Do you want a finished attic in your home, but lack enough natural light and ventilation for a comfortable living space? A roof window is a simple, affordable way to add the necessary elements while also improving the appearance of your home and adding architectural interest.
I’m using the terms roof window and dormer window interchangeably here. Technically, however, a roof window is flat with a frame, like a wall window, while a dormer window sticks out from a sloping roof. Both are larger than a typical skylight.
Basic Features of a Dormer Window
Ideally this type of home improvement project will fit directly into the existing structure. The sidewalls of a dormer rest on the attic rafters, although for stability and strength you may need to double up the existing rafters.
Most contractors design and build roof windows like a small house, including framing, exterior siding, and a roof structure. The shingles or roofing material run into the existing materials and, when done properly, provide a virtually seamless appearance.
There are three basic styles of dormers, which can be built in various sizes. Choose from the following:
Gable style – the most common type with a roof line that peaks at the center of the window.
Hipped style – similar to a gable style, except the roof slopes at the front and extends past the side walls on either side.
Shed style – sloped straight down from the back to the window in front.
The cost of a roof window depends on the style and size, as well as the attic conditions. If additional rafters are required that will add to the overall cost.
Small to medium-sized dormers featuring one window start around $3,000 and go up, depending on the installation conditions and finishing choices. Larger dormers that offer space for a room and feature more than one window will run from $10,000 and up installed. Homeowners with a taste for DIY projects can purchase a premade roof window for about $2,000 and install it themselves with little added cost.
Benefits of the Roof Window
Both roof windows and dormers provide similar benefits.
When installed properly these types windows, also referred to as egress windows, add value to your home. Not only will they create a brighter, more spacious area in the attic, but they also provide excellent ventilation. And dormers in particular add classic character to your home’s exterior.
Finishing the attic is an easy way to add an extra bedroom, playroom or home office. Roof windows transform this often dull, dark space into something comfortable and inviting. These window solutions are much more affordable than raising the roof and adding an extra story while providing maximum return.
Installation Tips and Options
A sizable roof hole needs to be cut for the new window. Design the dormer to rest on existing rafters. Many contractors double the rafters up for stability, but check your local building codes for specific direction.
The most affordable roof windows are designed to the window’s height and width, so that casing and trim covers the face of the addition. Siding is used to cover the sidewalls and the roofing material should match the existing shingles. Flashing is installed around roof windows to prevent leaks and vents are installed into the roof of the addition.
Choose contrasting colors for the trim and siding, or opt for something that will blend in with the existing exterior finishes. Also consider how the style of the new window will fit in with the overall style of your home.
- Gable dormers work well for most style homes.
- Hipped dormers look beautiful on prairie-style homes.
- Shed styles complement bungalows.
- Flat roof windows go well with modern homes.
Add value and bright living space to your home with a new roof window. With some advanced planning, this home improvement project can be a wise investment.