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  • A:

    Size and placement are important aspects to look at when considering skylights. I’m a big fan of proportion and balance, so I tend to place single skylights centered in a space or skylight pairs equal distance off walls or other objects.

    Obviously, natural light is a huge benefit when adding a skylight and that should be considered too. A skylight can provide you more light than a vertical window and enhance air circulation.

    I start by first determining the best location to open your ceiling, and I do that from inside the room. I try to anticipate roof framing and plumbing vent pipe obstructions. Size matters, and while larger skylights bring in more light, they require additional roof framing to meet building codes. Many times, I accomplish the same goal of adding more light by installing smaller skylights between existing rafters. Other times, I choose a skylight size that only affects one rafter, reducing the need to do major reframing.

    If it does become necessary to cut rafters, each one must be supported and braced from the underside of the roof. The supports must be left in place until the adjacent rafters are doubled (reinforced) and headers are installed. This type of work is best done with a building permit and performed by a licensed carpenter.

  • A:

    You can install a skylight in a room with a flat ceiling if that room has a roof or an unfinished attic above it. The skylight is installed in the roof and your carpenter will frame and install what’s called a “light shaft” and cut a hole in your kitchen ceiling.

    The light shaft is basically a wall with studs at 16 or 24 inches on center connecting the roof framing to your ceiling framing. It allows light to travel down and into your kitchen.

    Light shafts can be straight or flared to allow more light into the room. Once framed, the light shaft can be finished off with drywall, wood or another finish material. It is insulated with rigid or batt insulation in the roof/attic space to prevent heat loss, air infiltration and condensation.

  • A:

    I prefer vented skylights because they give you the option of opening the skylight! Who doesn’t want fresh air in the spring or the option to effectively air out the house after cooking fish?

    I also prefer the solar-powered skylights. Solar-powered skylights come with a remote control that gives you a convenient and easy way to ventilate your kitchen without needing to add electrical wires or an extension pole to open the skylight. The other plus is if your skylight is open and it begins to rain, a built-in rain sensor will automatically close your solar-powered skylight.

  • A:

    In my 25 years as a carpenter, I’ve only seen one skylight damaged by hail and it was a very old and brittle acrylic bubble skylight. So the answer is: yes. VELUX also uses what they call “Clean, Quiet and Safe” glass that is designed NOT to crack or break because of hail. Check out the VELUX hail warranty for skylights with Clean, Quiet and Safe glass.

    I will add that if you have an older skylight (pre-2010) and you encounter a hailstorm that doesn’t break the glass but warrants a roof replacement, you should also replace the skylight. There are a few reasons for this: First, the re-roofing process can disrupt the seals and cause leaks later (most likely). Second, and probably less likely, the hail could damage the seals. I ALWAYS advocate that ALL skylights get replaced when my clients re-roof.

  • A:

    Curb-mounted skylights are the most common in commercial, rubber, and low-pitch or flat-roof situations. The “curb” is a frame usually made of two-by-fours that are attached to the roof. The skylight is installed onto the curb. Think of it like a shoebox: the curb is the box and the skylight is the top.

    Deck-mounted skylights have a lower profile because they attach directly to the roof-deck. Deck-mounted skylights are the choice for new construction or for installing new skylights to existing homes.

    If you’re installing a skylight in an existing home or new construction, you will need a deck-mounted skylight. The only time you would need the curb-mounted style is if you were replacing an older existing skylight that was mounted onto a curb frame or if your home has a flat or low-pitch roof.

  • A:

    I like using VELUX skylights because they have a reputation of quality and a track record to back it up. They pretty much do one thing: sell skylights. The flashing and counter flashing that VELUX uses has been carefully designed and vetted to ensure a leakproof design, but the flashing is only one of three parts of the VELUX installation method.

    When we install a VELUX skylight, there are three main steps that, when done correctly, will ensure the skylight won’t leak.

    1. The deck seal is nailed to the roof-deck for an airtight seal.
    2. All weather underlayment is installed, covering the sides of the skylight and about 6 inches around the skylight on the roof-deck. In locations with extreme weather, your installer may install an additional all-weather underlayment up to 2 feet around the skylight.
    3. Install the flashing.

    Having three systems all working independently to prevent leaks of air or water is the reason VELUX can confidently call their skylights “No Leak.” See all three steps in this skylight installation video.

  • A:

    The top 3 things you should consider are:

    • Size
    • Function
    • Operation

    Size

    As a carpenter, I always say proportion matters. The skylight should be proportional to the room you place it in. It should look good and complement the space.

