Consumer GuidesWindows & Doors

Install a Skylight

Be careful: Think twice before you decide to install your own skylight. It’s best to leave this job to the pros. Top quality skylights installed by a conscientious pro almost never leak. Also, resist the urge to buy a bargain basement skylight on sale at the local home center store. You may have problems getting a professional roofer to install it because these budget skylights often are lower in quality and more prone to leak.

And just imagine the amount of leaks you’ll have if you try to install it yourself!

Reasons for a skylight: Adding a skylight reduces the need for electric lights while providing summer ventilation and free solar heat in the winter. It’ll also give a small room the appearance of being bigger and more open.

Another plus to skylights is that they can be used as an opening out onto the roof (egress). Many skylights will open and create a small balcony area with the lower half of the window opening out to be a floor and the upper half laying flat against the roof.

Removing old skylights: Removing skylights can be as challenging as installing them. So think twice before you decide to remove any existing skylights. It’s best to leave this job to the pros. Many service professionals will offer this service when they install the new ones.

Roof pitch: Take a look at the diagrams and make an approximate guess. Roof pitch can dramatically affect repair and installation of your skylight. Flat roofs are perfectly horizontal. A slight pitch is less than 30-degrees. Most roofs will have a medium pitch from 30 to 45 degrees. Any more than that, your roof has a steep pitch.

How does roof pitch affect skylight installation? Surprisingly, the steeper the pitch, the easier the installation. Steeper pitches require less material and less labor to build the well underneath the skylight. Vaulted ceilings give you more options and can make the installation more difficult.

Skylight size: The most popular size of skylights is a 2′ x 4′. However they come as small as 2′ x 2′ and as large as 4′ x 8′. The cost for materials and installation for the larger skylights will be more than smaller ones, so factor this when creating your budget.

Glass: Laminated glass is shatterproof glass created by sandwiching plastic between two glass panes.

Types: Skylights come in several types. A fixed skylight is a stationary window that doesn’t open or vent.

Fixed with ventilation lip is a stationary window with a special ventilation flap or slit off the frame of the skylight that lets hot air out but keeps cold air in.

Ventilation skylights open a few inches to allow air circulation. They’re usually operated with a pole, but motorized “auto openers” are also available.

Egress roof skylights have building code requirements for bedroom windows on upper floors. These egress windows (and skylights) are larger so people can escape through the openings. Also, they can be opened without special tools.

Balcony roof skylights act as a roof window designed for rooms with very steep pitched roofs – has with two openings that opens outward creating a small balcony you can stand on.

Many companies have designed shades to fit within the frame of their skylights.

Most are opaque, and can be opened and closed fully to give you control over the amount of light you let in. The shade controls come in manual and automatic styles.

Openers: If the skylight is going to be installed in a high ceiling, it will be better to chose an automatic opener or shade.

Some skylights also open a few inches to allow air circulation. They’re usually operated with a pole, but motorized “auto openers” are also available.

Roofing material: Your roofing material can affect your skylight installation. Tar and gravel is used for flat roofs that can’t shed rain and snow like a sloped roof. Created by layering melted tar with different plies of felt. Finished with a layer of hot tar and gravel. More expensive and time consuming.

Nearly 60 percent of all homes have roofs made of asphalt shingle. Made of composition asphalt and fiberglass. Very cost effective, fire-resistant, and installation friendly.

Corrugated metal roofs are seen a lot in mountainous and snowy areas because it sheds snow and handles freeze/thaw cycles better than most other roofs. It’s made of a rust-resistant metal which makes it very expensive.

Wood or shake shingles are popular roofing material because it’s decorative and moderately priced. It made of wood, so many insurance require homeowners to treat the shingles with fire-resistant chemicals.

Clay tile is a durable and attractive roofing option, and it’s a popular choice for historical buildings. It’s very expensive, and it can be susceptible to hail damage.

Slate is a stone that comes in colors ranging from black to gray to green. Waterproof and fireproof. Very expensive however it will last forever.

Roll roofing is lightweight, inexpensive roofing material. Not recommended for covering homes, however quite ideal for patios or sheds.

Copper shingles are very expensive and difficult to install, however it will last a lifetime. A popular choice for is decorative nature. Over time, oxidation will turn the copper brown or green.

Concrete tile is a manufactured material that provides homeowners with lots of colors and styles. Can look like slate or clay. A good option because of its moderate price. It’s becoming more popular with decrease in wood products.

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