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All About the Different Types of Skylights (page 1 of 2)

Skylights bring natural light into areas that normally wouldn’t have windows. They come in a range of designs. Check out the three standard types of skylights that are used—ventilating, fixed and tubular.

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Building Regulations

Converting an attic into a habitable area needs a permit and building inspections because most attic floors are not designed for the added load living space requires. If the area is to be used as a bedroom, it must have a window or other direct route to the exterior for emergency escape. A complying stairway must be provided to the habitable area.

Ventilating Windows

Ventilating windows are installed at the same pitch as the roof, so no other roof structure needs to be built in order to accommodate the window. Access for maintenance is also easier with a tilting design and remote controls are available for operation. Because of the ease of installation and upkeep, you can install pivot windows when you renovate other areas. The success of this type of window design has expanded product ranges. In addition to standard tilting windows, it is now possible to buy top- or side-hung variations, as well as specially designed blinds and shutters. These may attach to the inside of the window, or sit between two panes of glass inside the window itself.

Planning and Permits

Standard sizes of tilt windows are available, or several windows can be placed alongside each other to make a larger window space — although this may affect the structural integrity of the roof. Before buying the window, seek professional advice. Any required cuts in rafters will weaken the roof structure and will require additional framing. Planning permission is sometimes required for this type of window, and there may be local regulations governing a window’s size, its position in the roof, and even its design.

Installing a Skylight

Three different designs of windows, all of which are installed using much the same technique, include tilt, fixed and escape window. One major advantage of tilt windows is that the installation process can be carried out entirely from inside the roof space. Unless you are adding a very small window that can sit between rafters, at least one rafter will need to be cut to make room. To ensure this does not weaken the roof, support members called false rafters and trimmers will have to be inserted to strengthen the opening. The way in which rafters are cut and trimmers are inserted is very much dependent on window size and positioning. The three examples below are aesthetically quite different, but structurally similar.

Tilt Window (image 1)
This is a variation on a straightforward design. The window opens from an upper hinge instead of tilting around the central window axis.

Waterproofing (image 2)
Tilting roof windows are installed in conjunction with flashing kits to make sure the window is waterproof. Flashing kits vary not only with window size and design, but also according to the type of roof shingles.

Fixed (image 3)
Fixed skylights do not provide exterior access, but offer additional light and the opportunity to enjoy views outside.

Escape Window
By hinging the window along its side, it can easily be “thrown” open, for use with an emergency ladder if required.

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