Six bright tips: How to choose the best position for a rooflight

Atmosphere, orientation and cleaning are some points to consider

Strategically placing rooflights over designated areas like the kitchen workspace can create a striking feature. Image of Drumcondra, Dublin 9  residence by Optimise Design

Strategically placing rooflights over designated areas like the kitchen workspace can create a striking feature. Image of Drumcondra, Dublin 9 residence by Optimise Design

 

Rooflights are a fantastic way to maximise the natural light in your home and an excellent means of creating impact in a room. But positioning them in a way that benefits the space and gets light into the right area is often something that isn’t adequately considered. So here are six things to think about to help you choose the perfect location in your home.

1 Extending

When choosing the best position for your rooflight, aim to light the darkest areas of the space. 

When you extend your home, the rooms you are building in front of will become much darker. Rooflights can help to bring light back into these spaces. Position the rooflight as close to the existing external wall of the house as possible to bring light into the central or darkest area. 

When you extend and build over a garage, you often lose the window in the side of the house which lights the stairwell. One of the simplest ways to get light back into the space is to put a rooflight in the roof space above the stairs. You will need planning permission if the rooflight is to the front of the house. Ones to the rear will not require planning. 

2 Furniture layout

When planning the location of your rooflight, take the layout of your furniture into account. An easy way to do this is to mark out each furniture piece on the ground with chalk or tape to help you visualise how the space will flow. 

Think about the atmosphere you are trying to create and where you need to get light. You might find it uncomfortable to have a rooflight directly over your head when you’re sitting on the sofa, for example. On the other hand, placing one over circulation spaces tends to work better as it creates a more dynamic flow through the room.

If your room has a very sunny aspect, you might want to consider a glass with UV protection to stop fabrics and finishes from fading. “Optitherm will work to a certain extent to stop sun fading fabrics but be careful about the size of roof light you choose for very sunny aspects,” warns Dave Baxter of Skylight.ie.

3 Orientation

When it comes to the size and shape of the rooflight, think about the orientation of your room. If you have a sunny aspect and a lot of glazing, you won’t need lots of rooflights. Too many can result in the room being uncomfortable at different times of the day.

Bear in mind also that having too many rooflights can lessen their impact from a design perspective. It’s much nicer to have a large feature one than lots of smaller ones. 

For north-facing or darker spaces, the location is more important than the size. “Don’t just go big for the sake of it because even a small rooflight will let in a huge amount of light if positioned correctly,” says Baxter.

There’s a misconception that a pitched-style rooflight will let more light in than a more contemporary flat version. “The opening in the ceiling is the same size regardless of what style you install,” says Baxter. “The position of the opening is what will make the difference,” he explains.

4 Cleaning and practicalities 

“Self-cleaning glass, in my opinion, is a gimmick,” says Baxter. “Your skylight is like your car. If it gets dirty, you’re going to need to clean it.” 

Take the location of any large trees into account when planning the position of your rooflight. For example, if you live near a park or a lot of trees, you will need to factor in more maintenance, so make sure you position it in a way that allows access for cleaning.  

5 Lighting

Strategically placing rooflights over designated areas, such as the kitchen workspace or the walkway through the space, can create a striking feature as well as bringing lovely daylight to your room. But don’t forget about your artificial lighting layout.

If you place your rooflight directly over your dining table, you won’t be able to hang a pendant light. Instead, think about the atmosphere you would like to create in the room at different times of the day and plan accordingly. 

In a kitchen, make sure your work surfaces are well lit and that the lights are positioned so you are not working in your own shadow. It’s essential to co-ordinate both natural and artificial light to ensure you get light exactly where you need it at all times of the day. 

6 Overlooking

If you live in a terraced home or built-up area, overlooking may be an issue. Carefully consider the location of the rooflight to maximise your privacy. The last thing you want is your neighbours having a clear view into your home from their bedroom windows. If your options are limited, a tint can be applied to the glass, obstructing the view from the outside.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign

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