Skylights Heavenly Headaches?

 “Light” and “Air” are probably two of the terms most overused by New York City real estate types,  but even so, every resident wants more of both in their apartment—and one way to get them is via a skylight. Skylights are often found in the  stairwells of multi-story buildings, where their dual-function of providing  light and air was essential more than a century ago, before the use of air  conditioning. Other types of skylights are intended to bring light and breezes  into stuffy top-floor apartments. Still others function purely as aesthetic  add-ons to increase the beauty (and in turn, the resale value) of a unit.  

 The idea of a lofty, spacious living area bathed in sunlight from overhead, its  owners protected from (yet still able to enjoy) the pattering rain is a  compelling argument in favor of installing a skylight, or purchasing a skylit  unit. There can be drawbacks to these sought-after and much-enjoyed building  features however, including leaks, security issues, and mechanical and  structural problems. Such issues make residents and boards occasionally wonder  if skylights are really worth the potential drama.  

 Talk to a broker or a real estate agent before you roof over that old skylight  though, since such a structural change could actually subtract value from your  home, rather than adding to it.  

 Construction & Maintenance

 In many city buildings that are a century or more old, skylights are original  architectural features that once were essential to comfortable daily living.  Situated in the ceilings above stairwells, skylights were usually meant to open  in order to ventilate the building's interior spaces during the hot summer  months. They also often still bring light into interior rooms—an important job, especially in closely-spaced brownstones where there are no  side windows to let in light.  

 There are a variety of types of skylights, and not all are meant to open.  Old-style skylights are constructed of glass with a wire mesh backing and are  supported by a steel frame. Other types include those made of tempered glass,  which is glass like the type found in a basketball backboard. Another is  laminated glass, which is like the glass fond in a car’s windshield. Some high-tech versions include electric, timed shades that are  activated according to the homeowner’s wishes.  


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