The Sky’s the Limit: Guide to Skylights
Why skylights? They’re dramatic, they make spaces feel larger, create a strong connection with the outdoors and the natural light they provide is beneficial to both people and house plants. Skylights can be fairly easy to install with the help of a professional but, as with all home renovations, there are a few things you need to know before you kick off the project. We have the lowdown on the big things to think about before getting started.
Types of skylights
Before cutting holes in your roof, you need to determine which type of skylight is best for your home. There are three main types:
The most common skylight option, fixed skylights (as their name suggests) are sealed to the roof and do not open for ventilation. They are a great option for vaulted and flat ceilings as they let the light pour in and help enhance the view. If you’re looking to install a skylight in a hard-to-reach location, fixed skylights might be your best option.
Vented skylights open slightly and allow natural light in along with fresh air. They are a beautiful and dramatic solution to small spaces without windows that open— like an attic— as well as spaces with excessive moisture, like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms. Vented skylights have options to open either manually or with an electric motor, so don’t worry if you envisioned one in a room with cathedral ceilings.
Tubular skylights (solar tubes) are a great option if space restrictions make installing a traditional skylight difficult and are best for small, enclosed spaces like closets, hallways and pantries. Tubular skylights are complex in their function. A roof-mounted parabolic lens collects light throughout the day and dispenses it down a highly reflective tube that releases light indoors through an interior fixture. Keep in mind that while you will gain more natural light with a tubular skylight, you won’t gain a view.
Things to consider before installing a skylight
There might be regulations in your region requiring a special building permit for installing new windows (or a skylight in this case). Check with your municipality first.
Glazing can improve energy efficiency by reducing the effect of heat gain in the summer and loss in the winter. Glazing is usually either plastic or glass. Plastic is generally less expensive but has less UV protection, where glass is more durable and won’t discolour (plastic might over time).
Installing a skylight means precise measurement of your roof and ceilings. The exact placement will depend on the location of your rafters and the slope of your roof. Be sure to consult a professional before making any permanent decisions. They can also make sure installation is completed correctly in order to avoid leaks. Inside, you’ll also want to consider the level of exposure you’re looking to achieve and keep in mind the added sunlight will likely increase the temperature of your room.
As a general rule of thumb:
- Skylights on east-facing roofs bring in early morning light.
- Skylights on west-facing roofs provide afternoon light and heat.
- Skylights on north-facing roofs provide consistent light.
- Skylights on south-facing roofs will bring in heat during the winter but may let in too much over the summer.
Cost and installation
In Canada, the average cost of installing a skylight can range from $500 to more than $4,000, with installation being the most costly. The price of the skylight itself will vary based on its size, glazing and type but, generally speaking, tubular skylights are the most affordable, with fixed skylights being somewhere in the middle and vented skylights being the most costly.
Skylights can be a beautiful addition to any home, whether you have little natural light or loads of it and just want more. Once you’ve selected the skylight that’s best for you, determined where to put it and sorted out your permits and installation costs, you will be able to enjoy this upgrade to your home for years to come.