How to Install a Wide-Angle Skylight
A clever installation method that'll improve your outlook
Skylights have been used to brighten up interior spaces for centuries—think of the Pantheon in Rome—and today they're more popular than ever as more homeowners convert unfinished attics and bonus rooms into home offices, exercise studios, guest quarters and playrooms. There are a couple of other reasons to put in a skylight. Installing one is much easier and more affordable than building a dormer, and modern energy-efficient skylights are completely leakproof—if they are properly installed. Most manufacturers offer a complete line of optional sunscreening accessories, such as roller shades, venetian blinds and pleated shades. And some vented models even have automatic electric openers that work by remote control or a wall-mounted keypad.
In an attic or bonus room, a skylight is typically installed in the sloped ceiling, just above the knee wall. That puts the sill about 5 to 6 feet above the floor, perfect for capturing natural light. To gain an expansive view of the world—or at least of the neighborhood—we contacted Wayne Quarles, product applications supervisor for a unique "eye-level" installation method for skylights that offers the comfortable, wide-angle sight lines of a roof window. Unlike a typical installation, Quarles positions the skylight lower on the roof, about a foot below the top of the knee wall. That not only puts the window center at eye level, but it also creates a deep viewing shelf at the sill. The model installed in this project measures about 30-inches-wide by 55-inches-tall. It took 1 day to install, and 3 days to tape joints, prime, and paint.
Note: Building codes require an emergency egress in case the primary exit—typically a stair—is blocked by fire. Because skylights don't open wide enough to provide a means of escape, the room must have an exterior window or door large enough to permit egress. If none exists, you'll have to install one. Check with the local building inspector for specific requirements.
Mark and cut a rough opening
Start by marking the rough opening of the skylight on the ceiling and knee wall. Position the bottom of the sill 38 to 44 inches above the floor. Align the side of the opening with the inside edge of a rafter. Cut along the lines with a drywall saw and pull the drywall from the rough opening.