A roof lantern in its traditional form is essentially a glass and timber roof light, very much like a miniature conservatory roof, which is incorporated, usually into an area of flat roof, in order to introduce light into the area below.
It is also possible to incorporate a roof lantern into the ridge of a roof, and there are other areas where a roof lantern can work well if the design and installation are carried out correctly.
Roof lanterns were first used in the Georgian era at a time when the first orangeries and conservatories were being built. The roof lantern allowed light into the stairwell of a property and into other areas of the home, an important consideration when without electric or gaslight, candle power was the only lighting available and interiors could be dim and dark even on sunny days.
At the time glass was still made by hand and was thus expensive, so initially architects had to reserve the use of roof lanterns when designing fine town and country houses for wealthy clients.
In the second half of the Victorian era, glass started to be machine made and became more affordable. At the same time society became more affluent and the interest in glass structures influenced by the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, led to a greater demand for glass to be used in the building of homes,
Both the Victorian’s and Edwardian’s used roof lanterns wherever they were needed for both practical and aesthetic reasons – domestically to introduce light over landings and stairwells, in billiard rooms, reception rooms and kitchens. Roof lanterns were also incorporated into the design and architecture of hotels and in places of education and public buildings such as town halls and public libraries.
It is sadly true that many of these fine and imposing structures were prone to leak, due to the limitation of contemporary construction and sealing materials. What’s more, single glazing meant that they allowed heat to escape, so the areas beneath them could be uncomfortable or expensive to heat during the winter. Unfortunately, this meant that the owners often reduced the size of the roof lantern, and with it the available light, or boarded them over completely so that the area beneath had to be illuminated with electric light.
Ventilation was also sometimes required in these early roof lanterns and this could only be provided by manual opening via a crank rod to turn the window mechanism open or closed. Very inconvenient if it suddenly began to rain.
Modern Roof Lanterns & Skylights
Fortunately today we have the benefit of modern dry double glazing techniques, advanced sealing compounds and automatic electric mechanisms for opening and closing roof lantern windows.
These improvements, together with the use of sealed double glazed panels ensure that modern roof lanterns can maintain a traditional appearance while offering, structural Integrity and durability together with good insulation properties.
What’s more, the use of durable hardwood timber and high quality microporous paints and stains ensures that a modern roof lantern will last for many years with minimum maintenance. replacement conservatory roof cost