If you’re like most Canadian homeowners, you know that bringing as much light as possible into your home is a great way to improve health, mood and energy bills. On the flip side, you may feel at a loss in knowing where to start.
You’ve likely found a few ideas online or through watching home and garden programs on TV to help bring natural light into your home. Still, perhaps you’re concerned that these improvements are just too costly or complicated. While some bigger projects can put a significant dent in your budget – the overall return on investment when you sell your home should offset the expense.
We’ve put together a list of light-generating suggestions, from do-it-yourself to professional remodeling projects, to help you decide where to start and how far to go.
Start small — think $10 or less
If you’ve got more time than money on your hands, apply a little elbow grease to welcome more sunshine in through your windows.
1. Wash your windows and glass doors, inside and out
You’ll be surprised at how dramatically dirt and grime interfere with the amount of light coming into each room. For a long-lasting shine that repels dirt and water spots, use a glass cleaner with rain repellent, similar to products available for car windows. Spray, wipe and watch the water roll off your windows and bring light into your home.
2. Trim overgrown shrubs and trees
Wild outdoor plants that are blocking natural light from entering through windows and doors need maintenance. While decorative landscaping can enhance your home’s appeal from the curb, a dark, gloomy interior might be a deal-breaker for future buyers.
3. Remove window awnings
These fixtures can cut down significantly on the amount of sunlight that can pass through the glass. A thing of the past, awnings used to protect furniture and floors from fading. Removing these outdated fixtures now will allow much-needed brightness into a dingy room.
Stretch your budget a little — $50 to $200
Just a few simple changes or additions to your decor can enhance the existing light coming into your home.
1. Add some unique and fun mirrors
Through the power of reflection, strategically placed mirrors and other shiny pictures or objects can significantly amplify the amount of interior light. Don’t overlook metallic items of any kind, including fixtures and faucets, furniture with glass tops, decorative wall mirrors, metal photo frames, or any other reflective accessories. Place these items directly across from a window or in direct sunlight for maximum effect.
2. Choose tiles with texture
Reflective tiles made from high-gloss ceramic, metal or glass are trendy for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes, and for a good reason. In addition to providing a beautiful backdrop for your room’s decor, they also work well to bring light and brighten the space.
3. Look for sheer drapery
Change out your heavy, room-darkening draperies or shades for light-weight sheers or blinds that can more easily admit sunlight. Choose options in light colours to further preserve the natural light. Live in private, rural property? Skip the window treatments completely to capture as much indoor light as possible.
4. Consider adding a window tint
To gain a little privacy without compromising natural light, try using frosted or tinted window film. You can easily purchase the necessary materials at your local home improvement store and save money by doing the work yourself. Non-adhesive, frosted vinyl clings in many patterns and colours make it easy to boost privacy and bring light without requiring a permanent modification to your windows.
More significant improvements help bring light — $300 to $2,000
Sometimes, just the illusion of more light is enough to trick the brain into believing it’s really there. Try some of these smart room hacks.
1. Paint dark rooms in lighter, neutral colours
Trending shades include grey, white, mushroom and “greige” (a combination of grey and beige.) These light-reflecting colours will make your room feel brighter—even on the dreariest days.
2. Consider painting your ceiling in colour other than white
A contrasting hue like sky blue or a dark trim will help draw the eye down to the lighter wall colours, making the room appear bigger and brighter than before.
3. Don’t forget the floors
Change out carpeting, hardwood or laminate flooring for a lighter shade, add a patterned area rug with bright colours to contrast the levels and brighten the room. Floors make up a significant area of your space, so this is one change that can give your room a “light lift.”
4. When it comes to furniture, remember: less is more
Open up your rooms by removing unnecessary clutter and allowing the natural light to bounce off bright-coloured statement pieces like sofas, glass coffee tables, or dining tables. Add light, fluffy linens to your beds for maximum illumination. Don’t want to spend a fortune on new furniture? Some fitted covers and light-coloured throw pillows will do the trick for less.
5. Paint your cabinets
If you’ve got dark wood kitchen cabinets, consider freshening up the look with paint. Paint the entire assembly, or do a combination of colour on the framework and light stain on the doors.
For maximum light exposure — $800 to $4,500+
Are you looking to make some significant renovations to achieve maximum light exposure? The best way to achieve this look is to increase the sizes of existing windows and to install new windows and doors where none existed before.
1. Install new windows and doors
If you’re in the market for replacement windows, you can choose to tackle one window at a time, one room at a time, or the whole house. There are two types of installation methods available for replacement windows—retrofit and full-frame – both of which will help bring light to any space.
Retrofit installations allow you to insert new windows into the existing frames. This more economical option is ideal if you’re concerned about preserving a specific architectural style. To increase the volume of light entering your home, choose styles with a narrower profile and more significant glass surface area.
Full frame installations, which also replace the brickmoulds and casings for optimal efficiency and durability, cost approximately 10-15 % more than retrofit installations. While you’re replacing the framework, you can also increase the window size for more volume of light. Install a bay or bow window to increase glass volume without increasing the frame size.
Installing a full-glass patio or swing door will add both light and convenient access to the outdoors. If you’re concerned about privacy at night, some styles incorporate blinds between the glass.
You can even replace entire walls with windows! Install transom windows above kitchen cabinets or stacked atop casement windows, and add others in custom shapes, such as radius or trapezoid, for a decorative yet practical improvement.
2. Take advantage of new renovations
Many homeowners are making better use of their basements with the addition of purpose-built rooms, such as a bedroom, entertainment room, home office, games room or in-law suite. While this is a significantly less expensive renovation that adding another room above ground, building codes will require you to enlarge the basement window for egress in case of an emergency. Look at this as the perfect opportunity to bring more natural light into an otherwise dark, basement space.
The 2020 Guidelines for ENERGY STAR is an excellent reference for identifying energy-efficient windows and doors. As you maximize the amount of natural light entering your home, you should also be concerned about efficiency. Consider double- or triple-pane windows to achieve the best thermal insulating power. Low-E coatings help reduce heat infiltration and will block damaging UV rays while still allowing sunlight to pass through. Add an extra layer of efficiency with Argon or Krypton gas fills between double- or triple-pane windows. This feature will help protect against heat loss and condensation and reduce energy bills too.
3. Consider adding sidelights on both sides of your front entry door, and possibly a transom window above
While you’re at it, replace your front door with one that has a decorative glass insert. These changes will help illuminate your foyer while improving your home’s curb appeal.
With significant improvements made in skylight design, they’re making a comeback in many of today’s home improvement projects.
4. Consider a skylight for both aesthetic and extra light
Add a skylight into a kids’ reading nook, the master bathroom, or any other room with roof access. Extras like remote control blinds and ventilation panels make it easy to control room temperature without a lot of hassle.
Need to light up a room without roof access? Install a solar tube. They’re relatively affordable and work just about anywhere.
If your home’s floor plan is separated primarily by solid walls, don’t worry. You can cut pass-throughs or altogether remove non-load bearing walls to create a more open floor plan. These modifications will allow light to flow more freely within and between rooms to create an airy feel.
Free light is the best kind of light
Although paying for renovations can sometimes feel necessary, it doesn’t have to be the only option. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all! Walk around your home to find all the areas where sunlight streams in. Open your curtains, put on your sunglasses, and bask in the warm, healing rays. After all, natural sunlight — arguably the best quality light of all — is free.