Skylight installation and skylight repairs are difficult trades to complete. Choosing the right skylight products can be just as much a challenge as the installation.
So, you’re thinking about installing a skylight in your home, but maybe you’re not sure if it’s the right investment. Much like choosing new gutters, or having a roof replaced, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Understanding the pros and cons of skylights will help you to avoid any pitfalls, particularly by choosing the right product for your application while keeping the homeowners’ best interests in mind.
When considering which skylights to install, it’s best to narrow down your reasoning for the installation. This makes it much easier for the contractor to advise you on which product to go with. Some people install skylights to give their home better ventilation, others install them to bring in more natural light, and still others do it for the solar generated heat that skylights bring to your home.
Rooftop windows and skylights can give several advantages to the homeowner. They increase the overall value (equity) of your home, they make the rooms in your home seem larger & more inviting, and they can solve issues with dark, stuffy, or cold rooms.
The biggest benefit of installing skylights is how they bring natural light into your home. The body uses sunlight to produce Vitamin-D, which is an essential component of a strong immune system. Sunlight also kills viruses and many other pathogens in our air and on surfaces within our homes. Along with the natural light comes solar heat, which is great in the cold months. In the summer months you can reduce or eliminate the heat generated by having blinds installed on the skylights.
Natural light has also been found to improve mood and increase workplace productivity.
What is a skylight?
Skylights, also known as “Roof Windows”, are a window like structure that’s installed on your roof. They bring natural light into your home, make rooms look more spacious (similar to adding mirrors on the walls), potential home buyers love them, and they’re a great investment due to the ROI you receive from installing a skylight. If you have vaulted ceilings, the window will be nearly flush with the ceiling. If you have flat ceilings, you may need to build a “skylight chase”.
The chase is how we bring the light in from the roof area to the finished space inside. They’re usually made from drywall or wood and are the same length & width as the skylight you’ve installed. The depth of the skylight chase is determined by the distance between your finished ceiling, and the roof deck (the steeper your roof, the deeper the chase will need to be).
Skylights can be fixed (stationary/non-venting), they can be manually opened and/or solar powered, some hinge in the middle to make cleaning easy, there’s even some that become a balcony (Velux Cabrio Roof Balcony) when opened.
For all the techy people out there, Velux has made the created Velux Active, which is a “smart” feature that you can control from your phone. It monitors temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels in your home. If one of these metrics is too high or too low, the skylight will automatically open. If it starts to rain, no worries, they close automatically!
Installing a Skylight
Though the products may be the same, no skylight installation is the same as another. This is because each person installs them for different reasons, and because of the multiple framing methods used in home construction. As a result of the various products and installation methods, it’s in a homeowner’s best interest to use a qualified roofing contractor to complete a skylight installation. If possible, choose a contractor that is certified with the skylight manufacturer as well. Choosing a handyman (some of which are great), or trying to DIY an installation, often leads to leakage and costly repairs.
When determining the materials and methods needed to install a skylight, knowing the type of roof system is a must. Having a “truss roof” gives you many more skylight size options without needing to make significant framing changes, where as a “stick-framed” roof will most often require the rafters to be cut and headers installed to support the weight of the roof and to support the skylight itself. Most custom homes, and homes built before the year 2000, are stick-framed. Most townhomes, apartments and track-homes are built using trusses.
The easiest way to tell if you have a truss roof is by measuring the size of the rafters (the boards supporting the plywood in your attic). You can also look for a metal plate, known as a “Gusset Plate”, that connects the 2×4 rafters to one another.
Which Skylight Brand Should I Choose?
The most popular skylight brand in the U.S., and the only brand that Odyssey uses, is Velux. Velux has been around for 75+ years and supplies roughly 90% of the skylight market in the USA. They’re the most popular brand of skylight because of the quality of materials they use, and the warranty they offer.
The warranty includes a 20-year glass warranty, a 5-year warranty on shades and parts, and a 10-year No Leak Warranty with all 3 flashing components installed.
Beyond the warranties, Velux ha amazing customer support for the homeowners, and highly trained field representatives to help contractors, they also put on numerous training events yearly.
