Choosing and Installing a Skylight

There is little doubt that the average British home is a touch darker than it ought to be. Our love of the terraced house and our failure to bond with modernism means that we are stuck with housing designs that largely work best with small windows front and back, with not much else allowing the sun in. Our fairly recent love affair with the patio door has seen us become more likely to take in some Vitamin D, but light is at a premium in most of our flats and houses, with some needing electric lights on all day long.

Adding windows to a home can often be overly expensive or highly impractical, but installing a skylight or two can easily be worked into the design of new or existing extensions. They can also brighten up a loft room or another extension, where it may be able to be considered a fire escape under building regulations.

installing a skylight

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The concept of installing a skylight is relatively simple, in so far as all you are doing is cutting a hole in an existing roof and then filling it with a window. But the implications of this work are slightly more complex, as you are dealing with structural issues and creating a hole that must be sealed in a watertight way so that doesn’t produce leaks and drips from above. For this reason it is not the kind of job that you should really attempt yourself, no matter how good your DIY skills are.


In most cases, skylights will be small windows that open up and out at an angle, although some versions are simply long panes of glass that add light along the length of something like a kitchen extension. Some skylights can also appear like small domes that sit on top of flat roofs.

choosing a skylight

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Skylights (which are sometimes known by the popular brand name ‘Velux windows’) come in many different sizes and shapes, so you should think about this or have a tradesman measure up and give you an idea of what may be best. Sometimes it may be better to have two small skylights rather than one large one, especially if you are placing them in a pitched roof. This is because you will need to retain the strength and integrity of the roof once the skylights are installed.

The main decisions that you will need to make concern choosing the kind of frame that you want from your skylight, whether it should open and the type of glazing that you need. You will also need to think about blinds for the window, especially if this is in a room where you will be sleeping or working. Some skylights come with specially fitted blinds, often remotely-controlled, that are made by the window manufacturer and the chances are that you will need something made to measure or that can be shut from below easily.

skylight installation

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When it comes to frames then wood is usually the best material for looks and a long life, although skylights are available in aluminium, steel and uPVC. Your tradesman will be able to advise you on which finish will work best for you, as well as on glazing options. They will also be able to give you options of which kind of window opening will work best for you, as most are available with a different pivot point that will provide a varied opening. Some pivot from the top, some from the middle and some from the bottom or side.

On average, you can expect to pay around £1,000 for each skylight that you have installed. This cost should cover the window and the labour, although costs of both can vary according to where you live, the condition of your roof and the type and size of window you are installing. The cost should also include building control sign off, which will be needed in most cases. Your tradesman will arrange this for you, but do ask them about it before agreeing to a fitting.

Looking for the help of an expert with installing a skylight? Find a qualified and trusted Window Specialist on Rated People by posting your job.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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  1. Thank you for this very informative article, Iain! I wanted to add flat roof skylights to my home, but I have no clue how to get started. I’m glad that I came across your post, I have now some great ideas on what to install. Thanks again!

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