Sep. 6, 2013 - Skylights - Cost and Return on Investment
Do skylights add value to a home? Here in the Seattle Area the Return on Investment of a skylight has to do with the additional light in the home which is of considerable value for many, but not all, homes.
First let's look at the cost. My rule of thumb for adding skylights where there has been no skylight in the past is $1,600 for a skylight and $800 for a tubular skylight. This price can be lower depending on how many you will be installing and higher based on the roof structure and how easy or hard it is to maintain the support integrity of the roof while creating the new hole for the skylight. Every home is different in that regard, and installers want to provide lesser support than a Structural Engineer would recommend, in most cases.
Return on Investment of a Skylight or Tubular Skylight.
I have a client who is putting in 4 skylights and 4 tubes. The house is currently very dark in the living areas where these will be installed, consequently the return on investment will be high. Another client asked about skylights for a different home which had loads of natural light and my answer to him was there was zero return on investment in that case.
The skylight in and of itself has NO return on investment. It is the additional light and the home's need for that additional light that creates the return on investment. If the home is already bright, you are just making a hole in your roof for no good reason.
Skylight vs Tubular Skylight.
Back to my client who is putting in 4 of each and the basis for the decision. Tubes are cheaper, so why not all tubes if the return is based on the light it brings in and not the skylight?
The living and dining room areas have a pitched ceiling with no 2nd floor on top of them. This is not true for the remainder of this 2 story home. As example you can't put a skylight in the kitchen or family room and you can't put a tube either, as there are bedrooms above these.
This is a good example of why 4 skylights. Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, but I had to blow it up from a smaller version as the ceilings being done are not completed yet and I found this "reasonable facsimile" online. The pitche of the roof is opposite in the home my client is doing, so two skylights well be in the living room and the other two in the dining room. This is basically one open space from the front of the house to the back, with a pitched ceiling and no walls between the two rooms.
Obvious from the photo as to why these need to be skylights and not tubes for aesthetic reasons. When you have pitched ceilings and this much space to cover, you maximize both the light and the aesthetics by going with a standard skylight.
I am calling a standard skylight basically 2 feet wide by 4 feet tall and one that does not open and close. There are already plenty of windows to open and close for air flow on the front and back of this space. More light is all we are going for here, not more air flow.
If you are only replacing an existing skylight, the cost is less. Also if you are adding a room with skylights vs adding skylights to an existing structure, the cost is less. But here I am talking about adding skylights to an existing room and probably in an older home as well.
Tubes are used not only for lower cost, but for smaller area to be lit or more acurately less ceiling space to place the skylight in. Tubes come in many styles and sizes, but here I am talking about a 14" tube. The skylight itself may not cost less and the cost savings is often in the installation vs the skylight.
In the subject house you can't really close the door in the bathroom without it getting totally dark in there or even walk down the hallway on the 2nd floor without turning on a light. This is the best use of tubular skylights as the ceiling space is limited and the additional cost of a full skylight installation, if you could fit one, is unwarranted. It is all about the light that will come in afterward and not the aesthetics. The look will be similar to a ceiling light, and you still need a ceiling light for night time. If the hallway is long enough, then there will be two tubes vs one plus the existing ceiling light.
I'm not 100% sure where all of the 4 tubes are going, but will come back with a new post of the actual house being done when the job is completed. Will try to have photos of the process along with before and after photos.