof daylighting.

Benefits

Energy savings typically ranks high as a benefit since a skylight reduces the need for artificial lighting. The increased natural light can also make your home feel more spacious and welcoming, which is definitely a benefit from a design perspective. 

Skylights can be especially welcoming if your home is in a shaded area, such as in the shadow of trees, a neighboring structure, or a hill. North facing rooms, in particular, can benefit from access to additional natural light.  Interior rooms lacking windows will definitely benefit from the addition of skylights, since brightness lifts the mood and makes space feel larger and more open.

Concerns

Unfortunately, skylights also raise some concerns. An improperly installed skylight, for example, can lead to leaks, so bring in a skilled roofing contractor for the installation. Another concern in hot southwest climates is overly high solar heat gain in the home. Fortunately, coatings and shading options can counteract heat gain issues.  The type of skylight will also affect heat gain effects.

Style Options

You have plenty of options when it comes to skylight shape and design, but they all boil down to three main varieties. 

Fixed

Fixed skylights are the simplest and usually the least expensive. They are also the least likely to leak since they don’t have an opening mechanism that requires sealing. Fixed skylights allow in plenty of light, but since they don’t open, they aren’t suitable in every room.

Install fixed models in hallways and rooms where open skylights aren’t desired. Fixed skylights may not be preferable in bathrooms, where condensation and steam can collect on the inside.

Tilt

Tilt skylights are sometimes called ventable or open skylights, which makes sense since this type opens to allow fresh air into the home. Additional flashing and sealing are necessary to prevent leaks, and you will need to schedule regular maintenance inspections so seals can be replaced before they wear out.

Ventable skylights are a great choice for anywhere where you want additional airflow or want to vent heat and moisture, such as the kitchen or bathrooms.

Tube

Tube lights are specifically designed to bridge the space between the ceiling and the underside of the roof with minimum disruption to the structure. They obviate the need to construct a light shaft with sheetrock and framing between the skylight on the roof and the interior ceiling.

Light from the roof travels through the tube, which has a reflective coating to maximize the light as it reaches the room. The typically round lens on the bottom end of the light tube disperses light throughout the space beneath.

Tube lights are typically installed in bathrooms, hallways, entries and other dim interior spaces when there is not space to construct a light shaft, or where cost considerations are a concern.

Installation Considerations

The most cost-effective time to install skylights is when your roof is replaced or otherwise being worked on, but they can be installed as desired at any time.

Room Selection

The rooms that will benefit most will depend on the home. Generally, skylights add the most improvement in rooms that have very little natural light, either due to lack of windows or exposure. Small rooms, in particular, can look more spacious since a skylight brings in more light and gives the illusion of a higher ceiling.

Construction Process

The process depends, in part, on your home. If you have raised ceilings, little more than cutting the hole, installing the frame, and weather sealing may be necessary. For homes with an attic, a chase (known as a light shaft) must be constructed. A chase is a framed box that walls off the attic and funnels the light from the skylight into the room below. Some older homes may also need rafters cut and boxed in to make way for skylights.  To avoid the interior construction costs, tube lights may be a cost-effective alternative. 

Contact SUNVEK to learn more about adding skylights to your home. 

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