Choosing the Best Skylights for a Tiny House
House skylights can be tricky to install, but they're a great addition to tiny homes in particular. These skylights provide ventilation and the illusion of more space.
My desire to teach people to build a tiny house comes from the joy and satisfaction I felt designing and building a tiny house for my son and daughter-in-law. Structural integrity is key, but I firmly believe that the tiny home needs to be aesthetically pleasing as well as structurally sound. Skylights for homes are one way to add beauty, light and the illusion of space.
Open-able skylights (sometimes called “roof windows”) do more to improve the atmosphere inside this tiny house than anything else. That’s why they’re worth putting in. We installed four house skylights in all—two on each side of the roof. They give natural sunlight, lots of fresh air, and allow the sounds of the forest to make their way into the loft unimpeded. Can you tell I like open-able house skylights?
House Skylight Highlights
Besides admitting wonderful light, openable house skylights are key to making this tiny house cool and comfortable during hot weather. Ventilation is the reason why. Immediately after opening the skylights, you can feel upward air movement in all parts of the cabin, even when there’s no breeze outside. Hot air does rise, but having openings in the top of the roof lets that hot air go right outdoors, drawing fresher, cooler air in through windows in all lower floors. The effect is just like the draw on a big chimney. You can feel the cooling air move in quietly, quickly and in large volumes.
Since skylight designs vary, the first place to learn about skylight installation is from the instruction sheet published by the manufacturer. That said, in the case of this cabin, there are some technical tips that’ll help you succeed, regardless of what brand or type of skylight you choose.
Tiny House Skylight Installation Considerations
Modern skylights are highly reliable, and flashing is the main reason why. When skylights were first copied here in North America, 30 years after their invention in Europe in 1941, too many of them relied on caulking and tar to keep water out. That was a recipe for failure that never happened in Europe, and it gave skylights a bad name in North America.
As I’ve explained before, the best time to cut skylight holes in your roof is after the 2×8 roof boards go down, but before the insulating roof panels are applied. We tried cutting through both panels and roof boards initially, but this approach didn’t work as well as it should. Don’t bother trying.
Most skylights are anchored with nails driven through some kind of flange around the perimeter of the skylight frame. That’s the way the VELUX skylights we installed are fastened, but rather than relying only on the short, roofing-type nails supplied in the skylight kit, we opted to go with 3 1/2”-long roofing nails.
The best skylights are always installed after ice and water shield underlay is applied, but before shingles go on, followed by self-sticking flashing, then metal flashing interwoven with the roof shingles as they go on.
I cover this and so much more in the six-week long tiny house building class where I also cover the detailed tiny house floor plans through written instructions, and illustrated and video tutorials.