Remodel & Renovate in 97402>Question Details

Sandor Lau, Both Buyer and Seller in Eugene, OR

Contemplating getting natural light through the ceiling. Is skylight or light tube (solar tube) better value for money? How much for each of these?

Asked by Sandor Lau, Eugene, OR Wed Nov 21, 2012

I have a pitched shingled roof. Fairly shallow angle pitch.

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You've written one of my favorite questions to aswer! What you choose and how you do the remodeling makes a big difference on personal benefit and resale. It's my opinion that you choose between solar tubes and skylights for different reasons.I've toured and help design many homes with both solar tubes and skylights.

I find that the solar tube creates more localized filtered, almost bluer light. In effect a solar tube offers subtle natural light, partly due to the material placed in the escutcheon covering up the hole in the ceiling. A solar tube also often has a very small opening than a skylight. They work well where space is limited or less direct or intense light is desired. Solar tubes might also be the way to go if you don't want to invest in a shade to block the sun or heat that you can get with a larger skylight.

A skylight is my favorite choice if you really want to brighten your space or be able to open it like a window for venitlation. In fact, if you notice ads in magazines, groups of two, three or more are used to create a wonderful light and airy space in a home. It's my feeling that the cost to install a group of skylights is quite a bit less than the gain you get making the home more fun to live in and quite often more special, hence more valuable to potential future buyers. After all, our homes are the environment that we spend a good deal of our time in. Ambience is key in a home. Remodeling done with careful thought, can yield far more than the initial goal. Depending on where they are placed, you can use sklylights to bring the outdoors into your home, i.e. in a shower stall. It's a very Pacific Northwest experience to see the birds, blue sky and tree limbs overhead from whatever room you put the skylight in. This works particularly well in a home with a low pitch or short attic cavity from the ceiling to the roofing. I don't suggest having them over your bed unless you like to wake up really early or gaze at the moon on clear nights.

Some people believe that a skylight should be avoided because it will inherently leak and that is not the case if installed properly. Skylights are better designed than they used to be and a qualified installer can do the job, creating a secure seal from the rain, in a day or two once the skylight parts are available.

You want to hire a highly skilled contractor to do install a skylight or a solar tube, especially if you have a wood shake roof,as I believe you mentioned. Tile and metal roofing also require extra careful work on the roof so as to prevent damage to related roofing and to because those surfaces are dangerous to move around on. Composition shingles seem to provide the easier worry free fit and project.

A skylight project involves roofing and interior finish such as wood trim, plaster or sheetrock, paint and possibly other items. It's wise to decide who is going to handle all of those details and if you care if the work is all done quickly. Coordinating the talent to complete everything is in itself a skill and not to be taken lightly unless you are at ease with a staggered process.

Finally, I always think of resale since I am in the business of helping people buy and sell homes. I've found that some people have to stop and think if they want to see a tube or bubble coming out of a roof. Skylights come in very flush designs. I find homes with " easy on the eye " lines sell best so if a solar tubes may be best placed on the back side of the roof if resale is a concern.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 27, 2012
Sandor, I realize that I forgot to answer the cost aspect of your question. I want to be sure that you get a trustworthy answer so I asked my husband, who is a general contractor, to read over your question. He estimates that you could expect to pay around $1,500 including materials and installation for a skylight. The solar tube may run $400. Apparently the solar tubes vary in cost according to the size that you select. These are ballpark estimates because conditions found affect the exact cost. Here's hoping that things turn out just as you invision.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 28, 2012
Jodie, thanks for such a thoughtful answer. Can anybody answer the main question of how much different options cost?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 27, 2012
I believe you can still get installed pricing for the Solar tubes at Lowes, Jerry's or Home Depot, but the traditional skylight will probably require a contractor to look at the specifics of the project in order to provide an accurate bid.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Nov 24, 2012
Thanks for so much input and taking the time to answer. Any contractors out there with answers on cost?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 23, 2012
I personally do not like the "metalic" color of the light, or the flourescent light fixture appearance of the solar tubes for most locations. If the option is traditional skylight vs a solar tube, I would choose the traditinal skylight. A 2' X 4' skylight provides much more light and it is a much more natural light too. However, if the choice is a solar tube or nothing, then I would probably choose the solar tube. I believe the solar tubes are easier, and less expensive to install, but you need two or more the get the same amount of light that you would get from 1 well placed traditional skylight. This would be especially true since you have a lower pitched roof, as the skylight box would be relatively shallow and block less of the available light. The presence of a well placed skylight or more may have a positive impact on a home's marketability/desireability, but an appraiser is unlikely to give it extra value, as it is a subjective amenity, (value is in the eye of the beholder). I hope my opinions are useful to you, as this is a question I have dealt with many times over the years while working as a Realtor, an Appraiser & a Contractor's Design Consultant, and I enjoy the opportunity to put my experience to work for others.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 23, 2012
It would depend on if you have enough room between the roof and the ceiling inside the home. Solar tubes are cheaper and easier to maintain than skylights.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
I'm going to take the liberty of saying thank you to those who answered Sandor's question. It was helpful information for me as well.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
It will depend on where you are wanting the light - if it is in a hall way most people prefer solar tubes if it is in an area that makes sense to have a skylight and you would have a nice view - then that works as well. The angle of the pitch of your roof will also determine which is better and that can only be told to you from the people putting it in.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
Solar tubes are becoming more popular as they have a smaller footprint on the roof which gives less surface area for leaking. Skylights are notorious for leaking here in Oregon due to our rain. I have seen solar tubes in living rooms and I didn't think it looked weird at all but they made them look symmetrical in the room.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
Which to go with depends where you're thinking of putting it. Solar tubes are excellent for hallways and bathrooms. Their smaller scale, however, looks a bit odd in larger rooms. I'd go with skylights elsewhere. Well-done skylights will let more light in, and look dynamite. I can't say how much they'll cost. Skylights, in particular, can vary quite a bit.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
So glad you asked. I have been contemplating this as well. I have heard many good things about the solar tube, but haven't made a decision yet. It should be interesting to see the responses. My office is on the northeast side of my home - almost no natural light and getting more depressing by the day. I am desperate to get some natural light in here especially going into the cold, dreary winter.

Thanks for posting the question.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 21, 2012
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