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The Roof has a Window!

full roof window installation - how to

One of the biggest negatives about our kitchen (I say that word very loosely - we currently have no cabinets, flooring, or anything that resembles a kitchen - but you get what I mean...) is that it doesn't have any windows to the outside, thanks to a conservatory/lean-to stuck at the side. Our new french door is the only thing that brings light into this room - and it's a fairly small french door at that. The dining room also suffers from the same problems and the window in this room looks into the conservatory too. It means the entire back of the house is really very dark. We don't have the space to add any extra windows - and we didn't have the cash to enlarge the opening for our new french door either. The kitchen is actually an extension to the house (albeit a very very very old one - we're still talking Victorian here) and is single storey, which means unlike the dining room which has rooms above, the kitchen has a roof directly above. It was the perfect opportunity for us to add a roof window for some much needed extra light.

And it really is the perfect opportunity! The sun stays at the side of the house for most of the day, which is the perfect facing for a window on the roof. Until we took out a very small home improvement loan, an installation like this, was all but a dream. Now with a few stacks of cash in the bank, it's a reality we can afford! Albeit, with some money saving hacks along the way. Here's a quick view of the kitchen prior to having a roof window put in. You'll notice our ceiling is flat, so we'll be creating a tunnel-like opening, rather than a typical window on a sloped ceiling, which you see in most pictures of roof windows from attic rooms or new-build extensions.

before and after roof window
kitchen renovation before roof window


Dimension Issues

When it comes to installing a roof window, they need to be sat either above or below the roof purlin. These can't be cut as they're structural to the integrity of the roof. The problem for us was that because our roof is so small, both the dimensions above and below the purlin weren't large enough to fit a standard height window. In fact, the size was so small it called into question whether we could have a window at all! Our initial plan to buy secondhand from eBay (seriously - if you can, go secondhand!) was also totally blown out the window as this non-standard size was absolute impossibility to find.

We could only afford to have one roof window fitted, so we really wanted it to be a big one. With the height of a new window already limited, we knew we needed the window to be super wide instead. Problem was, finding one that would fit. I had several roofers who told me I couldn't have one, or that I needed two muuuuch smaller windows and that these would be ineffective. Then I also had roofers who didn't even check the construction of the roof and told me I could have whatever window I liked. I certainly wasn't prepared to take risks with roofers who hadn't really checked out the job and my own research had told me that the purlin was a very important factor to consider with roof windows and by absolute no means should they EVER be cut.

The Window

I did eventually find a window that would fit the space - despite several roofers telling me I wouldn't be able to. Seriously - who said tradespeople know best?! It was actually the only window I found that was suitable, so our options were somewhat narrow/non-existent to say the very least. The window isn't a standard size so I believe they need to be ordered to be made - I couldn't find any suppliers that kept stock of them anyway.

The size we've gone for is 1140mm(W)x700mm(H) which is almost 20cm smaller in height than standard roof windows. It's definitely not as big as I had hoped, but I was at least very glad to actually find one that would fit. Plus, it's width is still wider than most of the standard sized windows! It wasn't the cheapest window at a touch under £300 but it is a Velux and I had desperately wanted a pine finished one too! I ordered the window from Sterlingbuild.co.uk using a price-match guarantee which meant I also managed to bag myself a gift voucher for John Lewis as well, which I was greatly pleased about. Thanks, Sterling Build!

Why We're Not DIYing

We uuuhmmed and aahhed about doing the work ourselves, in fact I was almost certain we should give it a go - but at the same time we really didn't want the possibility of a leaky roof that could cause endless damage and be a nightmare to put right. Roofing is not something we've ever done before (other than the conservatory roof which was tooooottally different) and this probably wasn't the best place to start. Although that being said - there's plenty of DIYs we've never tackled before and they've ended just fine.

It really doesn't look like a very complex job, but we've played it safe by getting a roofer in anyway. The cost of this was £250, which excludes all the internal opening work which we will be doing ourselves. £250 is definitely a lot of money for something that needs so few materials - but there you go.... That's the glorious profit margins of a trades-person for ya!


Fitting the Window

For a roofer, this job is so very very easy. It took our roofers probably less than an hour to whip out a few tiles, cut some timber to size and whack the window in. I was pretty damn impressed to say the very least. I joked that I hoped it was water-tight and he responded "Of course it is - I've never fitted a window that leaked in my life" ... He wasn't half wrong, we've no problems with it whatsoever.

If you're interested, we used Brian Wallace roofing. He did a grand job, but was adamant at being paid in cash, which I HATE doing. I know this probably isn't something to groan about... but paying cash in hand just makes me all kinds of suspicious. Is anyone else with me on that?!

velux window installation

Opening the Inside

To save money we're opening up the ceiling ourselves, cutting joists, fitting plasterboard and plastering it all ourselves. I did receive quotes to do the whole thing (not that I requested them - but clearly tradespeople thought we were far less than capable of doing any work ourselves....) and the figure was in the region of £700-£900 (excluding cost of window) so there's still SERIOUS money to be saved by doing this yourself.

