Open up a beautiful life

A glorious celebration of light

By Francie Healy

Artists, photographers and homeowners have always known how light can dramatically change a mood and a scene. Light can make a difference in your health and your sleep.

But it’s one thing to know something, and another to know how.

How do you choose the right windows and skylights? Where do you start?

Dave Sneyd, President of Window Works, says most of his customers start with their architect or designer, because the process of choosing and installing these important light sources first depends on the design of the building. Homeowners can then begin to concentrate on details.

One of the first steps is a trip to the showroom, where window and skylight experts guide you through the products and styles that meet your criteria: energy efficiency, colour, budget, material, and brands.

The next step is to understand energy efficiency and how windows and skylights work to keep you comfortable and safe. At the Window Works showroom, expert staff members guide customers through all that information. There is also good information online at the Ministry of Natural Resources under Energy Efficiency. Other good sources of information are Window Works; Marvin Windows; and VELUX Canada.

Dave began at Window Works in Ottawa back in the 80s; years later, he bought the company. With that much experience in all situations including heritage restorations, he knows the beauty and practicality of really great windows and skylights – his company primarily sells Marvin Windows and VELUX Skylights – and their impact not only on comfort as well as energy costs but on house resale values. He offers some tips and advice, below.


Windows and skylights have different numbers of glazings, or glass layers. Generally speaking, the more glazings, the better the insulation. The glazings you might need can vary depending on the room.

The most common window glass, says Dave, is dual pane, with a low-E coating, with Argon gas in between the air space. This means it reflects heat into the room in winter and blocks the heat of the sun and its damaging UV rays in summer.

Some people also choose sound-proofed glass, which means one of the panes is thicker than the other, with laminate on the outside pane.


This is the fun part – choosing the material and the colour. One of Window Works’ main suppliers is Marvin Windows, and they have about 19 standard colours (but will do customization as well).

You might want the warmth, look and feel of wood; or you might prefer vinyl, which is not as warm-looking but is still good quality and requires less maintenance. You might choose fibreglass, or wooden frames with fibreglass exteriors.


The choices here are wide, too. If you want different hardware on windows in different rooms, Window Works will match the hardware in your cabinetry in your kitchen, for instance.


If you’re considering skylights, Dave says you should make sure you have the right installer, because some roofs can be complicated. Window Works uses VELUX Certified Installers, and they determine the best skylight for the job depending on your roof pitch, roof and ceiling construction, and the attic space.

You can have a skylight installed on a pitched roof with a flat interior ceiling and even in flat roof structure. VELUX Skylight design consultants help you consider the external placement, orientation, and how the sun travels around your house.

What are the best rooms for skylights? Well, just about any room, says Dave, if it has a roof directly overhead – for instance:

Top of stairs

A venting skylight here allows you to benefit from natural airflow and ventilation. Hot air, odours and toxins always rise to the highest point in your home. When you open your skylight, they escape through the roof. A top-of-stairs skylight can also mean a reduced need for air conditioning. 


A bathroom skylight is the perfect solution to more natural light, but with privacy. It also allows steam to escape after a hot bath or shower. And the light is ideal for doing skin care or putting on makeup.


With a programmable skylight, your kitchen will have beautiful light but also stay fresh during and after cooking. A programmable skylight allows you to properly air out your home, and it also has a rain sensor to close the skylight during bad weather.

Home office

This might be the room most in need of natural light, because it lessens eyestrain and resulting headaches, and of course it’s good for your mood. If you’re spending many hours in this room, however, you might want to add a blind to control the glare on your screens.


Natural light during the day often helps regulate our internal body clocks, and good indoor air quality also helps us sleep better. So a skylight in a bedroom, with solar-powered room-darkening programmable blinds, is an ideal combination for a good night’s rest. Not only that, but it’s not a bad way to watch the stars.

After Sales Service

Dave says this part of the process is as important as any of the steps. Customers need to know the company is there for any issues. Window Works’ Customer Service rep, Kevin Sproule, has been with the company for 30 years. “He’s amazing at what he does,” says Dave. “He knows the products inside out.”


Because of the incredible changes in window and skylight technology over the years, part of Dave’s job is to stay up to date with products and science. His company, along with suppliers, contractors and installers, all work to remain current. It’s common for all of them to attend seminars and conferences about each other’s expertise.

A bit of advice

Choosing the right windows and skylights for your new home or space can be complicated. Dave advises you to take your time. Become informed. Visit the showroom. Ask others who have been through the same experience. Windows and skylights are investments in your home that keep you warm, cool, uplifted, cozy, and healthy. It’s a big order for something that can seem deceptively simple.