Skylights have been used to brighten up interior spaces for centuries—think of the Pantheon in Rome—and today they're more popular than ever as more homeowners convert unfinished attics and bonus rooms into home offices, exercise studios, guest quarters and playrooms. There are a couple of other reasons to put in a skylight. Installing one is much easier and more affordable than building a dormer, and modern energy-efficient skylights are completely leakproof—if they are properly installed. Most manufacturers offer a complete line of optional sunscreening accessories, such as roller shades, venetian blinds and pleated shades. And some vented models even have automatic electric openers that work by remote control or a wall-mounted keypad.

In an attic or bonus room, a skylight is typically installed in the sloped ceiling, just above the knee wall. That puts the sill about 5 to 6 feet above the floor, perfect for capturing natural light. To gain an expansive view of the world—or at least of the neighborhood—we contacted Wayne Quarles, product applications supervisor for Velux, a unique "eye-level" installation method for skylights that offers the comfortable, wide-angle sight lines of a roof window. Unlike a typical installation, Quarles positions the skylight lower on the roof, about a foot below the top of the knee wall. That not only puts the window center at eye level, but it also creates a deep viewing shelf at the sill. The model installed in this project measures about 30-inches-wide by 55-inches-tall. It took 1 day to install, and 3 days to tape joints, prime, and paint.

Note: Building codes require an emergency egress in case the primary exit—typically a stair—is blocked by fire. Because skylights don't open wide enough to provide a means of escape, the room must have an exterior window or door large enough to permit egress. If none exists, you'll have to install one. Check with the local building inspector for specific requirements.
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    Tools List

    • 16-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • hammer
    • drill
    • drywall saw
      Drywall saw
    • reciprocating saw
      Reciprocating saw
    • drywall knife
      Drywall knife

    Shopping List

    1. Venting skylight with flashing kit

    2. 2x4s
    used to reframe sill

    3. 2x12
    used to form a header over the skylight

    4. 15-pound roofing felt

    5. Drywall
    used to cover the interior surfaces around the skylight

    6. Corner bead
    used to protect the drywall corners

    7. Joint compound

    8. Drywall tape

    9. 1 1/2-inch drywall nails
    used to attach corner bead

    10. 1/2-inch plywood
    used to create viewing shelf

    11. Primer and paint