Everything’s illuminated: Think outside the standard window pane to add natural light to your home

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Everything’s illuminated: Think outside the standard window pane to add natural light to your home

Skylights get a bad rap, according to Charlottesville Glass & Mirror owner Dwight Corle. That’s because years ago, they were poorly constructed, and that blinded a lot of folks to their benefits.

“Like with everything, the technology has boosted the quality,” Corle says. “Most of the new skylights are tempered glass, and they look great.”

If you’re one of the few folks still taking a shine to skylights—they’ve declined in popularity in the last decade, Corle says—you could be in for a treat. Just remember a few key installation considerations, and your crystal-clear overhead pane will be providing your home with natural lighting for years to come.

The location

People might be shying away from skylights, but those who are open to them are getting more and more creative. From kitchens to sunrooms, skylights can up the wow factor in any interior space that’s lacking natural light, according to Corle.

“They’re perfect if you want more light in a room,” he says. “It depends on the home, but I’ve seen them in living rooms, sunrooms and bathrooms—then you even see them in the kitchen.

Ben Davis, VP of sales at Craig Builders, said he’s seeing more and more people using skylights together with porches. “In some instances, porch roofs can limit natural light,” he says. “In that case, homeowners will typically add a skylight or two into the screened area’s roof to bring in more light to the home.”

The materials

Tempered glass is now the gold standard for overhead windows, but acrylic skylights have come a long way, as well. The older versions tended to crack and become hazy in a matter of years, but “they’ve perfected them in the last decade,” Corle says.

Modern, heat-treated, tempered glass skylights are essentially leak-free, laminated for safety and often feature warm edge technology, which means they pass less hot and cold air into your home.

The critical thing when you’re shopping for a skylight pane is to go with low emissivity glass and maybe even a coating to block more UV rays. “You have the sun beating down through these things, so you want to cut out as much UV light and direct heat as you can,” Corle says.

The project

Top-notch skylight installation requires two pros—a contractor to cut holes in your ceiling/roof and a window provider to bring the pane. Once you have your team in place, the job should take about a week, Corle says.

“It shouldn’t take more than one day to install a 2-foot-by-4-foot skylight,” he says, pointing to the most common size. What does take time is the Sheetrock finishing on the skylight shaft. Plywood finishing can cut down on your lead time, but it’s more prone to leaking. Sheetrock, which the contractor will have to go over several times, ensures a tight seal and polished finish.

“That being said, you do get these roofs that are 30 feet in the air and have greater pitch, and that takes longer,” Corle says.

As for skylight pricing, it’s no surprise that cost can vary from house to house and application to application. But the fixture itself should be between $200 and $400, and materials and labor should land on the order of $1,200 to $1,500.

If $1,800 sounds pricey for a quality skylight, Corle suggests one other route for the super handy. Relatively new tube skylights (Corle recommends the line from Velux) have everything a DIYer needs in one convenient package. “There’s no shaft; it’s just a flexible pipe up to the roof,” Corle says. “It has a lens that covers the ceiling end, and it looks like a light fixture.”

Photo: TJ Foundation/Robert C. Lautman

Let there be skylight

Inspiration from the little mountain: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has 13 skylights throughout the house—including the oculus in the Dome Room—located in the dining room and Jefferson’s bedchamber, in three third-floor bedrooms, over stairwells and privy shafts.

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