Types of skylights
There are 2 main types of skylights that are installed on residential homes, these are Deck Mounted and Curb Mounted. The pitch of your roof is the biggest factor in deciding which style to use. Curb mounted skylights are best for a flat roof up to a 60-degree roof pitch. Deck mounted skylights can be installed on roofs with a pitch between 14 and 85 degrees.
Waterproofing A Skylight
When it comes to a skylight installation, being watertight is the most important factor. Older skylight models are notorious for leaking around the flashing & for the glass sealant to fail (on older models). The roofing industry didn’t have the products we have today, such as self-adhering membranes, which is what lead to the leakage in most cases (self-adhering membranes are the greatest innovation the roofing industry has seen for 50 years). Today we have several options for sealing a skylight from outside elements.
If your skylight installation is on a roof with a low pitch, it’s best to install ice/water shield (which is a self-adhering roofing membrane) to the entire roof deck before installing the skylight or any shingles. After the ice/water shield is installed, apply 1 layer of synthetic underlayment to act as a bond-break (to keep the shingles for adhering to the ice/water shield and plywood). Without the bond break you would have to remove all plywood from the low-slope area because the shingles have adhered to the membrane, and the membrane has adhered to the plywood. Attempting to remove the shingles will cause the plywood to delaminate.
If you’re installing a curb-mounted skylight, be sure that your roofing contractor installs the ice & water shield up and over the top of the wooden curb before they install the flashing kit.
Velux requires that the roofing contractor flashes your skylight with the following products:
- 3 layers of protection from the outside elements
- Deck Seal – Prevents air & moisture leaks
- Adhesive Underlayment – Prevents air & moisture leaks
- Engineered Step Flashing – Helps rain flow away from the skylight
- With all 3 layers installed, you qualify or the 10-year No Leak Warranty. This includes product and installation
Skylight Features & Benefits
- Low Profile appearance
- Energy efficient
- Increased resale value of your home
- Natural views and adding space to a room
- Great for stargazing
- High grade glass that can be upgraded to laminated or tempered glass (for coastal or hail prone regions)
- Reduced heating costs in the cold months
- Cross ventilation reduces cooling costs in the hotter months by letting in fresh air
- Relatively easy repairs on units 10 years old or less
- Different flashing kits that allow for different roofing materials (asphalt, metal, clay, shakes, etc)
- Venting options to bring in fresh air, regulate humidity and temperature. There are 2 options for venting:
- Manual venting Skylight
- Great for low ceilings, but not for high ceilings
- Opened using a crank system, much like a casement style window
- No Leak Guarantee
- Solar Venting Skylight
- Made the same way as the fixed skylight
- No Leak Guarantee
- Built in battery
- Easy to replace when needed
- Computer on board to maximize the use and life of the battery
- Rain sensor that will close the window automatically when it feels the vibration from a rain drop
- Blackout Skylight blinds
- Light Filtering skylight blinds
- Various color & material options
- Manual and solar options available
- Gives you control over your rooms lighting
- Great for when kids are taking a nap, or on hot days
- Easily removable bug screens
- Velux Cabrio Roof Balcony Skylights
- Great for a loft area or bonus room with vaulted ceiling
- Creates more space
- Good return on your investment
- Increases curb-appeal and sell ability
- Can be operated easily by one person
- Gives the possibility of amazing views that were unattainable before
- Installed on roofs of 35 – 53 degrees, with ideal being 45 degrees
- 2 sizes available
- Both are the same length
- One wider than the other
- Built in hinge that makes window cleaning a breeze
- Velux Active (Home Automations)
- Is an indoor climate control system that operates the skylight & blinds
- Sensor system that detects humidity, temperature, and CO2
- CO2 builds up in a room with no fresh air. CO2 leads to haziness of the brain and fatigue. This system monitors that and automatically opens if the levels are too high
- Communicates with local weather stations, if hooked up to WiFi
- If outdoor air is better, the window will automatically open
- Smart phone application or physical remote
- Can integrate multiple sensors for homes that have multiple levels and/or multiple rooms with skylights
- Helps to manage “Stack Effect”
- 30% Solar Tax Credit!
