Simply put, a dormer is a vertical window mounted on a sloping roof. They feature prominently in 16th-century European architecture and adorn many American homes. A dormer, also called a dormer, has its own roof, which can be arched, flat, pointed, or ornate. Since skylights protrude beyond the pitched roof, they add depth and dimension to the home.
A dormer is also a practical source of ventilation that allows airflow and natural light to flow through your home. In older houses, they can be found in attics or upper floors with low clearance. New homes can be designed with a false dormer – a purely decorative feature with no interior space – or strategically placed on a full-sized top floor.
Which houses have skylights?
Skylights have been a part of Western architecture for centuries. The word is said to have its roots in France, where it referred to a bedroom or an attic bedroom. English Gothic and Catholic churches also have prominent dormer windows. These days, many single-family or semi-detached homes in the United States have them. Typically, historic homes built before the mid-1900s have them, but any newly built home can easily have one for style or as part of a loft conversion.
Although they all serve the same purpose, there are several different types of dormers to choose from:
- arched top
- Eyebrow or eyelid
- Flared gable
- Canopy with steep roof
- roof window
Can I install a skylight in a home that doesn’t have one?
If your home is already built but doesn’t have a skylight, a roofing and window specialist can install one. First, you will need to set aside about $12,000-$15,000 for the project, which includes work, roof repairs and reinforcement, new siding, and other structural changes to the attic. Only an experienced roofing contractor should be trusted to install a roof window, but even before that, you may need to get permission from your town or county to do the job. This type of approval often requires an architectural design and/or engineering report as it is a major structural change.
An experienced roofing contractor will ensure that the valleys are watertight and properly insulated along the side of the dormer. Imperfect dormer design can ruin more than just your appeal; it can also damage the frame of the house. So, consult a professional for a feasibility study before embarking on solo travel or buying supplies.
Alternatively, consider an artificial dormer that is attached to the outside of the roof but has no internal components.
Please note that these changes may void existing roof warranties. You will also need to tell your homeowner’s insurance company that a major renovation is underway.
How to determine the cost of installing a dormer window
The cost of installing a dormer window depends on the requirements of the project. According to a June 2022 HomeAdvisor report, the average cost to install a skylight is $12,000. However, at $115 per square foot, prices range from $2,500 to $30,000 depending on the size, number, and design of the dormers. You must obtain detailed quotes from various contractors to understand both short term and long term costs.
Factors affecting the cost of installing dormer windows
- The cost of permits, insurances and checks
- Labor cost and availability
- The cost of paints, materials and finishes
- Garbage removal
- Skylight size and how much would you like
- Dormer Style
- The type of roof you already have
- Where do you want to install it
Pros and cons of skylights
Benefits of dormer windows
- Increased influx of sunlight
- Increased ventilation
- Curb Appeal
- Increased interior space
- Distinguishes property from others
Cons of dormer windows
- Cannot be installed in all types of houses
- Authorization required
- High installation costs
- Possibility of water and air leakage
- When placed in historical houses, care for windows and thermal insulation will be required.
- Increased exposure to severe weather
- If poorly sealed, it can become an access point for birds, squirrels and other pests.
What if my house already has a skylight?
If your home already has a skylight, you’re in luck. You already know about the versatility of design and enjoy the aesthetic appeal it brings to a home. Prioritize care and maintenance by insulating dormer windows as well as attic, bungalow or attic floors. This will make the space more functional and prevent unexpected increases in heating or cooling costs. Don’t forget that drainage and waterproofing are critical to the life of a roof. Make sure the gutters and downpipes are positioned correctly. Finally, plan to repaint the facade every few years, as the weather can discolor the exterior paint and damage scalloped or decorative patterns.