    Function

    Consider if this skylight is going to provide ambient light or task light. Ambient light is suitable in hallways and foyers. Task light is best suited for kitchens and reading areas where sunlight can be used for reading or working. Does the placement of the skylight allow morning or afternoon light — will this affect the rooms usage?

    Operation

    I try to talk my clients into installing skylights that can be opened with a remote control and steer them away from fixed units. If you’re going through the trouble to install a skylight, why not have it be able to open. Being able to open your skylight to vent a room of hot air, shower steam or cooking odors is a huge plus.

    Additionally, being able to open, close or filter the sun is important too. I use room-darkening blinds in bedrooms (so you can sleep in some days) and light-filtering shades in other rooms such as bathrooms and sunrooms.The shades help you regulate room temperature and control any sun glares.

    Lastly, I opt for solar-powered skylights that have a rain sensor and are controlled by a remote control. The convenience that the remote provides is amazing and my clients love them!

  • A:

    Unless you’re building a new house and orienting that house to the sun exposure, most folks don’t have a choice about the direction their skylight will face. It is important to understand what type of light your skylight orientation will provide.

    By orientation, I mean the direction it will face: north, south, east or west. The orientation will be determined by the direction of the roof that’s over the room where the skylight will be installed. Sometimes your roof’s orientation is different from the orientation of the room below. For example, a room with north-facing windows might have a roof that faces east and west.

    West-facing skylight will bring in the afternoon sun. One interesting fact a lot of folks are not aware of is that a south-facing skylight will bring in a lot of bright light throughout the day while a north-facing skylight provides constant cooler light.

    What does all this mean? Well, you need to figure out how you will be using the room and how the sunlight will affect that use. For example, if the room is your office, that sunlight may produce screen glare. In that case, I would recommend installing solar shades.

  • A:

    Yes you can. I’ve used VELUX shades for years. When combined with blackout window shades, I find them to be very effective at keeping the room dark. VELUX offers approximately 30 colors of room-darkening shades, and they come in two types. The first type is double pleated with a honeycomb structure that are energy-efficient, meaning that they help keep out the cold in winter and also heat in summer. The second type is a flat roller blind, which also boost the skylight’s energy efficiency, just not as much as the double pleated shades.

    The room-darkening kits come either solar-powered or manually operated options, but I recommend getting the solar version because it’s operated with a remote control.

  • A:

    One thing you want to keep in mind when installing a skylight is roofing warranty. Do you have a warranty?

    Things like skylights, solar panels and satellite dishes all require roofing penetration or the removal of shingles, and this may void the warranty.

    Does that mean you can’t install anything onto your roof without voiding your warranty? No, but I’d first check your contract to see if a warranty and any voiding issues are listed. Then I’d reach out to your roofer, in writing, and ask them to coordinate with your contractor. Get everything in writing — email is fine.

    Sometimes the roofer prefers to be involved in the installation. They may prefer that they install or at least flash in and replace shingles around the skylight. This ensures that they know the flashing/shingles were done to their specs and can then continue to honor their warranty.

  • A:

    Yes, you can install skylights on roofs with wood shingles.

    The BEST time to do it is when you’re replacing the roofing. If you are retrofitting a skylight in after the fact, I recommend you purchase the correct VELUX flashing kits for shingle shake roofs.

    Also, your installer should peel away more roofing and add extra ice and water shield coverage — at least 18 inches on the roof-deck and up the sides of the skylight frame. The ice and water shield (also called all-weather underlayment) is a must because the thickness of the shakes will not allow the step flashing to sit tight on top of each other. The ice and water shield protects against wind-driven rain or snow melt backup, which can find its way inside the shakes.

    Some carpenters and roofers prefer to use curb-mounted skylights on shingle shake roofs — even building the curb a little bit higher (using 2"x6" lumber instead of 2"x4" lumber) to accommodate the thicker shake dimensions.

    Remember that the “curb” is a frame usually made of two-by-fours that’s attached to the roof. The skylight is installed onto the curb. Think of it like a shoebox: the curb is the box and the skylight is the top.

    With a higher curb, the skylight is clear of the shake and your installer can flash the curb with a standard flashing kit.

    Either way your installer chooses to do it, VELUX has flashing kits made especially for high-profile roofing materials such as shingle shakes and Spanish tile to ensure a weathertight installation.

About Rob Robillard

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter,” a general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, Boston Globe correspondent, editor of Concord Carpenter and principal of “A Concord Carpenter, LLC,” a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts.

As a carpenter and web editor, Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals. He is the carpenter correspondent for and writes a Q&A article in the Sunday Boston Globe called Rob Robillard’s "Ask the Carpenter" column.

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