Archive for March, 2013

Planning Your Skylight Location With Your Head Up in the Air

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Skylights provide more than just a great view. They add architectural elements, open up dark and dreary rooms, and can put the sunlight to work growing plants or warming up the house. Windows add character to a home, but skylights add drama. In order to plan the location of your new skylight, you are going to have to consider much more than just the view outside.

First walk around to find potential indoor problems. If there is a radiator, steam and heat might be directed right to the window. Heating registers would indicate obstructive duct work, and electrical outlets would indicate nearby wiring if they run upwards.

Then, take a rest from your deep thinking and plop yourself on the couch. Look up to the ceiling and picture yourself gazing at constellations instead of bland white ceiling tiles. Bring yourself back down to earth through the roof and picture what is just above that ceiling.

If there is an attic or crawl space over the ceiling of your proposed skylight location, a light shaft has to be installed. A light shaft is basically a rectangular box (shaft) that extends from the roof, through the attic, and to the edge of the ceiling to direct the light into the house. A skylight without a light shaft will bring in more light than a skylight with a light shaft. You can compensate for the loss of light by installing a larger skylight, or installing a “splayed” light shaft. A splayed light shaft is constructed to manipulate the illumination to get the maximum amount per square foot of skylight. If you have a tall attic, consider a larger skylight and/or a splayed light shaft.

To further examine your proposed skylight location, you’re going to have to get off the couch and venture up into the attic. Walk around the attic where you envision the skylight to be. Look to see if there is duct work, electrical wires, plumbing, vents, pipes, joists, walls or other obstructions to the location. Some obstructions are easy to move, but others aren’t. You probably don’t want the expense of reconstructing your house to move a load bearing wall that’s in the way, but you might be willing to move a few wires. There will be some obstructions, and some cutting and moving is generally expected. But if you see a major obstruction, consider a new location for your skylight. You also need to consider the amount of room needed to perform the installation work. A tool might fit in a tight spot, but a person needs to be holding that tool and must have room to move. (more…)