Texas Living

Skylight Liabilities

By Casey Kelly-Barton 7.12.17

The stars at night are big and bright — deep in the heart of your living room, with a skylight! Other than sweeping views of the night sky, skylights have other benefits, too, including better internal lighting. But installing a skylight isn’t as easy as cutting a hole in the roof and bolting on a new fixture. Here’s what you need to know to make skylights shine in your home.

The Sunny Side of Skylights

HouseLogic, a website of the National Association of Realtors, says a skylight can bring in “30% more light than a window.” That’s great for boosting daytime lighting in windowless stairwells and north-facing rooms. Skylights can also improve task lighting in kitchens and bathrooms. A skylight directly over a kitchen island, for example, makes prep work easier.

Skylights can also lighten your mood by framing a gorgeous view day or night. Daylight streaming through a skylight can also help keep seasonal blues away during the shorter, darker days of winter.

Doing Skylights Right

To get the most from your skylights, it’s important to understand how to choose them, site them, and install them correctly. The four main issues to consider before installing your skylight are potential overheating, wind damage, breakage, and leaks. Steve Thompson, P.E., chief engineer for the Texas Department of Insurance, shared with Texas Heritage for Living what you need to know to choose a skylight that can stand up to Texas weather.

Look for Low U-Value Ratings

When a skylight is the only thing between you and the sun, you want to make sure it’s not going to overheat your home. Start with the lowest possible U-value. “U-values are a measure of heat loss, and a numerically low U-value indicates superior heat-loss properties, which would save a homeowner on energy bills,” Thompson says.

For Texas homeowners, the TDI recommends skylights with U-factors of 0.75 or lower from the Gulf Coast to Waco, 0.65 or lower for most of the rest of the state, and 0.60 or lower for the Panhandle. Whatever the U-value, avoid placing your skylight where it will receive full afternoon sun so your air conditioner doesn’t work overtime.

Choose the Sturdiest Materials Possible

Skylights are made to be safe, but severe weather can damage even the sturdiest skylight. “Skylight products have safety glazing, either tempered, laminated, heat-strengthened, or polycarbonate plastic. However, keep in mind that even aluminum framing and laminated glazing materials can be damaged by hail,” Thompson says. Keep tree limbs pruned away from your skylight to reduce the risk of storm damage.

Site Your Skylight Right

“Try to avoid areas close to hips, valleys, or ridges” on your roof to reduce wind stress and heavy rain runoff, Thompson recommends. It’s also a good idea to leave the installation to an experienced contractor unless you’ve successfully installed skylights before. Improper installation can void the skylight’s safety and durability features. To know exactly which standards your skylight and installation must meet, “check with your local city building department to find out which building code is adopted for [your] area.”

Following your local code requirements, choosing the right skylight for your region, and having it installed properly can brighten up your home for years to come. Once your skylight is installed, be sure to check in with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to protect your new investment and make sure your homeowners policy is up-to-date.

Got the DIY bug this summer? Check out our article, “Avoiding Costly Roof Maintenance.”

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2017 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance