Choosing a Skylight: What are skylights made of exactly?
Last time in our series on how skylights can brighten up your new custom home or home renovation in Toronto, we talked about the different types of skylights you’ll see: fixed, vented, or “sun tunnel” skylights.
This week, the Tribus Team is looking at a different question: what are skylights actually made from? Is it glass? Plastic? What kinds? It may not seem like much, but it’s an important consideration.
So let’s get started!
Tempered Glass: The classic material
The classic material for a skylight is, of course, glass. Skylights have been made from various types of glass for as long as there’s been skylights, and it remains a popular choice even today.
That said, things have changed a lot. Regular glass isn’t used in skylights much, due to understandable safety concerns: in a hailstorm or a heavy snowfall, traditional window glass could theoretically break, and possibly pose a safety hazard for you and your family. So, instead, glass skylights are usually made of tempered glass.
Tempered glass is a heat-treated single block of glass. It’s far stronger and more damage-resistant than regular glass, letting it handle large hail stones, storms, and high winds without issue—valuable in a volatile Toronto winter. It doesn’t even scuff!
More importantly, though, if it does break, it doesn’t leave shards the way that regular glass does. Instead, it shatters into chunks, usually tiny harmless granules. That makes it safer, easier to clean and easier to replace.
Plexiglass: An economical option
“Plexiglass” actually refers to a type of transparent acrylic plastic. You see it all over: everywhere that you see a plastic transparent barrier, you’re probably looking at Plexiglass. It’s so popular because it’s a very attractive option to provide a transparent glass-like barrier without the weight and hassle of using glass. Thus, you see it used in a lot of skylights, especially inexpensive dome skylights.
If budget is a consideration, then Plexiglass may be your best bet; but you should be aware of some drawbacks. It can be scratched if debris or hail hits it, leaving unsightly scratches that could be difficult to fix or remove. Some types of plexiglass may also let in more UV light than other skylight materials; that could lead to UV damage to your furniture and flooring if you aren’t careful. It may even yellow over time, warranting replacement. If you do choose plexiglass, you’ll need to carefully consider what kind you get.
That said, there are other options, like polycarbonates, that you should discuss with your home builder—like the home building experts at Tribus Homes—when you decide to include skylights in your new custom home or home renovation.
Laminated Glass: A hybrid solution
The other option is laminated glass. Laminated glass isn’t just a single layer of glass, but two layers of glass, with a plastic layer in between. The plastic ensures that if the glass breaks, it holds together, rather than falling into the room. That gives you time to call a contractor to repair the skylight without having your home be exposed to the elements. It’s also even stronger and more resilient than tempered glass.
And, as an added bonus, it’s great for keeping noise out. It keeps out up to 25% more outside noise than a tempered glass skylight, and up to 50% more than a plexiglass skylight. This can be really important for some home-buyers. And the acrylic inside it is usually made to block UV light, ensuring that there’s no UV damage to your furniture, carpeting or flooring, and avoid drastic swings in temperature. It does cost a bit more…but if your budget allows for it, it can be a great option!
Contact the skylight experts at Tribus Homes
Tribus Homes is owned and operated by a team of experienced Toronto homebuilders that have a combined fifty years of home-building experience. So, yeah, we know skylights! We know that skylights are an attractive addition to your home, and we’re happy to discuss how skylights can help brighten up your new custom home or home renovation.
(And stay tuned for the next part of our skylight series.)