Skylights are an effective and relatively inexpensive way to bring more light into parts of your home that might be excessively dark. If your home or building has a flat roof, you need to take extra care to ensure that the skylight won't leak. Avoiding standing water and using waterproof barriers are two effective ways to accomplish this.
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Bubbles and Domes
Some skylights are designed in semi-spherical shapes, such as bubbles and domes, and are manufactured as integrated units that can be set into a flat roof without causing leakage. In conjunction with a waterproof membrane, usually made of rubber, that encases the entire flat roof, bubbles and domes can let light in while keeping water out. The membrane is cut where the skylight goes and run up the sides of the skylight structure so that standing water won't get into the seams. All of the joints are then sealed with tar to create a waterproof construction.
Raised skylights are similar to bubbles and domes but look more like conventional windows. They are square or rectangular and can sometimes be opened. They differ from skylights that are made for inclined roofs because they don't lie flat to the roof but sit in a structure that is raised above the level of the flat roof, which prevents water from sitting around the edges of the skylight window and working its way into and through the joints. Avoiding standing water is important to avoid leaks and also to avoid damage to the skylight that would happen if the water got into the workings and then froze. The expansion that occurs when water turns to ice could crack the glass or disrupt the workings of an opening window.
A clerestory is a raised part of a roof with a top that is usually made of the same material as the rest of the roof and clear vertical windows around its sides. It is essentially the opposite of a raised skylight, which has opaque sides and a glass top. Clerestories can be the size of a cupola or an integral part of a large roof. Clerestories were more common before the invention of electricity, when daylight was the only bright light available, and were widely used in large mills and factories in England in the 19th century. With growing concern about power usage and green construction, clerestories are becoming more common again and can still provide the interior of a building with extensive daylight to replace electric lighting.
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