Ian Kernaghan, Product Manager at Eurocell, illuminates us on all things rooflights.
When it comes to protecting a new home extension from the elements, a flat roof is often the most popular option.
Not just with homeowners, who love their economy and clean lines – but also with builders, who appreciate their ease of installation and versatility compared to the pitched and tiled alternative.
Correctly installed, they’re undoubtedly a tried and tested way to keep heat in and the weather at bay. But they can also be responsible for stopping more than just rain making its way into your home.
That’s because a flat roof can leave the interior of your beautiful new extension looking decidedly gloomy unless adequate space for lighting has been incorporated – and one way of doing that is by designing in rooflights to allow natural light into the room below your flat roof, creating an airy, well lit space that benefits from maximum daylight.
It’s never too late to see the light
But what if you’ve found out the hard way that your extension lacks natural light? Many people go ahead with building work without realising that the new interior space they’ve created is underlit and unwelcoming.
Never fear. Retrofitting a rooflight is a relatively easy task for a competent installer and the good news is, you can choose from a wide range of designs with everything from flat skylights to pyramid designs and large lanterns to complement both classic styling and current architectural trends. What’s more, many offer options that provide the very latest features and functionality, whilst staying in step with building legislation on energy efficiency and safety.
Rooflights have become more and more popular both with architects looking to add style and homeowners wishing to add more natural light. The market has responded with innovative and versatile designs that provide stylish, versatile solutions for virtually any application.
Is your roof right for light?
Flat rooflights are supported on up-stands and are suitable for most types of flat roof installations. In new roofs, the roof joists can be positioned to allow for extra support and easy installation. For retrofit installations, they can either be fitted between existing supporting joists or in an aperture that’s been cut through joists. These should be sufficiently braced and strengthened to retain their structural integrity and adequately support the new unit.
If you’re thinking of installing a roof light in an area with floor traffic, such as a balcony or roof garden, walk-on designs are also available but these may require extra structural work due to the additional materials needed to support people’s weight.
In all cases, the advice of a structural engineer may need to be sought depending on the size of the aperture in the roof.
Think position for maximum illumination
Even though rooflights are generally made using double or triple glazed glass, they will still let some heat out at the same time as letting light in. And he bigger the glass area, the greater the heat loss will be. This is where clever positioning can help, allowing you to specify a smaller glazed area in the right position that will maximise the amount of light coming into your room.
Which is why one of the most important tools for rooflight installation is a trusty compass.
Here are a few pointers: Rooflights on north-facing roofs are good for constant, cooler light. A rooflight on an east-facing roof will illuminate your home with heat and light in the morning as the sun rises, handing over to west-facing roofs in the afternoon. Those on south-facing roofs will top up your home’s temperature in winter, but can really heat up the space below in summer so make sure you include blinds or shades in your plans.
As an important part of your roof, one of a rooflight’s duties is to help rainwater to drain quickly away. Professionals recommend that regardless of overall dimensions, a minimum three-degree fall is required to ensure that water will drain off the surface of the glass and prevent ‘ponding’, where puddles of water on the glass evaporate, leaving behind dirt and stains.
This is most critical in flat rooflight designs; pyramid and lantern-style rooflights, of course, are designed with more than enough fall for water to run-off without the prospect of ponding and its associated problems.
If you’ve chosen walk on rooflights, a one-degree fall is recommended wherever possible to allow for rainwater runoff. The trade off here is to build in enough of a slope to encourage water to keep moving in the right direction, without creating a trip or slip hazard for the unwary.
Keeping a lid on your energy bills
Like any other sort of window, your rooflight will be a source of some heat loss. But with today’s efficient insulating glass and advanced frame materials, you can keep the impact on your bank balance to a minimum.
When choosing glazing, remember that triple glazing offers improved benefits in terms of heat insulation and noise reduction, though will add to the overall cost and also the weight of the unit.
The very latest design and manufacturing technology used by manufacturers means you can expect minimum heat loss, which is measured in U-value; the lower this is for your chosen rooflight, the better the insulation it will provide, so make sure you look for the relevant figures or ask your installer to explain them to you.
A breath of fresh air
Finally, let’s not forget ventilation. Many rooflight units can be opened to allow fresh air to flood in as well as natural sunlight. Lights can either be opened manually using a winding pole, or for ultimate convenience and just a little bit of ‘wow’ factor, electrically with hidden motors and concealed controls. Rain and wind sensors can also be included to close the windows if you forget before you go out, protecting your furniture and closing off a potential point of entry for determined burglars. It can also make sense to keep flies and insects at bay in the summer months by specifying mesh screens in your plans.
The perfect antidote to gloomy rooms and dark corners, a rooflight could be the ideal way to bring welcome light into your home and turn a plain old flat roof into a feature that adds real property appeal, both inside and out.