How to Pick the Right Skylight for Your Home

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated December 15, 2021
grey living room with skylight
Photo: alexandre zveiger / Adobe Stock

Pick the perfect skylight for your needs no matter “watt” they are

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A skylight can be a beautiful and functional accent to your home. These rooftop windows can open up your space to natural light and ventilation, which can make a room brighter and feel more spacious. 

However, not all skylights are the same, nor are they all appropriate for your needs and the type of home you have. Here’s what you should know about installing the right types of skylights in your space.

6 Types of Skylights

It will cost you anywhere between $500 and $3,000 on average to install a skylight, depending on the type you choose. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of skylights:

1. Flared

This type of skylight has a longer base to permit more natural light into the home as the sun rises and sets.

2. Straight

You don’t need a huge home or vaulted ceiling to have a skylight. All you need is a flat ceiling, which makes this one appropriate for any home.

3. Shaftless

Like the name indicates, this skylight doesn’t have a shaft. Install one to add more dimension to a space with a cathedral or vaulted ceiling.

4. Fixed

This one is perfect for a 12-foot or higher ceiling where you want some additional light or to enjoy the view, but don’t need ventilation. A plastic dome protects these skylights from the outside.

5. Tubular

If you like an industrial look that evokes a futuristic submarine feel, opt for a tubular skylight. These are easy to install even when space is at a premium, like hallways and even enclosed spaces like a closet.

6. Vented

If you want your skylight to do more than just look pretty, opt for one that’s vented. This type is good for high ceilings, and you can open them either manually (use a telescopic pole to reach the latch) or automatically.

What Are the Best Locations to Put a Skylight?

While you can technically put a skylight in any ceiling that can accommodate one, there are some rooms in a home that make more sense to have one. 

Here are some rooms that could benefit from having a skylight:

Kitchen

beige kitchen with skylight
Photo: moodboard / Adobe Stock

More light is always a good thing when you’re chopping vegetables and completing other cooking tasks that require careful focus. A skylight in the kitchen provides that along with ventilation. A skylight instead of a regular window is even better because it allows more wall space to be used for cabinets and appliances.

Bathroom

soaking tub in bathroom with skylight
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

It’s better to have more ventilation in the bathroom, particularly after a steamy bath or shower. Having a skylight allows this plus natural light—all without compromising your privacy.

Bedroom

luxurious loft bedroom with skylight
Photo: alexandre zveiger / Adobe Stock

Get ready to ditch your alarm clock because you’ll be rising with the sun every day with a skylight in your bedroom. For this reason, it’s not a good choice for everyone. However, you can always install motorized shades that you can open and close as you and your sleeping routine see fit.

Attic

furnished attic with skylight
Photo: 4th Life Photography / Adobe Stock

Heat rises, which is why attics tend to be the hottest, stuffiest spot in your home. A skylight can provide natural light and ventilation, but just make sure it’s well insulated so that it doesn’t do more harm than good.

What Size Skylight Should You Get?

Now that you know where you want to install your skylight, the size of the room and the number of windows should dictate its size. 

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that, in a space with many windows, the skylight should not be larger than 5% of the total floor area. In a space where there are few windows, then you can go as large as 15% of the floor area with the size of your skylight.

Should You Get a Plastic or Glass Skylight?

Most skylight panes are made from either glass or plastic. Glass is the longer-lasting option, as it is more durable. Plastic is the more budget-friendly option, but make sure you get one that has a coating to prevent it from yellowing.

Can You Open a Skylight for Ventilation?

Unless you have a fixed skylight, you should be able to open a skylight for ventilation. This might be easier said than done depending on how high your ceiling is. For this reason, many homeowners spring for a motorized skylight that opens and closes at the touch of a button.

 If you have a window that opens manually, purchase a lightweight telescoping rod that extends 6 to 10 feet to reach the latch. Whatever type of skylight you choose, you’re going to want to make sure it’s closed when there’s rain in the forecast.

Are Skylights Energy-Efficient? 

It might seem counterintuitive to put a hole in your roof for the sake of energy efficiency but that is indeed what many people get a skylight for. You can add tints and coatings to absorb heat, block UV rays, and even prevent your carpet and furniture from fading—which can happen over time with an unprotected skylight. 

Like with a regular window, you’ll want something that’s durable and can keep out the cold/hot air, so opt for a double-paned skylight with a protective coating. 

Can You DIY Skylight Installation?

man installing skylight window
Photo: Kostiantyn / Adobe Stock

There are indeed some easy-to-install skylights that are appropriate for experienced DIYers to handle, particularly if there’s already a space cut out for one in the roof. But for the vast majority of homeowners, this is a project that’s better left in the hands of experienced installers. 

A faulty installation could lead to a host of problems, including poor insulation against air and water. If you don’t seal a skylight properly, cold or hot air could get in and drive up your energy costs—the exact opposite of what a skylight should be doing. 

Also, if water gets in around the skylight, it could damage your roof or the interior of your home. To avoid these and other problems, hire a skylight installer in your area.

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