Saturday 24 March 2018

Light relief - how do we brighten a dark extension?

Architect's Clinic

A carefully positioned roof window will bring light into darker areas of the home
A carefully positioned roof window will bring light into darker areas of the home

Michael Lamb

Q We extended our kitchen five years ago with a large window at the lower end, leaving a lovely view to our garden. The problem is the other end - our cooking area is very dark, needing artificial lighting at all times. I was wondering what we could do to rectify this problem? I was hoping not to have to undertake any big architectural work, although I guess putting in a roof window may be our only solution? Can you come up with any other suggestions?

A The problem you refer to is something that we come across quite a bit. Often when building extensions to the side or rear of properties, homeowners think about the additional space that they will gain but don't consider the impact the extension will have on existing spaces within the house. A result of reducing daylight within the existing house is that the darker spaces that are left tend not to be used as much as they would be if they were flooded with natural light. Consequently, the house is not used as extensively as it could be.

There are a number of ways of getting additional light into the depth of the kitchen as described without getting into significant alterations and re-design. The most obvious one is to introduce a rooflight close to the back wall of the original house, as suggested.

The type of rooflight to be installed will depend on the roof it is to be inserted into. For example, is it flat, pitched, tiled or lead roof? Technical issues, such as weathering, insulation, structure and airtightness, need to be considered.

Another less expensive option would be to install a sun-tunnel or solatube. These installations include a reflective mirrored tube that connects the ceiling to the roof and can be very effective. The finished element looks like a circular light fitting on the ceiling. These installations can cover a distance of up to six metres from the ceiling to roof, which can be useful if there is another floor overhead.

The use of lighter paint colours and well-placed mirrors can also help create a brighter feel to the space and would be the least expensive way to approach the problem, although the end result will be limited.

Ultimately, an alteration to the building fabric in some form or another will be required to achieve the result you are looking for.

I would suggest taking some professional advice from a registered architect on the matter before committing yourself to the cost of making any change. You can find a registered architect in your area on

Michael Lamb, MRIAI, is a partner in RYAN+LAMB Architects

Do you have a architectural dilemma we can help you with? Email your problem to Advice provided is for guidance only and readers are advised to seek professional assistance for any proposed project.

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