Skylights for kitchens are available in many shapes and sizes, including “solar tubes” that offer easy installation and reduced heat loss. Although most skylights are fixed and do not operate, others-sometimes called roof windows-can be opened and shut, and some have hidden ventilating systems. Wood and vinyl frames are both available, but both are typically covered with low-maintenance aluminium, so there’s little difference between them in price or performance.
Building codes require that skylights have either tem- pered or laminated glass. Both stand up to snow loads and protect against falling objects. Tempered glass breaks into small pieces if damaged. Laminated glass, which is fused with a thin layer of plastic, stays in place if broken. It’s also better at keeping out sound and is more energy efficient, although also more expensive.
Many skylights compromise, offering an outside pane of tempered glass and an inside pane of laminated glass. Skylights are also available with plastic glazing. Although this is less energy efficient than glass, it costs less and can be formed into domes and curved shapes.
During the winter, moist air inside your home tends to collect and condense on the underside of a skylight. On older models, this condensation often drips back into the living area, where it’s mistaken for a leak. Newer models have a channel that collects condensation and allows it to evaporate without dripping.
Skylights are vulnerable to leaks from the outside-in fact, this is the biggest complaint about older models. Good-quality skylights now come with flashing systems that are customized for specific applications. On a flat roof, a skylight must be attached to a wood curb that raises it 4 to 6 in. above the roof deck.
If your kitchen skylight is operable, you’ll most likely need a tool or attachment that enables you to reach up and open and close the window. Although a long pole is the usual method, there are also motorized versions that are operated by remote controls or wall switches. However, these handy automated features can easily double the cost of your skylight.