Framed or Frameless: Which Skylight Should You Choose?

Thinking of installing a skylight to brighten your home? Great idea! But is a framed or frameless skylight the right solution?

What is a Skylight? 

Skylights are windows on your roof to add light, space and personality to your home. 

They are one of the best ways to get natural light into the rooms - providing a brighter, happier and healthier home. Flat glass skylights are the new trend in home improvement that you will want to invest in.

Framed or Frameless Skylights

There are currently two types of flat glass skylights on the market: Framed and Frameless. Both come with their advantages and disadvantages. 

Both have different levels of aesthetic appeal, durability, maintenance, cost, and security that may fit the criteria you need for your home. 

But which one is better for your home? Which one can fulfil your home needs while catering to your aesthetic wants? Which one is worth your investment? 

This article will help you answer these questions.

What is a Framed Skylight?

A framed skylight is a skylight where the glass pane is fitted flush into an aluminium frame, which then fixes onto the upstand. 

The frame is typically made of aluminium, which you can colour-match to your roof and interiors to give a cohesive look to your home. 

The installation requires expanding foam tape and a silicone sealant. The skylight will also come with unit fasteners, kerb fasteners, plastic packers, expanding foam tape, snap caps, and snap cap washers. They may come with a vented kerb if you opt for a vented skylight. 

You can watch a video on the installation of a framed Skyseal Flat Glass Fixed Skylight here.

What is a Frameless Skylight?

A frameless skylight is where the glass is installed directly onto the upstand, and there is no frame to add structural strength.

The design does result in minimal visible internal framing, providing a ‘frameless’ appearance from the inside. The frameless flat glass skylight also gives your home’s exterior a minimalist look as it sits snugly into your timber upstand. 

The installation only requires a silicone sealant around the perimeter and applying pressure to push any air bubbles out to set it in place.

You can watch a video of a Frameless Flat Glass Skylight installation here.

Differences Between Framed and Frameless Skylights

Besides the obvious visual dissimilarities, there are other physical and functional differences that you may want to consider before deciding which is best for you and your home.

Visible Frame

Frameless skylights are considered a seamless way to view the sky with zero obstructions. While that is true, framed skylights are not too different. 

Modern framed skylights are designed to have minimal visible internal framing. Depending on the angle and height of your skylight, you may never notice the difference.

Furthermore, framed skylights now have thinner frames, providing extra security without being visible from the inside.

Home Security

Both types of skylights have high levels of protection from environmental elements, like rain and wind. But we also want to ensure that the security against intruders is high. 

With the framed skylights being fixed down with tamper-proof security screws and adhesive, this makes it the preferred choice for the security conscious. Conversely, frameless skylights are adhered to the upstand with only beads of silicone sealant.

Moreover, framed skylights are much heavier, making it harder for people to lift them off. 

You should look out for framed skylights accredited by Secure by Design (police preferred specification), meaning that the security of the customer is the core business requirement and not just a technical feature, guaranteeing you a skylight with maximised security. 

Durability and Longevity

Framed skylights typically have a life expectancy of 8-15 years, while frameless skylights have a higher average life expectancy of up to 20 years.

The glasses used in both types of skylights are generally identical, as the current industry standard is to have a double-glazed skylight with a U-value of 2.2W/m2K (the lower, the better!) to ensure efficient energy and high thermal efficiency.

Structural Strength

Even though frameless skylights have a longer life expectancy, the most fragile parts of the glass are left exposed - the corners. If an object, like a heavy branch, hits the corner of a frameless skylight glass, there is a greater chance of damage and failure.

The frame, essentially, acts as a protective case, encapsulating the glass and its weak points to prevent accidental damage that would otherwise shatter the glass. So, having a frame would improve the resistance while increasing the durability of your skylight.

Glass Support

Changes in environmental temperature can cause movements in a building, causing the whole structure to contract and expand, meaning the skylights need to be able to shift and adjust to the changes. 

In the event of damage, there is a risk of frameless skylights shattering and being a hazard to you and your home. Due to the skylight only being supported by the outer upstand, if the glass shatters, the entire skylight may fall through the opening and into the house. The silicone sealant is also prone to cracking if the skylight shifts.

In contrast, the frame provides extra support to the whole skylight on the upstand. The skylight will be held up by the frame instead of the glass itself, ensuring it stays in place, making it more secure and reducing the risk of the glass falling through. 

The frames of these skylights provide extra strength and rigidity, resulting in less movement in the skylight once installed, significantly reducing the chances of failure and the glass shattering. 

Ease of Maintenance

It is important to perform regular checks and maintenance on your skylight to help prolong its longevity. Maintenance helps ensure that the skylight performs effectively and any damages are spotted early to prevent it from becoming an expensive repair.

Frameless skylights are significantly simpler to clean and maintain than framed skylights. Having no frame means fewer areas for dirt, dust and debris to accumulate around the skylight. 

For a framed skylight, the frame provides better access to the skylight for repairs and to replace parts. However, it is important to clean around the skylight frame thoroughly, as a buildup of debris can affect its efficiency and longevity. 

Have You Decided To Get A Framed or Frameless Skylight?

Frameless skylights have evident visual advantages, making them ideal for a more minimalist look. They are also much easier and quicker to install than framed skylights.

However, the frameless skylights will have to be installed on a roof with no trees or heavy plants surrounding it to ensure nothing damages the skylight. Otherwise, they can be dangerous if they fall through the opening and into the building.

Framed skylights provide homeowners with better security and reliability while being long-lasting. Your investment could be worth it with the amount you save on your heating and lighting bills. Furthermore, the installation can be easy for any competent homeowner or installer. 

So, do you know which skylight you will need?

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