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.
More in Windows Walls and Doors
Skylights are not limited to just the rooms in your attic. When you want to brighten a room that is too small to install a wall window or is simply lacking direct access to the roof to allow traditional skylight installation, there still remains another option to bring natural light in. Tubular skylights are installed using a shaft that starts at the roof and extends down through your home. Capturing sunlight on the rooftop, the tube redirects it down a highly reflective shaft, and diffuses it throughout the interior space. Unlike the direct light of a skylight, tubular skylight uses a type of optics that spread the light out over more floor surface area. The tube can also be angled around attic obstructions.
Tubes are available in a range of sizes. The model shown below is offered in diameters of 10, 14, or 21 inches. The 10- and 14-inch models can easily fit between rafters and ceiling joists so no structural modifications are needed. Such units also offer the Energy Star® rating, designating them as offering optimal energy efficiency. Because of their compact size, tubular skylights are ideal in smaller areas where traditional skylights couldn't be accommodated, such as powder rooms, shower stalls, hallways, and walk-in closets.
These skylights have optional features that are available from manufacturers. Integrated bathroom fans are an optional feature, ideal for use in bathrooms and laundry rooms. Electric light kits can be used to modify the unit, allowing you to use the tube at night as an additional light fixture. There is also a dimmer that allows you to adjust the level of daylight that pours through the tube. The entire unit is sealed to lock out dust, bugs, and moisture.
Tubular Skylight Installation (image below)
When installing a tubular skylight, start by marking the location inside the room. Line up the preferred location with a flat area in the roof before cutting any holes.
The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that skylights are flashed just as chimneys with a separate apron, step, cricket or back flashing and counterflashing. Some skylights are called "self-flashing," meaning typically continuous flashing is prefabricated as part of the unit. Step flashing may also be needed.
If you see condensation forming on your skylight's interior, it may not be a leak. Condensation may occur if an inadequate amount of insulation is used along a skylight's sides.
Windows can also be added to flat roofs to provide more light. These are often built up on a frame above the main roof deck, and tilted to allow for runoff. Because of the location, installation is straightforward — you can work directly from the roof deck.
There are a number of factors to consider when converting an attic. One of the most important issues is how much structural work will be needed. If the existing joists are not substantial enough to support a floor, they will require strengthening. If roof-support trusses cross the area you want to use, you may have to alter the roof’s structural framework to remove them. Other important considerations include the number and type of windows, and where the stair access will enter the loft from below. You may need to reshingle parts of the roof before or during conversion, and will certainly need to reroute some electrical supplies, and possibly heating, air conditioning, and plumbing as well. One other major thing to consider is stair access and how you will move the building materials into your roof space, and get access to it while you are working.