Lighten up: how even a small skylight can transform your home, wellbeing and happiness

Natural light is essential for wellbeing. Here's how to maximise daylight in your home, and minimise costs
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According to new research, increasing daylight is top of the Londoner’s home improvements list. Not only does adding a roof light or big window make rooms appear bigger, and brighter, it adds value to the property and more importantly, it makes us healthier and happier.
After too many years eating in a dark kitchen in my Edwardian Shepherds Bush home, I decided to insert a big, flat glass roof light into the existing east-facing extension’s ceiling.  I don’t need statistics to know that sunlight makes me feel better. It boosts serotonin levels and helps us sleep better at night too.
According to Charlie Sharman of glass supplier Cantifix, this is because of something called our non-visual photo receptors, which only perceive a difference between light and dark. Therefore if we get a lot of light during the day, our bodies don’t need as much darkness to get off to sleep.
Research suggests that only 12% of the surface of an average London house is made up of glass, and since a flat roof light lets in six times more light than a vertical window, you don’t need a large one to increase the amount of sunlight a lot, as well as give you an instant connection to the outside world.
“The problem is that in London there isn’t a lot of daylight and at night there’s a lot of light pollution; so we never get proper darkness and the range between the two isn’t very big. The result is that our melatonin is never properly triggered off or on.
But if we get more sunlight during the day, then we don’t need it to be pitch black at night to get to sleep easily,” says Sharman, who is currently involved in a project lead by Oxford University called The Photon Space, which is studying the health effects of living in a controlled all glass environment, using sophisticated glass engineering and nano-technology.
Cost is key but I kept it down by measuring myself and ordering my glass online.  
Deciding on the size of your roof light relative to the size of the room is key; keep it in proportion. A good way to work this out is to draw it on your ceiling first.
Illuminating experience: previously dark, the east-facing extension gets light all day, but it is never blinding and the room doesn’t overheat

I measured my room (approx. three metres square) and drew it to scale on paper. I then drew a rectangle in the middle leaving a generously solid outer perimeter for down lights. I wanted to keep it looking like a solid ceiling with a roof light rather than a gigantic glass ceiling.
Using a pencil and a metre long length of wood, I drew my rectangle onto the ceiling and painted it in with bright blue paint. This is a really effective way of seeing how it will look.
It was immediately obvious that my rectangle was too big so I trimmed it back using white paint until I was left with a blue sky rectangle that suited me, measuring 140 x 200 cms.
Ordering options
Cantifixdirect is the new online arm of bespoke glass company Cantifix. It is cheaper online and because I did the measuring I cut out a home visit, and paid upfront online.
Filling in the online questionnaire was quick and easy. I put in my measurements, and when prompted for extra options for the type of glass I wanted, I ticked ‘yes’ for low iron (this reduces the natural slight green tinge of the glass).
I ticked ‘yes’ to having a heat mirror. This filters out 99.3% of UV rays and creates extra insulation, keeping cool in summer, warm in winter and keeping out noise. If your extension is permanently in shade you may not need this.
I ticked ‘no’ to having enhanced (stronger) glazing. As it is the glass is 10mm toughened on the outside, 6mm toughened on the inside, with a cavity in between, and can easily take the weight of one person, eg the window cleaner, but is not designed for parties. 
I ticked ‘no’ to having a laminated inner pane, a stiff shatterproof layer you would only need if you plan to cover say a swimming pool. Finally I ticked ‘no’ to privacy, ie sandblasting the glass.

The maximum size you can order online is 200 cms x 200 cms and you can call for advice. Delivery takes approximately six weeks.
Building works
You don’t need building permission to put in a glass roof light. If you order the maximum size you may need a crane to get it over the house depending on the access - we got mine through the front door and it was inserted into the space in the kitchen in 45 minutes. Cantifix provides instructions to build the correct opening.
What it cost
Roof light £1,966
Delivery £168
Building works including new roof, electrics and interior repainting £4,500
Total £6,634

For an additional £275 Cantifix will come and measure up; it will also install the roof light for homes within Greater London for £850.
My kitchen is transformed. Light floods in through the roof light all day long but is never blinding and the room never overheats. We all spend far more time there and feel connected to the outdoors.
I especially like the way it appears to float invisibly above the ceiling. There are other styles to choose from. The view up to the sky is uplifting and even the rain is exciting as it makes patterns, shadows and rainbows that flicker against the walls and floor and we’re looking forward to it being cosy and bright all winter long.

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