Boost Natural Light with Rooflights

Fitting roof windows could help you to bring more sunshine into your home's interiors
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It
26th January 2015

Getting enough natural light into a self-build or renovation project isn’t always easy. Planning issues might block your path to conventional windows, for example, or there might be structural or design reasons why standard glazing won’t cut the mustard.

If you’re stuck for sunshine, rooflights can offer a fantastic route to channelling high-quality, top-down brightness into your home.

The basics

For most homeowners, the easiest way to think of rooflights is as fixed or opening windows that are specifically designed to fit into the roof structure. Nevertheless, do be aware that in some quarters, other types of overhead glazing (including roof lanterns and bespoke glass roofs) are all lumped together under the term.

Sunlight filtered in from above can be around 20% brighter than that harnessed by conventional windows. So rooflights offer a highly effective and flexible daylighting solution.

Style-wise, you can pick between contemporary and conservation versions, with options available for both pitched and flat structures. If standard units don’t fit the bill for your scheme, many suppliers also offer a bespoke service – so there’s a rooflight to suit pretty much any project.

Here are just a few of the classic scenarios where rooflights can play a key role in boosting natural brightness:

  • Loft conversions: Units on the rear elevation shouldn’t need planning permission. They can also bring in more sunshine than the main alternative; dormer windows
  • Barns: Sensitive conservation-style units may be the only route to creating new glazed openings for conversion projects
  • Large extensions and dark corridors: Here, rooflights can help to ensure natural brightness still floods into the core of the house
  • Lean-to extensions: Side additions near boundaries may not suit conventional windows – making rooflights an obvious choice

Design details

One of the key decisions is which frame material will suit your project. Metals such as steel and aluminium are popular choices, offering sleek lines that can look fantastic in both traditional and contemporary houses. Steel is typically favoured for conservation units.

Some homeowners prefer timber frames for their internal warmth and character – but even factory-finished hardwood versions will require regular maintenance, which isn’t always easy up on a roof. Composite versions (timber inside, aluminium outside) can offer the best of both worlds.

Standard double glazing will satisfy Building Regs requirements for energy efficiency, with the usual upgrades (triple glazing, solar control glass etc) all available. Consider self-cleaning coatings where access is difficult and anti-reflective glass to help conservation rooflights blend in.

Some units are flush-mounted (in line with the roof covering) while others sit proud (housed in an upstand) – with the choice coming down to planning restrictions as much as your preference.

For pitched roofs, opening units are typically top-hinged or centre-pivoting. For maximum effect, consider pairing windows along the ridgeline, with panes stretching down both roof elevations. Flat versions can be hinged or sliding for ventilation or egress, while walk-on units fitted with ultra-tough glass can be a great choice where the roof of a ground-floor extension forms a balcony for a bedroom on the storey above.

What do rooflights cost?

Off-the-shelf products start from as little as £200 (plus accessories and installation) for a 550mm x 780mm double-glazed softwood unit. High-spec versions can start from £400 at the same dimensions, with prices rising for bespoke designs and extras such as blinds and electric opening systems.

Lumen Conservation Rooflight

The flush-fitting Lumen Conservation rooflight is ideal for barn conversions and similar projects. It is available in 12 standard sizes and priced from £420


Sunsquare multi-pane bespoke roof glazing

Offering an elegant solution for contemporary zones, these multi-pane rooflights are from Sunsquare’s Skyview range (£POA)


Keylite Roof Windows

Easy to install and use, centre pivot rooflights are a popular choice. Keylite Roof Windows’ versions start from £256 including tile flashing (550mm x 780mm unit)

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