I’m thinking about getting a skylight for my windowless bathroom. But I’ve heard that skylights leak and I’m afraid that it might get covered up by falling leaves on the roof, so I asked a pro about putting a skylight in the bathroom. Here’s the good news:
Skylights can increase light and ventilation, helping to prevent damp and mold growth, lower electric bills, and negate the need for a bathroom fan. They are especially good for windowless bathrooms. There are ventilating, fixed, and tubular skylights. Installation is governed by building codes.
Depending on where your bathroom is in the layout of your house, the type of roof you have, etc., installing a skylight can end up being quite a complicated task. But this does not make installing one any less of a great idea. Let’s look at what you need to know about skylights.
Ron Dargenio is the general manager at SolaLite|SolarTex in Austin, Texas. He says:
“If skylights aren’t installed properly or are cheap skylights, they can leak. You need high quality materials. Technicians that are trained and certified by the manufacturer. It’s not a problem unless you use cheap equipment and unskilled labor. That’s the bottom line.”
Ron’s company installs both Solatubes and the highly-regarded Velux brand of skylights.
Reasons to Install a Skylight
Increase Natural Light
The main reason for installing a skylight in your bathroom is to increase the amount of light entering your bathroom. Natural light not only adds to the ambiance of the room, it makes it easier to see what you’re doing in there! “If you’re putting on makeup or shaving, natural light is going to help you do a better job,” Ron says.
Installing a skylight will also make your bathroom seem more open. This is an amazing advantage in a small bathroom because it creates the illusion of space, especially if you use a mirror or two to bounce the light around the bathroom.
A large bathroom is also not immune to the effects of a skylight. While big bathrooms require no illusion of space, they can easily become cavernous, and a skylight will help to keep it light and airy.
Increase Natural Ventilation and Prevent Mold Growth
A skylight that can be opened (not all can be) also acts as a source of natural ventilation, which is always desirable in a bathroom.
Ventilation helps with odor control, but more importantly, it is vital to keeping down the moisture level in your bathroom. Unventilated bathrooms are at a much higher risk of structural damage caused by dampness as well as the mold growth.
Bathroom mold has the potential to cause adverse health effects in the people and pets who are exposed to it. So, fighting its growth is of paramount importance, and installing a skylight is just one of the ways in which you can fight mold growth in your bathroom.
Skylight in Bathroom Without Windows
Let’s talk about windowless bathrooms. In these bathrooms, a skylight is exponentially more beneficial to install, and it is usually the reason why people want to install a skylight.
Cut Down on Electricity Costs
In a bathroom without windows, a skylight will provide natural light, which has all the benefits listed previously. However, in this case, providing natural light can lower your electric bill because you will no longer have to turn the lights on when you use the bathroom during the day. (And if you’re really looking to make your bathroom eco-friendly, be sure to check out my post on 16 Tips to Make a Bathroom Energy Efficient (& Save Money!).
Replace Bathroom Fan and Duct System with a Skylight
Installing a skylight in a windowless bathroom can negate the necessity of installing a bathroom fan and its ducting because the skylight can provide ventilation. This only works with a skylight that has an open/close functionality.
Yes, installing a skylight is about as invasive as installing a bathroom fan and duct system, but in the end, you’ll have both more light and better ventilation. Further, a skylight does not require power, and it does not make noise.
(And while you’re waiting to put in your bathroom skylight, get a plant for your windowless bathroom. It will make you so happy!)
Types of Skylights
In any case, there are three main types of skylights to know about:
- Ventilating skylights
- Fixed skylights
- Tubular skylights
Ventilating skylights are those that look like panes of glass in your roof. Typically, they are square or rectangular in shape. However, you can get some more unusual variations as well.
The casements of these skylights can open up on a hinge to allow airflow, which is why they are known as ventilating skylights.
Pros of Ventilating Skylights
- Ventilating skylights are relatively large, which means that they provide ample natural light.
- These skylights, of course, provide ventilation as well as light. They are the only skylights that do so. This is incredibly beneficial for a bathroom.
- Aesthetically, these skylights are very attractive and fit in with most décor styles.
- They also invite nature into your bathroom and can provide stunning views of the sky, the birds and the trees.
Cons of Ventilating Skylights
- As mentioned above, ventilating skylights are most often quite large installments. Some people are not comfortable with opening such a large hole in their roof, and others simply don’t have space to do this in a small bathroom.
- Because of the added functionality, ventilating skylights can end up being more costly than fixed skylights, and they run about three times the price of tubular skylights.
- By installing a ventilating skylight, you introduce another “window”, which you can accidentally leave open. If you’re not careful and it rains, you could come home to a flooded bathroom.
- You can only install this skylight if your bathroom is directly below the roof.
- If you have a flat roof and trees that hang over it, you may need to blow off the leaves with a leaf blower or hose from time to time.
Fixed skylights are the non-opening versions of ventilating skylights, so they also resemble windows installed into the ceiling
Typically, they are square or rectangular in shape, but as with ventilating skylights, there are some alternative options.
Pros of Fixed Skylights
- Fixed skylights provide ample lighting, even though they cannot open.
- This type of skylight is just as aesthetically pleasing as the ventilating skylight, and often there is an option for a ventilating and fixed version of the same skylight model.
- You’ll still get a fantastic view of the sky through a fixed skylight.
