Skylight windows are installed on the roof, providing views of the sky and allowing natural light to filter into the home.
When well-maintained, they provide numerous benefits, adding value to a home and making a room feel bigger and brighter. They are a coveted design detail but can pose problems when not installed by a professional.
If you’re unsure whether skylights are worth it, there’s a lot to consider. Here’s what to know about the types, costs, and problems with skylights.
The Basic Types of Skylight Windows
Skylight windows are most often rectangular but can also be round or square. Aside from window shape, they can have different projections, including sloped, pitched, and pyramid.
Once you decide on a shape and pitch, you can choose from three main types:
- Fixed Skylight – Fixed skylights don’t ventilate. Since they don’t open, they’re less likely to leak and last longer than the other types.
- Vented Skylights – Ventilated skylights can open by hand, usually through a crank. They can also open via a button if they are electric. Electric skylights are a good option for hard-to-reach areas.
- Tubular – Tubular skylights are less common than fixed and vented skylights. They feature a long tube with a circle window on top, usually reserved for tight spaces like hallways or bathrooms.
What’s the Cost to Replace a Skylight?
Skylight replacement costs an average of $900 – $2,300. The final price depends on window size, condition of the seal, how difficult the window is to access, and whether or not the window opening needs to be adjusted.
Are Skylights Cheaper than Regular Windows?
Skylights are not cheaper than a standard window. They require more material and are more complicated to install. So, both window price and installation cost are higher.
As a comparison, the average skylight with material and installation is $900 – $2,300. The average material and installation cost for a double-hung window is $200 – $1,200.
Do Skylight Windows Open?
Some skylight windows open. Skylights can be either fixed, meaning they don’t open at all, or vented. Vented skylights can open via a hand crank or push of a button if hooked up to electricity.
Skylight Windows Pros and Cons
While skylights provide amazing views and natural light, they are one of the top windows to leak.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of skylight windows.
- The views – Skylight windows provide views outdoors, into the sky.
- Natural light – A single skylight can provide enough natural light to brighten a room during the day.
- Aesthetic appeal – Skylights add interesting design detail to the home, possibly boosting value.
- Expensive installation – These windows are harder to reach and more costly. And since they’re often on a roof, they require flashing and a sealant.
- Cannot DIY – Even if you’re an avid DIYer, you probably leave skylight installation to the professionals. Too much can go wrong if you miss a crucial waterproofing step.
- Potential for leaks – Without careful installation, a skylight will leak. When this happens, it can damage your home’s roof and interior.
Are Skylights Energy Efficient?
If you’re considering a skylight, you’ve probably read that they’re energy-efficient, but here’s the truth: not all skylights are energy efficient.
Skylights are capable of transferring solar heat into a home. While this is great in the winter, it’s not so much in the summer.
The good news is you can pick a skylight that’s ideal for your climate. For example, if you live in a hot area, you choose a window with a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and if you’re in a colder climate, you’ll want a higher one.
In general, for your skylight to be energy efficient, it needs a low U-Factor and a low SHGC – be sure to look for the Energy Star label on any window you choose. You should also opt for professional installation.
How Long Do Skylight Windows Last?
The average skylight will last 15 years, a shorter lifespan than other types of windows. But some brands, like Velux, claim their skylights can last as long as 30 years, depending on maintenance. Overall, the span of your skylight’s life will depend on its material and care.
Do You Need a New Skylight When You Replace Your Roof?
Are you wondering if you’ll need to replace your skylight when replacing your roof? Probably.
Existing skylights often get knocked around during a roofing job, leading to future leaks. And if your skylight starts leaking, it can damage your new roof and the interior of your home. It’s best to replace the skylight when you replace the roof.
What’s the Difference Between a Roof Window and a Skylight
While similar, roof windows and skylights have a few key differences. Roof windows are part of the roof design. These windows open outwardly and are larger than the average skylight. Because they are part of the roof, they must be of the same orientation and pitch.
With a skylight, you have more versatility. Skylights can be tubular, sloped, or rounded and can be vented or fixed.
Can You Put a Skylight in a Bathroom Without Windows?
Skylights are an excellent option for bathrooms without windows. A single skylight can provide enough natural light to brighten the bathroom during the day. But, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: condensation.
Don’t install a skylight if your bathroom doesn’t have vents or exhaust fans. When you shower, the hot air and moisture will rise and need a place to escape. If there isn’t a vent or exhaust fan, condensation will collect on your skylight, leading to mold, mildew, and rotting.
Does a Skylight Count as a Bedroom Window?
If a skylight is the only window in your bedroom, it must meet egress standards. If it doesn’t, the room isn’t a legal bedroom.
For a skylight to meet egress codes, it can only be a maximum of 44 inches from the ground. In addition, the window must open with a net minimum clearing of 5.7 square feet. Finally, the skylight must be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches high when open.
If you have a fixed skylight or one more than 44 inches off the ground, it does not qualify as a bedroom egress window.
*Building codes vary by region, so check locally for specific guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How do you cover skylights?
If you want to cover your skylight from the inside, your best options are a skylight blind or shade. You can find these in several materials, including thermal, which can help with energy efficiency. Consider a curtain if you’re looking for a cheap way to block light.
Can you use a regular window as a skylight?
No, you should not use a regular window as a skylight. The glass in skylights is laminated, so it won’t shatter if it breaks. Aside from this safety concern, installing standard windows as a skylight can lead to leaks which will cause roof rot and interior damage.
Are skylights outdated?
Skylights are not outdated. They are a popular home feature that adds architectural detail. When installed correctly then can add value to a home.
What are sunlight roof windows called?
A sunlight roof window is another name for a skylight.
Is it a bad idea to put skylights on a flat roof?
While you can install a skylight on a flat roof, you’ll need to take extra precautions to encourage rain run-off. One of the best options is a skylight with curved glass.
Skylights provide outdoor views, plenty of natural light and can help make a room feel more open. With the proper installation, these windows are energy efficient and an asset to a home. When not installed right, skylights will leak, causing damage to the interior and exterior of your home.
Choosing an energy-efficient window and a reputable installer is the number one way to ensure your windows will be an asset rather than a problem. Since skylight installation requires waterproofing, it’s best left to a pro.