Myths and misconceptions
In our eagerness to bring in traditional designs into our larger modern plans, are we forgetting basic principles that may hinder the exercises? Some fundamental questions on installing skylights are answered.
Wish we could have had a simple opening to sky in our house, just like houses in the villages do! The thotty of Karnataka, mutram of Tamil Nadu or nalkattu of Kerala require no detailing for they are more like a gaping hole in the roof. Such basic ideas become complicated in our designed urban homes!
Why are the skylights famous for water leakage? While rural homes simply let rain in, we in cities with sky-lit houses try to stop the rain out. When we fail to do so, the water seeps in and the skylight gets blamed! To resolve this issue, the material on top should be a single piece of glass, sloping one way projecting well beyond the edges of opening. It’s best to avoid complicated shapes and joints. However, if they are inevitable, locate them along some support member, not wider than 3 mm, finished with silicon sealants. In the case of large skylights, these joints also double up as expansion joints, absorbing the minor variation in glass sizes caused by temperature.
Is there a way to test the joints for being water proof? Actually no. It’s the rain water leakage that suggests joints are not leak proof. As such, waiting for rains, then studying the spots of leakage to subsequently plug the holes is still the only way out. It means most skylights leak during the first few rains, which is not a problem, but a clue to a solution! Often the water comes in not from the top glass, but the side vents provided for hot air to escape. The design options for fixing glass or providing vents need to be discussed in detail.
Aren’t skylights less secure? This is a common perception, making people shy away from this excellent idea. All openings in a house are secured with grills, so too are the skylight cutouts. Though nowadays, there are houses without any grills, they are secured through electronic systems or have fierce dogs.
Anyway, most normal houses have mild steel grill work in the skylight too, so they are as secure or insecure as the windows! The glass sits directly on top of the grill, as such gets immediate base support. A few vendors have been supplying aluminium grills, may be more for looks than for security.
Shapes do not matter
Is it worth having plain sloping skylights, when they look so ordinary? Differently shaped skylights sound exciting, but to look at them we need to walk up to the terrace! During the daytime, no shape is visible due to flooding down of light. During night, nothing is visible anyway from the ground floor. Shapes such as globe, pyramid and half-cone only make the fabrication work more complex, lead to more joints and increase potential leakages.
Among the great ideas for modern living, skylights have silently suffered for no mistake of theirs. It is time we give them their rightful place.