Lovely Skylights: Good Idea or Money Pit?

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One of my favorite places in the world is a tiny cabin in Virginia. It’s way off the beaten path, deep in the woods, where the only sound is the nearby waterfall. You can’t hear or see any traffic — you can see the bears, though. And the wolves and the foxes and every type of bird imaginable.

But the best part is the skylight. A massive skylight in the bedroom, right over the bed. I can lie there at night and watch the stars move across the sky. There is no light pollution in the middle of nowhere, so every little star is perfectly clear. In the morning, the colors of the sunrise wake me. The skylight takes what might be an ordinary cabin and makes it a magical place.

When I mentioned the skylight to a contractor friend of mine, he laughed. “They are beautiful, but they will cost you a pretty penny,” he said.

“For installation?”

“For everything,” he said, shaking his head. “They will suck the money right out of your wallet.”

That got me interested in the pros and cons of skylights. Here’s what I learned.

The Pros of Skylights

Skylights are very aptly named; they are windows that point straight to the sky, and that can mean serious light in your home. They are great for places that don’t have windows, such as a bathroom that sits in the middle of the house. In many cases, the sunlight streaming through the skylights means that you don’t have to use any other lighting at all.

Venting skylights, or those that open to let some air in, can make an excellent addition to an area of the home that needs more fresh air. A well-placed venting skylight can work in tandem with other open windows in the house to create natural cooling during the summer months.

If you love a good view, you’ve got it with a big skylight. Strategically placed large skylights can be a star-gazers dream come true. During the day, you can watch the clouds roll by — and if you are into storms, lightning shows are awesome when viewed through this window on the roof!

The Cons of Skylights

As with any surface made of glass, you can lose plenty of heat or cool air through the skylight, and that can push your utility bills up. Skylights with built-in shades can help prevent this problem, but they can’t eliminate it altogether.

Proper installation is absolutely crucial — without it, skylights can leak, and that can cause serious damage to your home in a very short period of time. Condensation can also build up on skylights, and that leads to more gradual water damage — but it’s damage nonetheless. And since insurance companies know this, a skylight in your home can drive up your premium costs.

Sometimes the light that comes through those unique windows is too much, and your home can suffer serious glare. There is also the possibility of fading of your furniture from the UV rays that make their way through the glass, and overheating can occur on the hottest of the summer days.

Are Skylights Worth It?

For those who love a good view and have no light pollution, gazing through a skylight is hard to beat. But for those who are really worried about the bottom line and maintenance down the road, they might be more of a headache than they should be. What do you think? Are the delightful pros of skylights really worth the trouble and expense?

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.