Sunday, January 19, 1997

A skylight in the kitchen

October 1996 to January 1997

The kitchen has always seemed dark. It gets light from the windows in the breakfast nook, and thru the dining room windows, and some from the living room, but it has no light of its own. The result is that the kitchen lights are almost always on. And still it seems dark. The kitchen lights are a big wooden box on the ceiling with three 2-light fluorescent light tubes in it. This is positioned in the middle of the kitchen, over the island.

My idea was to replace it with a skylight. The skylight would provide natural light directly to the kitchen. I could put it right over the island, replacing the kitchen light box. But then how to light the kitchen at night? One idea was to put fluorescent lights around the skylight opening, but instead we decided to put lights on top of the cabinets, facing up, to reflect off the ceiling. This provides a more diffuse light.

At the same time, we put halogen lights under the cabinets, to provide spot lighting on the counters.

Kai Brown helped with the design and implementation issues, including getting a guy to come do the skylight installation and electrical wiring for the new lights. $1522.00

We settled on a Velux Model FS skylight, with low-E, insulated, Argon gas double paned glass, of a 21.5 x 38.5 inch size. The interior kitchen opening was somewhat larger -- 24 x 48. This was installed in the roof and then a channel was constructed thru the attic down to the kitchen. The channel was sheetrocked and textured on the inside, matching the kitchen ceiling.

In the attic, I insulated all around the skylight channel,

For the primary new lighting, we got shop lights from Home Depot and laid them on top of the kitchen cabinets. The shop lights are meant to be plugged in, so we put new electrical plugs in the walls just above the cabinets. This works. It's not as "finished" as it could be. I think we could finish it more by putting some moulding sticking up 3 or 4 inches -- to create sort of a short wall around the top of the cabinets, so that the lights were below eye level -- recessed. But functionally it works pretty well. We ended up with three 2-bulb fluorescent bulb fixtures -- one over the stove, one on the adjacent wall and one on the cabinets between the breakfast nook and the kitchen.

The under-cabinet halogens generate a fair amount of heat, so I try not to use them much. The power cords for these under-cabinet lights run along under the cabinets to a set of electrical outlets installed in the wall just below the cabinets, and controlled by a light switch in the wall. Again three units, covering most of the counters under the cabinets provides good coverage. The installation is pretty obvious if you look under the cabinets, but since most of the cabinets start (or end) below a normal adults eye-level, they are normally not visible at all.