We started by cutting out the existing plasterboard on the ceiling - which was quite frankly, horrendously dirty work. The ceiling isn't lath and plaster so it had been replaced at some point in its life - but certainly not soon enough. The attic space was FILLED with black sooty dust and on-top of that, there was fibreglass too (dust masks are a MUST!), bits of old slate roof tile, the odd nail, random cables and even a few odd bricks. The wonders of an attic space, eh?! But, it was all so worth it when we began to see the daylight from above.

cutting out a ceiling for a roof window
cutting joists for velux
how to batten out and board around a roof window

Grant then cut the timbers that were in the way of the opening with a saw and fitted some new timbers across the cut ones so that everything was re-connected and sturdy again. We made sure to use treated timber (always in a roof space!) and appropriate rust proof screws too. We're actually using long-ass decking screws, just because they were cheap. The new frame needs to be quite sturdy, particularly if you use any part of your attic for storage, as these will be supporting the old joists.

diy roof window
framing a roof window
how to frame a velux

Battening Around the Window

Once the ceiling joists were all cut out and the ends were re-connected with new timber, we could begin battening out around the window. None of this will be structural, but it will provide the framework for fixing the plasterboard to it. This part was fairly fiddly as it needs to be pretty accurate with plenty of awkward angles. Once you have one piece of wood with the correct angles on, you can translate it to the rest of the timber much easier. We purchased an angle finder to take the guess-work out of it as well, which helped a great deal too. Why we've never bought one before is beyond me!

The design of our tunnel is actually 'house-shaped' rather than a tunnel. This is just because we felt it would let more light in this way and it also adds a greater dimension of space too. It was also a good way to avoid the soil sack (which is why our opening isn't quite central in the room and doesn't extend as far across as we'd like) as this runs through the ceiling and takes up a fair bit of room. The battening is quite difficult to explain, so I'll let all the photos do the talking... (To save money, we did also re-use the timber we cut out from the joists as well.)


fixing battens in roof
roof window in flat ceiling
velux window with tunnel
framing for velux window


Fitting Plasterboard

So once the battening was all done, it was just a case of fixing plasterboard. This is again, probably easier said than done as there's still a fair few awkward angles to cut out. One thing to note is that the window actually a lip built into the frame for the plasterboard to slot into. This helps with framing around the window correctly and consistently. Actually it was really very helpful! We battened around the window so that there would be a piece of timber for each side of plasterboard to screw into, as well as one in the middle for extra support too.

fixing plasterboard around roof window
plasterboarding a window in flat ceiling
how to fit a velux window
fitting a velux window in flat ceiling

Once done, I could then patch any holes or gaps in the ceiling too. I also used some joint filler to fill any small mm gaps between the plasterboard that hadn't matched up quite as perfectly snug as we needed them to be.

velux window in flat kitchen ceiling
diy framing for velux
velux centre pivot roof window

So we haven't plastered this space yet, BUT other than that - it's all done! It actually took us A LOT less time than we had thought. Getting the correct angles was a little bit fiddly and it meant a few pieces of wasted plasterboard/timber but on the whole it was much easier than we had been made to think. To quote a roofer "it's the hardest plaster boarding you'll ever do". Well, it's certainly a little more tricky than fitting square blocks to a wall, but it's really not that difficult either.

The amount of light our new roof window lets in is actually unbelievable! I never imagined it would be as good as it actually is. In fact, it's so good that it almost highlights the darker spots of the kitchen (near the french door where there's no roof window) and made me feel like we should have budgeted for another one! We actually have sun rays through the roof window which shine into the dining room in the morning and then they beam across the kitchen throughout the day. You can see how much lighter and brighter the room is below - the light on the left wall in particular really shows it up well!

kitchen renovation with feature window DIY
light from velux roof window

Light for me is so important, I always wake up feeling more positive on a bright day - so having a bright kitchen was pretty important, particularly when there's no direct windows to look out of. The french doors are lovely, but they certainly didn't do this room quite the bright justice it deserves. I'm thrilled to bits with the window.... If I had more money, I'd definitely have gotten two!

Are you planning on installing any roof windows in your home soon? And do you intend on tackling any part of it DIY style?

Costs:

(rounded to the nearest pound)

New Tools Purchased:
- Plasterboard Rasp £10
- Angle finder £9


Materials Used:
- Roof Window £295
- Flashing Kit £64
- Timber £17
- Drywall Screws £9 (1000pack - didn't use them all!)
- Decking Screws £4
- Plasterboard £11


Money Spent on Tradesmen:
- Roofer £250

Total: £669

2 comments

  1. That is so cool! Having a window in the roof. I think this one is perfect for attics or small spaces. It's good to put a window where the sun's light could pass through. Congratulation to this one!

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  2. What a cool idea! I was nervous at first because of the issues with insulations, since literally cutting into the roof can be quite hazardous. But it's done so well, and the addition of light makes the entire place look so much bigger. Repairs may be tricky but seems worth the effort!

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