‘Oh, it can’t be that hard to stick in a few skylights’ – the fa­mous last words of Ed­i­tor-in- Chief Michelle Ogun­de­hin

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Style Case Studies -

I took the ED team to the Sir John Soane mu­seum a few months ago, and we were cap­ti­vated by its trea­sures. But what re­ally in­spired me were the clever ways in which Soane had sneaked ex­tra light into his home – light wells, skylights, mir­rors, and clerestory win­dows fit­ted with yel­low glass, said to have been cho­sen to repli­cate the Mediter­ranean light Soane loved so much. I went home de­ter­mined to up­grade the small leaky sky­light over my kitchen ex­ten­sion. How hard could it be? Just chop a hole and pop in a bigger win­dow. I might even add a sun tun­nel to the hall­way, I thought! Only it wasn’t re­motely sim­ple. Here’s what I learnt… 1 In­stalling skylights into a new build is in­fin­itely eas­ier than into any­thing old. It’s all very well choos­ing a win­dow that will fit be­tween the joists to min­imise chop­ping, but when those joists are 100 years old and re­vealed to be ex­traor­di­nar­ily wonky, you re­alise you need to mea­sure the real di­men­sions, not the the­o­ret­i­cally per­fect ones as guessed ex­ter­nally. 2 You re­ally need to know what your roof is made of be­fore you start works. Mine turned out to be as­phalt on top of screed, over as­bestos, over tiles over slate over wat­tle and daub. I jest not. 3 Check the pitch of your roof. 15 de­grees is the min­i­mum for de­cent rain run-off. Velux has a roof pitch in­di­ca­tor app that you can down­load for free, so it’s easy to do. That said, you need to check again once the roof is stripped. My top fin­ish was 15 de­grees but by the time we got back to the house’s orig­i­nal rafters, it was not. 4 Don’t for­get to fac­tor in the cost of ‘mak­ing good’ af­ter works are com­pleted. Not all roofers ex­pect to do this for you, so it won’t nec­es­sar­ily be in­cluded in their quote, un­less you ask. I ended up need­ing to get the whole in­side of the ex­ten­sion re-boarded, re-plas­tered and re-wired. 5 To cut a long story short, strip and show what you are work­ing with be­fore you buy win­dows if your prop­erty is old with a roof made of any­thing other than nice straight­for­ward joists and tiles.

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