- You will never accidentally leave your fixed skylight open, so there’s no risk of flooding the bathroom when it rains.
- They are usually offered for a lower price than the same model that opens and closes.
Cons of Fixed Skylights
- The biggest drawback of fixed skylights is they do not provide ventilation. However, if you already have a bathroom window or a bathroom fan, then you only really need the additional light.
- Fixed skylights are often quite large installations, which means that not everyone will have the space to install them.
- A fixed skylight can only be installed in the bathroom if the bathroom is directly beneath the roof.
- If your roof isn’t pitched, you may find yourself on a ladder with a hose or leaf blower as you blow away leaves that are covering your skylight.
Sunoptics Sun 2-feet x 2-feet Triple Glazed Pyramid Skylight
If you’re looking for a recommendation for a fixed skylight, then have a look at the Sunoptics Sun 2-feet x 2-feet Triple Glazed Pyramid Skylight.
It is not as large as some fixed skylights can be, so you are more likely to have room for it on your roof. The pyramidal glass is something out of the ordinary, but the base is still square for ease of installation.
However, the prism design is not just superficial; the shape also helps to catch full sunlight and then diffuse it to minimize hot spots and glare.
Further, the triple-glazed glass ensures that installing your sunlight will not compromise your ability to control your bathroom temperature.
Tubular skylights are a relatively new option on the market that have transformed the skylight game.
A tubular skylight consists of a light-capturing dome for the roof end, highly reflective tubing, and a diffuser panel for the ceiling end.
Pros of Tubular Skylights
- Tubular skylights can be installed in almost any part of the house, so your bathroom does not need to be right below the ceiling. There does, however, have to be a clear route for the tubing to take from the roof without passing through any other rooms.
- The opening of tubular skylights is a lot smaller, so it’s less invasive and requires less space on your roof.
- This is by far the most inexpensive natural light solution that you can install.
- Tubular skylights are dome-shaped so it’s unlikely they’ll get covered with leaves on a flat roof.
Cons of Tubular Skylights
- Tubular skylights are not anything special to look at. In fact, the diffuser simply makes it look like a basic light fixture.
- You won’t see the sky or the birds with a tubular light fixture.
Natural Light Energy Systems 10-Inch Tubular Skylight
If you are going to go with a tubular skylight, I would recommend the Velux Double-Strength Sun Tunnel.
This 48-inch tubular skylight is made from durable aluminum and can greatly increase the natural light in your bathroom (or any room), while increasing energy efficiency.
The tunnel comes with a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty. It’s designed for a Shingle/Shake roof with a 15 to 60-degree pitch.
For best results with the install, hire a certified contractor.
Installing a Bathroom Skylight
Check the Building Codes Before Installing Your Skylight
Before you grab your toolbox and start cutting holes into your roof, first check the building codes pertaining to skylights. You can visit the International Residential Code HERE, but you should also check your local codes.
Additionally, you may require a permit to make the modification to your home, depending on where you live, what kind of skylight you want to install, and where you are going to be installing it.
Can You Install a Skylight Yourself?
Many people will tell you that you absolutely can install your own skylight, but remember, you are cutting a hole in the roof. If you don’t do it absolutely perfectly, you’ll be spending a lot to clean up leaks.
Proceed at your own risk and make sure any modifications you make to your home won’t violate any code requirements. If you are quite handy and insist on giving DIY installation a try, here are some videos to help you out.
How to Install a Ventilating or Fixed Skylight
How to Install a Tubular Skylight
Bathroom Skylight Cost
As I mentioned, tubular skylights are the most affordable option. Depending on whether you get a lower-end tubular skylight or a top-of-the-range one, you’ll pay between $120 and $1,200.
Tubular skylights generally run about a third the cost of a traditional ventilating skylight.
Professional installation is also cheaper because it is a simpler and quicker process. You could buy a decent tubular skylight and have it installed by a professional for approximately $500.
For a ventilating skylight, if you are looking at the top-of-the-range products, you can pay closer to $3,000 and up for the skylight alone (no installation included). For a more basic ventilating skylight, you will probably be paying just under $1,000. Pricing for fixed skylights is closer to that of ventilating skylights but slightly less.
Who you buy from makes a difference, as does the pitch of your roof (flat roof skylights are cheaper).
You also have to make sure that you are comparing like for like, i.e., you might find a less expensive skylight, but it is actually cheaper because it does not include everything you need for installation.
Get a Warranty from the Manufacturer and Installer
Ron Dargenio told me that his company offers customers a 5-year warranty on labor. Plus, customers get a 10-year no-leak and hail-damage repair guarantee from the product manufacturer. A reputable skylight contractor is going to back their work with a similar sort of warranty.
Will You Put a Skylight in the Bathroom?
Skylights can provide natural light in the bathroom, and some can also provide ventilation. And just like getting out in nature can be calming and restorative, bringing the natural light inside can do the same. So there are practical, aesthetic and even mental-health reasons to consider installing skylights in your bathroom and throughout your home.
But maybe you’re doing a bathroom remodel and considering adding a regular window next to the tub as a way to increase natural light. If so, be sure to read my post that will tell you everything you need to know about adding a bathtub window, including safety considerations, building codes, aesthetics and materials.
And if you are embarking on a bathroom renovation, fill out the form below. I’ll send designer hacks that can literally save you thousands of dollars on your bathroom renovation.