Houseworks: Let there be roof light
Bring energy to a hall or landing by adding a skylight or ‘roof lantern’
As long as they are to the rear of a building, skylights don’t require planning permission. Photograph: Getty
At this time of year, hallways in particular seem to beg for a an extra dose of daylight. “In your typical Irish homes built post-1950s, long, burrow-like corridors, bereft of natural light became the norm,” says architect Adrian Buckley from Buckley Partnership Architects. “If budget allows, installing a large skylight or a series of them in the upper landing will allow light flood in and will transform the look and energy of the landing and hallway,” he says.
“Nearly all structurally sound roofs can be retrofitted to take a roof light or roof lantern: lanterns are raised, pitched windows which can come in anything from standard rectangular shapes to hexagons, octagons and pyramids, while a roof light is flat Velux-style, usually rectangular window inserted in a flat or a pitched roof,” says Jim Toal of Fairco Windows and Doors, who advises contracting a established skylight installer with adequate expertise in the industry or who is affiliated with the brand of the window you are installing.
If you’re going to the effort of installing a skylight in your home, make sure you get the scale right so it’s not a wasted exercise. “Most skylights are designed to fit between standard trusses that are about 24 inches apart, so people assume this is the right width to choose. However, you’re better off choosing the biggest window the space will allow for and a skilled builder will be able to reinforce gaps in the trusses without damaging the integrity of the roof,” says William Doyle of WM Doyle Construction Ltd.
As long as they are to the rear of a building, skylights don’t require planning permission. Doyle estimates installation in a flat roof requires something the region of a day’s labour, at around €700, while slanted roofs, which will require boxing in of the skylight, need at least two days, at a cost of €1,400, which includes modifications to the roof, attic or ceiling as well as carpentry and plastering.
The cost of the skylight itself can vary to a great degree: expect to pay anything from €250 to €2,000. The cheaper options are generally non-opening, or manually opened by a rod, while pricier models can be remote operated (either electric or solar powered) and be programmed to open and close on a timer system and shut if it rains. Insulation properties and glazing type will also determine the bottom line, but whatever model you choose, look for a provider that gives reasonable warranty coverage and services such as repairs and renovations.