What to consider when planning a conservation rooflight project

What to consider when planning a conservation rooflight project

Paul Trace from Stella Rooflight offers some advice on things to consider when planning a conservation rooflight project.

What material should I choose?

Genuine conservation designs should be manufactured with slim, clean lines and a low-profile to match the roofline. A number of skylight companies try to produce conservation rooflights using modern bulky aluminium profiles, which sit proud of the roofline, particularly slate. It is widely accepted that most authentic conservation rooflight are manufactured from steel because it provides great strength while offering a slim profile and excellent glass to frame ratios. There are many types of steel conservation rooflights and for unrivalled protection and lifespan, all Stella rooflights are manufactured from marine grade 316 stainless steel.

Internally Stella rooflights are finished with real wood linings. American ash is the most popular choice, but we can produce these from any timber required. The use of real wood gives a neat, warm appearance to the internal element of your conservation rooflight. Nowadays most rooflight suppliers tend to use cheaper soft wood or plastic, which is painted white as an internal finish and these liners can result in deeper frame profiles or reduced viewable areas. While a white internal frame can be sold as ‘clean’ or ‘neat’, these can sometimes feel a little soulless and is a finish more often associated with modern flat rooflights than traditional conservation products.

Single or double glazed?

Victorian rooflights would have been single glazed, however, today’s modern building standards are much higher and so single glazing does not meet the minimum requirements for thermal efficiency (Part L). Double glazing is now the most popular option for genuine conservation rooflights because glazing technology is such that a modern double-glazed unit can provide a number of benefits while remaining reasonably slender. The units used in a Stella conservation rooflight offer both self-clean and solar control elements, while also providing excellent thermal efficiency with an inner pane of Planitherm One. Using warm edge spacer technology and argon gas our units are also silicone edge sealed, which gives them greater protection against UV light.

Some conservation rooflight suppliers are keen to boast about offering triple glazing in their products but while this does offer a slightly improved thermal performance it comes at the expense of appearance. The optimal spacer bar thickness is 16mm so any decent triple glazed unit is going to be almost 50 per cent thicker than a double glazed version. Now with a flush fitting profile being one of the main requirements of a conservation rooflight, the introduction of triple glazing makes that almost impossible on some roof types.

Glazing bars?

It is often a stipulation from the Conservation Officer that a conservation rooflight should have a glazing bar to replicate that original Victorian appearance. If your conservation rooflight does require a glazing bar then it should be a genuine one. This is an area that separates those producing close replicas to the original Victorian rooflights and those who are trying to pass off modern skylights as something more traditional. A genuine glazing bar should be something which not only divides the glazing but also provides additional strength to the casement. So many conservation rooflights have something simply stuck or glued onto the outside of the glass which neither looks good nor provides any benefit to the rooflight. In addition, these stuck on bars (usually plastic) often attract dirt and mould and the lifespan of anything which is simply held on by tape or glue is unlikely to compare with a genuine steel glazing bar. A stuck on glazing bar is one step up from a felt pen but certainly should not be seen as a way to make a modern bulky framed profile meet the criteria of a conservation rooflight.

Top hung or centre pivot?

Once again, if you are looking for a close replica of a Victorian rooflight then a top hung profile will be the one you should opt for. Not only does a top hung design offer a more authentic appearance, it maximises the space below because the casement doesn’t stick into the room. Smaller top hung rooflights also utilise beautiful brass ironmongery to operate the casement whereas centre pivot designs tend to rely on modern plastic handles, which are out of reach and offer nothing to enhance the internal aesthetics.

Is any old conservation rooflight suitable for my project?

Just because something is sold as a conservation rooflight, that doesn’t automatically make it suitable for all building types. If your building is Listed or in a conservation area then the criteria for using conservation rooflights are much stricter and you should always gain approval, not only for their use but also the manufacturer that you would want to use.

Is there anything else I should consider?

With the UK Government pursuing a carbon neutral environment it is imperative that every action is taken to reduce energy consumption. Rooflights are energy efficient as they let in large amounts of natural light thus reducing the need for artificial lighting. Bringing natural daylight into your home is about much more than creating a bright, welcoming environment, it’s about protecting your health and wellbeing and achieving a more positive way of life.

One way to ensure that you maximise the amount of available light is to increase the size of your rooflights… or is it? Just because you have a large rooflight this does not always guarantee lots of light and you should always check what the finished viewable (often referred to as clear viewable) area of the rooflight will be. You might think that a conservation rooflight with a whole frame size of 900mm (w) x 1,200mm (h) would have a similar clear viewable area regardless of the manufacturer, but you would be wrong and bulky framed modern types or the flat rooflights posing as pitched conservation styles will let in considerably less light than a genuine steel framed version.

For further information on conservation rooflights visit www.stellarooflight.co.uk

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