We have found many ways of introducing light into our houses and homes. These range from complete conservatories made from glass in a narrow framework, through custom built, atrium roofing sections, to smaller fixed or opening windows fitted into an existing roof.
No matter how much light you want indoors, it is important to know how to go about it. Some skylights require relatively inexpensive and small-scale installation work; others involve large-scale, tailored fabrication and design work. Although planning permission may not be required, the work should comply with the building regulations, so consult your local buildings regulator.
A skylight is a great way to let heat, light and air into a room. The addition of roofing lights can effectively turn a roof into a grid running between the squares of light.
Opening roof windows solve ventilation and sunlight problems associated with the average building. Particularly in the case of attic conversions where standard windows are not an option, an opening skylight turns a roof cavity into a useful and pleasurable space.
Always consider ceiling geometry when you are thinking about skylights. Narrow shapes running down to the line of the eaves create the effect of slots of light internally. When all the surfaces are plastered and painted, the skylight looks even more attractive.
Installing a skylight
A skylight is a fantastic way to let light and heat into dreary rooms. Putting in a skylight, especially if the shape of the ceiling mimics the slope of the roof, is certainly not beyond the capability of the average DIY hobbyist.
First, decide how large a skylight you want; two, three or four smaller windows might be better than a large one. Discuss through your needs with manufacturers or suppliers. When it arrives, carefully read the installation instructions. Bear in mind that you are going to put a hole in your roof, which could let in the rain if there is a hold up because you don’t know exactly how the unit should be fitted or there’s a few parts missing. Have tarpaulin and e ropes to hand, in case.
Drive a large nail into the ceiling where the skylight is to go. Wearing shoes with good grip is essential. Climb onto the roof and locate the desired position and remove the roof slates. The skylight must not interfere with a ceiling hanger or a purlin.
Cut the tiling battens and mark out the frame size that will hold the skylight. Cut the rafters and put in trimmers in compliance with the manufacturer’s directions. Look out for any wiring or cables. Cut away the plaster with a saw and take the skylight from its box and remove the flashings and trims.
Mark the position of the skylight on the ceiling and make Sure that one side of it fits next to a ceiling joist. Drive a large nail through its middle. Remove the tiles and keep them close by. Cut the battens with a circular saw or a handsaw and then cut the rafters until they are trimmed correctly. Frame joints must be well nailed – use a minimum of four 90 mm nails in each case.
Before sawing the hole in the plasterboard, cut deeply into the sheet from underneath with a knife. This will lessen the likelihood of the lining paper tearing. If you’ve made the opening the correct size, the brackets of the sides of the skylight should stand on the framing members.
Stand the frame in the recommended position and fix it to the rafters and trimmers using brackets which should be provided. It must be level across the roof at both ends.
Fit the bottom flashing, bending it to follow the contours of the tiles. Fit the side flashings, the top flashing and so on. Refit the tiles around the skylight. You could use tile cutters or a carborundum wheel fixed in your circular saw for this. (If the latter is used, make sure you wear goggles and long protective clothing.) If you’ve followed the steps correctly, the room below won’t become water damaged. Read the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully, then position the roof window and, after double checking it’s correct, temporarily fix it to one of the rafters.
Use a spirit level to check that the skylight is flat. If it is not, pack it up on the low side and then, using screws or nails, fasten it tightly into position.
The flashings are very important, they are there to stop leaks and water damage developing between the skylight and the roof covering. They must be installed correctly and without damage. When you are fitting the flashings to the roof slates, a wood block can be used for beating the metal into position. Do this until it fits the contours of the slates exactly. When fitting the side and top flashings, proceed carefully. Check each step.
The final step to the exterior is to replace the roof slates. This will involve cutting. Once the job is done, be sure to clear away all the debris that could block the downpipes. Measure the exposed area between the edge of the skylight and the ceiling and cut the plasterboard to suit. Nail the plasterboard in to place, using plasterboard nails. Metal corner angle joints strengthen the join and give a precise line to work on when you are plastering. Cut them with a hacksaw and nail them in place. Using a mortar trowel, apply the cement in separate layers, each one getting wider and wider. Make sure that you smooth each of the joints away to nothing.
Measure and mark the sections as required. Make sure the top side (unmarked) faces outwards. With a sharp knife, cut deeply along the edge. Turn the board over and, holding one side in your hand, give the sheet a thump with your fist. This should cause the sheet to bend and break. Using a sharp knife, cut along the edge on the back of the sheet. This will ensure that the lining paper does not get ripped. Cut and fix plasterboard around the skylight. Cut and fix the metal angles that strengthen the corners. Plaster the corners. Sand, dry, prime and paint them.
If you are considering a skylight in your attic or roof, contact a professional skylight installer and get some good advice on all aspects to take into consideration.