Is a skylight right for you?

September 17, 2023 by

Skylights, those good-looking windows on your roof, are a great way to add natural lighting to a room, but there are some things you should know before committing to skylight installation.

Closeup view of skylight replacement in progress

Skylight repair in progress

In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of skylights as well as how to install them properly.

We will also cover some of the most common problems that people experience with skylights.

If you are considering skylight installation for your home, then this blog post is for you!

Common skylight options

First, let’s do a quick rundown of the most common types of skylights:

  • Fixed skylight – This kind of skylight is sealed to the frame and can’t be opened.
  • Manual or electric-powered skylight – These can be opened either by cranking a handle (manual) or via a remote (powered).
  • Solar-powered skylight – Operation comes from a sunlight-generated battery cell charged by a solar panel.
  • Tubular skylight – Also called a “sun tunnel,” this skylight shaft works by employing a reflective-light system using special lenses.

In addition to the many types, skylights come in a plethora of shapes, including flat (square and rectangular), domed, half-barreled, even pyramid.

Choosing the best skylight for you

As far as which type and style to use for your home remodel, there are several factors that should be taken into account, all things being equal.

If you’re starting from scratch, that is, you don’t already have skylights in place, then available roof space and roof type would be the initial considerations. Do you have standard roof framing, and how is your roof structurally?

If you have a flat roof, fixed skylights may be the best option.

If you have a sloped roof, roof windows (essentially those that can be opened by different methods) may be the best choice for a skylight.

These are important distinctions because you must consider how water will approach and be diverted around them.

And then there’s the size of your budget, of course. Skylights can be expensive (and the upgrades likely worth it), but there are affordable options as well.

interior view of skylight replacement in progress

Skylight repair in progress

Generally, cost for a tempered glass skylight will run between a few hundred dollars and a couple of thousand, and there are plastic skylights, too, so you should be able to find ones that fit your needs while being budget-friendly.

Otherwise, here are some other elements that should be part of your new skylights game plan:

  • Size of the opening – That includes figuring in both the width and height you’ll require. The larger the opening, the more available the light (and that means a large skylight, of course).
  • Location of the opening – Does it get a lot of sun or is it in a shaded area? A skylight on a north-facing roof is the best option, as it avoids having the sun bearing straight down into the room during a certain part of the day.
  • How often the skylight will be used – If it’s only going to be used occasionally, then a manual venting skylight may be all you need. If it’s going to be used frequently, an automatic venting skylight is probably a better option.
  • Energy efficiency – Skylights can let in a lot of heat in the summer, so look for an energy-efficient model.
  • Typical weather conditions in your area – If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, choose a model with a snow load rating.
  • Maintenance requirements – Some skylights require more regular care than others, and roof leaks are always possible.

Some pros of skylights

  • Skylights provide a warm and inviting atmosphere in your home. They will make the space feel more open and airy, and this organic ambience can actually improve your mood, especially during those dreary days of winter.
  • Natural light reduces the need for artificial lighting, saving you money on your energy bill. Skylights can also provide indirect solar heat for a little more warmth on cooler days.
  • They can increase the value of your home by up to 15 percent. Skylights often are a desirable feature for many homebuyers, so it can be a wise investment.
  • A roof window can provide an excellent source of ventilation, which can improve air quality in your home. Few things are better than fresh air moving through your home on a perfect day.
  • They’re a great way to showcase the natural beauty of your surroundings. Strategically placed skylights can offer pleasing views of trees, mountains, and other parts of nature around your property.

Some cons of skylights

  • Inefficient skylights can be a considerable source of heat loss in the winter, which can lead to increased energy bills.
  • They can also be a major source of heat gain in the summer, which can lead to discomfort and increased air conditioning costs.
  • If the sealant is compromised, skylights can allow pests and moisture to enter the home, not to mention roof leaks that can lead to water damage and mold growth.
  • They can also cause glare and reflections. Again, the placement of the skylight relative to the path of the sun is an important consideration.
    Closeup view of damaged skylight

    Damaged skylight

    Old roof with damaged skylights

    Roof and skylight needing repairs

How a skylight is installed

As far as skylight installation, here’s a simplified version of how it’s done.

First, the area where the skylight will be installed is measured. Roofing in the area is removed, then an initial hole is cut into the decking.

Framing is then done, and the skylight installed into that roof opening. Flashing and other sealing measures are added around the skylight to protect it and your home from water damage.

Skylights being replaced on rooftop

Skylight installation in progress

woman overseeing skylight replacement

Newly installed skylight

Flashing diverts the water around the skylight, and the sealant keeps things waterproofed.

Once everything is secure, the roofing is then replaced around the skylight. The roof shingles can be reinstalled with roofing nails.

Wrapping it up

So there you go. Undoubtedly, skylights can be an awesome addition to your home – from a practical sense for light, warmth, fresh air, and to provide indirect solar energy as well as for their aesthetic appeal and the potential value they can offer.

There is the good and bad to consider before making the jump, but all in all, skylights are a great thing.

As an experienced roofing contractor, Gunner has worked with all kinds of skylights over the years, and we’d be happy to use that experience to help you with any questions or decisions you have.