Skylights are a popular option for bringing natural light into a home. Even a single skylight can transform a room, adding 30% more light than a window and bathing interiors with balanced, energy-saving light.
At first glance they seem inexpensive: A quality 2-by-4-foot skylight and flashing kit costs $150 to $500. However, installation adds another $500 to $3,000 to the project cost -- good reason to carefully evaluate whether a skylight is right for you.
Until recently, roof slope was a determining factor for skylight installations. Roofs that were too flat or too steep required special installation techniques. Most modern skylights, however, include flashing kits and installation procedures that permit use on all types of slopes.
Most skylights are intended for asphalt shingles; you’ll have to pay extra for flashing to suit metal or tile roofing.
How to Decide if Your Home is Right for a Skylight
Is your roof framed with trusses? Truss framing is typically 24-inch on-center, which accommodates a 2-foot-wide skylight (they’re actually 22.5 inches wide). However, if you need to cut into a truss for a wider skylight (they can range up to 4 feet wide and 6 feet long), you’ll have to hire a structural engineer to spec alternative framing. Costs for engineering run from $300 to $500.
Is the attic space clear? Once you have an idea where you’d like to add a skylight, check the attic for any HVAC, wiring, or plumbing in the way.
Will you need a chase? A chase is a framed tunnel that channels light from the skylight through your attic space to the ceiling below. Typically it’s finished with drywall and painted. Because it’s complex to build, it adds about $1,500 to a professional installation. Note: If you have a cathedral ceiling, you won’t need a chase.
Will a skylight suit the architectural style of your home? In many ways, a skylight is a neutral element that blends with most styles, but it may affect the curb appeal of an older home.
Can a solar light tube do the job as well? At less than 20% of the installed cost of a skylight, a solar light tube can illuminate an area of 200 to 600 sq. ft.
Costs of Adding a Skylight
Unless you’re a highly skilled DIYer, leave this job to the pros. You’ll want an experienced installer to ensure your skylight doesn’t leak. Installation cost for a 2-by-4-foot skylight runs from $500 to $3,000. Here’s how the costs break out:
- Cut a hole in the roof and alter the rafter framing: About $200.
- Install and flash the skylight: With asphalt shingles, expect this stage to cost $200-$300 -- figure 20% to 30% more for metal or tile roofing.
- Build a chase from the skylight to the interior ceiling: Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.
- Repaint the entire ceiling beneath the skylight: Plan a minimum of $250 if you hire a pro. If you have an open-plan home, budget for more.
Even the least expensive skylights come with insulated glass and UV protection. A fixed skylight costs $150 to $500. However, manufacturers offer many options for controlling the amount of light and enhancing ventilation:
- A venting skylight that opens manually using a hand crank runs $300 to $600.
- An electronically controlled venting skylight that opens and closes with a remote control costs $600 to $1,000; including a rain sensor that automatically closes the skylight adds $200 to $300.
- Built-in mini blinds let you fine tune the amount of light. They operate by means of a stick crank or remote control. Blinds cost $200 to $400.