- Manual venting Skylight
While it’s hard to say that adding a skylight to your home can be a disadvantage, there can be a few drawbacks. Most disadvantages come from poor and shoddy workmanship, or from the contractor being cheap and not using all the water sealing components. With the thousands of skylights Odyssey has installed, we’ve seen what kind of trouble an unskilled skylight installer can bring.
- Additional penetration in the roof, which has a potential for leakage
- Depending on your set-up, the full project can take 1-2 weeks because of the framing, roofing, drywall work, finish carpentry, and paint that are often necessary
- Cost of the installation. While skylights are relatively cheap, the reconstruction of the roof or ceiling framing can be extensive, and expensive
- Maintenance and repairs. If the contractor you hire isn’t well trained, or doesn’t use the right components when flashing the skylight, you will be in for major headaches and expenses to correct the installation
- Loss of heat through the skylight if not properly installed
- Placement of the skylight may bring in too much heat or light. A proper consultation can avoid this
Most of the disadvantages listed above can be easily eliminated by using quality equipment and materials, having proper consultation, and by choosing a reputable skylight professional for the project.
Solar Skylight Tax Credit
Wouldn’t it be great to get paid for upgrading your home? In essence, that’s what the solar-tax-credit does.
The federal government has passed a 30% tax credit for any homeowner who installs a new solar system on their home. This credit applies to the skylights themselves, and for all corresponding work. This means that a roof that you can reduce the cost of the project, through taxes, is reduced by 30%. That’s an ROI any investor would take!
Let’s say a roof replacement would cost $20,000.00 to complete with no skylight. By adding a solar skylight at a cost of $3,000.00 (which would make the total cost $23,000.00), and then applying the 30% solar tax credit of $6,900.00, your total cost of the project is reduced to $16,100.00! With this credit system, you’d lose money if you don’t add a solar component to your skylight installation.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to get the solar venting window, which is the most expensive of the solar options. You can take a fixed skylight and add a solar blind to it (blinds can be added to Velux Skylights after they’re installed) for a few hundred dollars, and still get the 30% credit on your entire roof project. Any drywall, carpentry, etc. is also eligible for the tax credit.
A sun tunnel is a great option if you don’t want to have framing and drywall work conducted, or if you want extra light in your home but need to work on a tighter budget. Solar tunnels are most often used in bathrooms and utility rooms, but they will work for any interior rooms of your home.
A sun tunnel is an acrylic dome that is installed on the roof and has a highly reflective tubing system that brings light from the outside, without needing major construction on your home.
Solar tunnels are relatively inexpensive and easy (for an experienced roofer) to install. In most cases, there’s no paint work needed on the interior when installing a sun tunnel. You only need to cut a hole that corresponds to the diameter of the solar tube and a trim piece finishes off the cut edges of the drywall and termination of the tube.
Sun Tunnels come in varying sizes to fit your lighting needs. The tube bringing the light in even comes with elbows that help to move the tunnel around obstacles in your attic, like a furnace, water heater or framing members.
Best of all, you can add a solar light to the sun tunnel as well, which will qualify you for the federal solar tax rebate.
To Sum Things Up
Having skylights installed in your home can be fun and exciting, not to mention the added value it gives to your home. Before having them installed, be sure that you’ve considered all the variables above and be sure to have a consultation with your roofer before deciding on the product(s) you need. Talk with your accountant or CPA to see how you can take advantage of the Federal Solar Tax Credit. Lastly, be sure that you inspect all materials the contractor is going to use on your roof and have them take photos during each phase of the skylight installation.
If you’re in need of Velux certified installer, your journey starts here with Odyssey Contracting. So, contact us today for your free skylight consultation!
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“The VELUX Roof Balcony opens in seconds to give your space its place in the sun. This innovative roof window and balcony combination adds air, light, and a great view to your home. Sitting flush with the roof when closed, the Cabrio Balcony Roof Window is as stylish as it is innovative.”