Skylights are a popular option for bringing natural light into a home. Even a single skylight can transform a room, adding 30% more light than a window and bathing interiors with balanced, energy-saving light.
At first glance they seem inexpensive: A quality 2-by-4-foot skylight and flashing kit costs $150 to $500. However, installation adds another $500 to $3,000 to the project cost — good reason to carefully evaluate whether a skylight is right for you.
Until recently, roof slope was a determining factor for skylight installations. Roofs that were too flat or too steep required special installation techniques. Most modern skylights, however, include flashing kits and installation procedures that permit use on all types of slopes.
Most skylights are intended for asphalt shingles; you’ll have to pay extra for flashing to suit metal or tile roofing.
Is your roof framed with trusses?
Truss framing is typically 24-inch on-center, which accommodates a 2-foot-wide skylight (they’re actually 22.5 inches wide). However, if you need to cut into a truss for a wider skylight (they can range up to 4 feet wide and 6 feet long), you’ll have to hire a structural engineer to spec alternative framing. Costs for engineering run from $300 to $500.
Is the attic space clear?
Once you have an idea where you’d like to add a skylight, check the attic for any HVAC, wiring, or plumbing in the way.
Will you need a chase?
A chase is a framed tunnel that channels light from the skylight through your attic space to the ceiling below. Typically it’s finished with drywall and painted. Because it’s complex to build, it adds about $1,500 to a professional installation. Note: If you have a cathedral ceiling, you won’t need a chase.
Will a skylight suit the architectural style of your home?
In many ways, a skylight is a neutral element that blends with most styles, but it may affect the curb appeal of an older home.
Can a solar light tube do the job as well?
At less than 20% of the installed cost of a skylight, a solar light tube can illuminate an area of 200 to 600 sq. ft.