Walking on sunshine

With various options available, walk-on rooflights can offer an abundance of light to dark spaces while still allowing for movement above. Chris Chaney of Sunsquare explains how

Rooflights have been maximising daylight in architecture for years but now the need to utilise natural light to boost health and wellbeing means they are not only featuring in commercial properties but providing a stunning feature for homeowners, too.

Walk-on rooflights are a fantastic feature for areas that require pedestrian access, such as walkways, roof terraces and patio areas that sit above subterranean rooms. They not only provide much-needed natural light for the room below but they are also a highly practical and aesthetically pleasing addition to the home.

Designed for the glass to sit flush with the surface, walk-on rooflights are weathertight, safe and thermally efficient especially when installed on a fully insulated upstand. They are also tested to withstand a point load of half a ton, and can easily handle the extremes of the British weather. This allows them to lighten living spaces while surpassing all the required Building Regulations giving you genuine peace of mind.

When to use them

Walk-on rooflights are an excellent way of introducing natural light to dark rooms, even if the light has to be utilised from another room in the building.

External walk-on rooflights are generally provided with clear glass as standard as clients tend to wish to maximise the light and provide the room with a view of the sky. However, an obscure interlayer that is bonded between the external panes can be included if privacy is required. Anti-slip patterns such as a dot matrix pattern can also be used to provide a decorative safety feature without hindering the full impact of light.

Internal rooflights, known as floorlights, provide borrowed light from another room in the building. It is not uncommon for deep plan multi-floor buildings to utilise the light from a centrally placed rooflight on the main roof and for the light to travel through several floors to the basement.

Alternatively, you can use floorlights to spread light from one room to another. This may be particularly useful if you have a bright hallway that’s directly above a subterranean bedroom or basement for example, breathing new life into the darker space and making it more useable than ever before.

If a floorlight is used in a fire exit route, Building Regulations require for them to be fire rated for safety. Typically, the required rating is either 30 or 60 minutes of integrity and insulation.

What type of glass & glazing is required?

Walking on glass sounds like a risky business. But actually, walk-on rooflights are designed with safety at the forefront.

In fact, to meet Building Regulations, walk-on rooflights typically have two panes of surface glass that are bonded together with a strong laminate interlayer. This means that in the unlikely event of the outer pane breaking, the laminate and inner pane would be able to withstand the weight of anyone walking on the rooflight.

Frequently, rooflights consist of an argon-filled cavity in between the outer pane and a toughened inner pane ensuring that the rooflight is energy efficient. You can also introduce a laminated inner pane providing added protection. This extra inner pane ensures that if there was a break, the glass would be contained within the laminate and would not fall into the room, protecting the space below.

How to fit them

Most reputable rooflight suppliers will have a detailed installation process and should be able to walk you through the process of fitting. Most manufacturers products should be designed to be easy to install.

Some will also offer an optional fully insulated upstand that ensures the perfect fit. Upstands are a frame that a skylight sits on, creating enough height from the roof surface and enough pitch for the water to run off the skylight. They play an important role in ensuring your new skylight fits and fits well. Once the upstand is fitted, the timber decking or roof-top paving should align with the top face of the glass, leaving a sleek, flawless finish.

As well as providing upstands, good manufacturers should provide bedding tape that goes around the external face of the upstand, creating a supremely clean finish with no need for using messy silicone. Upstands can be delivered in as little as seven days so the roofing work can be completed ahead of the rooflight arriving, saving your builder or roofer time and saving you money.

If you have a larger area that needs glazing and consists of multiple panes, reputable manufacturers should offer an installation service.

A final word

Designed for high performance and longevity, a walk-on rooflight can provide a stunning architectural feature for homes, as well as lighting up remote rooms with daylight.

Not only do walk-on rooflights add a wow factor, they also decrease the need for artificial lighting while reducing energy costs.

The sleek, minimalist, and high performance design of walk-on rooflights mean they will be right at home anywhere, from contemporary settings to homes with heritage features.This explains why they are fast becoming a popular feature for architects and homeowners.

Chris Chaney is managing director of Sunsquare