Errors to Avoid when Dealing with Skylights


Skylights are one of the most beautiful and useful elements you can add to a home. Not only do they provide light and thereby cut down on utility bills, but they lend a lighter feel to areas of your home that would otherwise feel heavier and darker.

Adding a skylight is one of the most popular home improvement projects out there. The variety of skylights amazes most homeowners, and the benefits are also a wonderful surprise. However, like any other home improvement project, a skylight installation project can go wrong in several different ways. In addition, skylight maintenance mistakes can turn these small windows into small disasters.

Thankfully, avoiding these mistakes is easy, whether you're tackling this project on a DIY basis or simply performing routine maintenance. Here, we'll review the most commonly made skylight mistakes. We'll cover mistakes made by homeowners and professionals alike, so you can be aware of potential errors and alert your contractor if you see them being made.

Poor Placement Choices

One of the biggest initial mistakes made during the skylight installation process is choosing a location which simply can't accommodate a skylight. Often, homeowners only look at the interior of their home when making this decision. Perhaps there's a long, dark hall in your home that would look great with the addition of some natural sunlight. This sounds like a great location for a skylight, but what's above the ceiling?

It's essential to check your home's structure before making any final plans. Before you fall in love with the idea of a skylight in a particular area, check to ensure that there are no pipes or wires running directly above it which could interfere with installation. You don't want to be changing things like plumbing and electrical work simply to accommodate a skylight. It's possible in some cases, but it usually turns out to be far more trouble than its worth.

Ideally, you should get up in your attic and scout potential locations from a different perspective. A simple map will allow you to make notes of good, clear areas to put a skylight. Then, you can take your map downstairs and see which of these areas you like best. This avoids the mistake of falling in love with the idea of a skylight in a certain area, only to learn (often after hiring pros and purchasing materials) that it simply can't be done.

There is a specific type of skylight which is related to this issue. Many homeowners mistakenly think that an attic prevents the installation of skylights. This is untrue! Skylights can be cut into the attic ceiling and attached to tubes or shafts which direct the light down into your living space. Be sure to explore these options with a contractor before making a final decision.

Installing a Skylight in a Damaged Roof

While your roof doesn't have to be brand new in order to properly install a skylight, it shouldn't be riddled with holes and sagging, either. A skylight can be installed in any roof, given the proper experience and knowledge. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it should be done.

If your roof has several leaks or is extremely old, it may be better to wait until you have it replaced or at least repaired. Installing a skylight involves, obviously, cutting a hole in the roof and the structures which support it. If your roof is already slightly unstable, it's easy to see how this could be a mistake. In a very short amount of time, even with proper installation and sealing, you could be dealing with leaks and water damage.

Experts agree that the most ideal time for skylight installation is during construction, or during a roof replacement. If you don't plan on getting your roof replaced anytime soon, then be sure to have it looked at by a reliable contractor with roofing experience to determine if you can install a skylight without causing damage.

Attempting DIY Without Enough Information

Without question, installing a skylight is one of the most involved and intricate DIY projects a homeowner can take on. It can certainly be done, and done very well. However, a great deal of research needs to be done beforehand to ensure a quality installation.

Unless you have prior experience in skylights (not just regular windows), it's in your best interest to talk with somebody who does have experience. If you know somebody in the business, that's great. However, if you don't, consider calling a professional for a consultation. Ideally, this should be somebody with both roofing and skylight installation experience. If you have to call in two professionals, go ahead and do it - the time and expense are well worth it when you consider the costly results of a poor installation.

Certain types of roofs are simply not well-suited to skylights. This has to do with construction materials, design and several other components. Only an experienced professional will be able to tell you accurately whether your roof is suited to a skylight. Don't make the mistake of guessing. Get a professional opinion to avoid very costly repairs down the road.

If your roof can safely accommodate a skylight, your next step is to learn everything you possibly can about skylight installation. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a skylight is “just” a window in the ceiling. There are many variables which make skylights very different projects than traditional, vertical windows. Installation, flashing, sealing and many other components must be researched thoroughly and done correctly to ensure you end up with a skylight that doesn't leak or otherwise damage your home. Take your time and don't rush through things.

Ignoring Tubular Options

When we think of skylights, we typically picture a window in the ceiling, square or rectangular in shape, very similar in appearance to the vertical windows in the rest of the house. However, tubular skylights are a trend which is rapidly gaining popularity.

Many homeowners make the mistake of ignoring tubular skylights simply because they're not yet a familiar option. However, many homeowners who have tubular skylights say that they would never go back to traditional options! Tubular skylights are just what the name implies: skylights which consist of tubes running from the roof to the interior of the house. These skylights have many advantages over traditional models.

If installed properly, a tubular skylight tends to have fewer leakage issues than a traditional skylight. Tubular skylights are generally less expensive, since they are easier to install. They allow a surprising amount of light inside your home in relation to their actual size. Perhaps best of all, they can be installed in areas which are too small for a traditional skylight. Their size makes working around pipes and wires much easier, and they take up far less space in the actual ceiling than a traditional skylight would. In addition to all this, tubular skylights are extremely earth-friendly. With less surface area, they don't allow heated or cooled air to escape, like many traditional skylights do. They are very well insulated, which will help keep your utility bills under control.

Consult a professional or a knowledgeable salesperson, depending on whether you're approaching your skylight project with professional help or on a DIY basis. Learn about the advantages of tubular skylights, and how they can fit into your home's design. You may be surprised to learn that this newer option is the best one for you!

Ignoring Costlier Options

Yes, we know. This sounds strange. You're probably looking for the most cost-effective options available. However, it's essential to remember that cheap products usually don't result in high-quality finished products. Even in the skilled hands of a seasoned professional, cheap materials simply can't deliver the quality you want. In addition, some more expensive options lead to savings down the road even though they involve a higher initial cost.

Insulated glass is one of these options. You can find skylights which are single-glazed, meaning that there is only one layer of protection. You can also find (at a higher cost) double-glazed or insulated products. These are absolutely your best option for controlling energy costs. They keep heated and cooled air inside with much better efficiency, preventing air leaks and therefore keeping your utility bills down.

Ventilated skylights are another option you'll see when shopping. Many homeowners make the mistake of avoiding this option because it is slightly more costly. However, you should consider the advantages over time. A ventilated skylight allows you to take advantage of nice weather, cutting your utility bills. Nobody likes to live in a house where the air is stagnant, and a ventilated skylight allows you to let in some fresh air whenever you like. While they're not suitable for every home, be sure to explore this option thoroughly before dismissing it.

The Basics

As you can see, a great deal of the most common skylight mistakes are the result of poor planning. If you take the time to research every option and every variable, you have a much better chance of ending up with a quality skylight that you can truly enjoy, instead of a leaking eyesore that can cause structural damage.

Hiring professionals who know what they're doing is a huge part of a successful skylight installation, whether you're hiring them for the job itself or simply for a consultation. Be sure to check all applicable criteria such as licensing, insurance and years of experience, as with any home improvement hire.

When done right, a skylight installation can leave you with a beautiful and unique addition to your home, one that brightens up a room and cuts down your utility bills. By avoiding the most common skylight mistakes, you can relax and enjoy the process and the finished product much more.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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