Everything You Need to Know About Skylights and Sun Tunnels
Skylights are statement pieces. They add natural light into the room, creating an energetic and fresh ambiance. They make rooms feel larger than they really are by opening the space into the vast sky. With all the extra light filtering in, sometimes the room lights don’t even need to be turned on, saving energy and money. When it comes to fancy home features, there really isn’t anything that can do what a skylight can. Mix and match add-ons like solar-powered blinds and opening/closing features, and you have yourself a very nifty window to the sky.
Despite all the pros, skylights have a reputation for being high maintenance. But owning a skylight doesn’t have to be that difficult. As with anything, the quality of the product and the craftsmanship of installation greatly affect the life of a skylight. There is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to properly caring for a skylight, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. Read along for answers to some of the most frequently asked skylight questions.
Installing a New Skylight
When it comes to installing a new skylight, the most important thing to remember is that quality matters. You want a skylight that is going to withstand the elements for a long time without constant maintenance or trouble. Skylight manufacturer VELUX offers the best, highest quality skylights on the market and would be your safest bet.
However, even the most premiere skylight can give you issues down the road if it isn’t properly installed. It’s important to find local contractors you can trust to get the job done right the first time. VELUX actually certifies trusted contractors to install the skylight for you, ensuring that your high-quality skylight can stand the test of time.
What’s Involved in Skylight Installation
Installing a skylight is not a small task. Although many homeowners attempt to save money by DIY-ing the project, the undertaking proves to be extremely difficult. In the long run, you’ll save yourself so much time and stress by paying a professional to make sure it’s installed properly.
To install a skylight, the roof shingles must be removed in order to cut a hole into the roof. Then, the framework may need to be modified to fit the skylight. Once the skylight is installed, then parts of the roof and ceiling will need to be patched up. Because of the intensity of the job, many professionals suggest waiting until you need to replace the roof anyway.
A new, properly installed skylight should last 25 or more years before needing replacement, with little-to-no maintenance needed.
Dealing with Leaky Skylights
Skylights from 20-30 years ago can be prone to leakage. Manufactured with older technology, these skylights aren’t as capable as newer ones when it comes to dealing with the elements.
Sometimes a crack in the actual glass may cause leakage, but the most common occurrence is when rainwater seeps in along the edges of the skylight. This happens because the rubber/EPDM gaskets around the glass become brittle with age, and are more likely to absorb water. Another common problem is the flashing system. Non-qualified installers make mistakes with how the skylight ties into the rest of the roof, and over time this can present issues.
When this happens, you have two options: either repair the leaky skylight or replace it.
Repairing a Leaky Skylight
If your skylight is leaking and is less than 15 years old, you may be able to fix it with a few simple repairs. Here are a few things to check for.
- Flashing – Flashing is the metal component installed around the skylight to prevent leaks. There’s a good chance that the flashing has worn down and may need replacing.
- Condensation – We often get calls from people with leaky bathroom skylights. Sometimes the skylight itself is not the actual problem. Bathrooms have plenty of moisture in the air (think a hot shower). During cooler months, this moisture condenses on the cold skylight glass, and drips down or runs down the walls. The only way to resolve this issue is to install a venting skylight, which is a skylight that opens and closes. This will allow you to open the skylight to allow that hot, moisture-laden air to escape. More on these types of skylights below.
- Weather Seals – Weather seals are the waterproof barriers that help keep the elements out of the house. However, over time, the elements—especially the sun—can cause the weather seals to peel and crack, allowing leaks to happen.
The average cost of skylight repair is $750, ranging from roughly $400 to $800+ for shingle roofs. Of course, this number depends greatly on the severity of the damage.
Replacing a Leaky Skylight
Unfortunately, if the skylight is leaking due to a crack in the glass, or worn out seals, the only option is to completely replace the skylight. Even if the crack is minor, it can easily grow over time, causing a bigger issue down the road. If your home is in a region prone to extreme weather, you’ll want to get your skylight replaced sooner rather than later. One solid hailstorm on a cracked skylight could cause serious problems in your home.
Fortunately, newer skylights are not nearly as prone to leaks. They are extremely safe—warranted against leaks—and strong and secure enough to handle the elements. The glass on a new skylight has been rated to withstand incredible weight loads, is shatter-resistant, and has a very high impact resistance.
Replacing a Skylight
If your skylight is quite old—20+ years—then it’s probably time to consider replacing it. Even if it doesn’t currently show signs of damage or leaks, it’s only a matter of time. It’s better to replace the skylight before it’s necessary than to wait until it does spring a leak and potentially cause damage to the interior of the home.
Replacing a Skylight During a Roof Replacement
Many professionals suggest replacing your skylights if you are having the roof replaced. If your skylight is nearing a replaceable age, then this could be a highly convenient option. The shingles are coming up anyway, and hopefully, your chosen roofing company has expertise with skylights. Although you don’t have to replace your skylights just because you are getting roofing work done, there are a few good reasons to consider this option.
- Skylight Protection – as the roofers work on replacing the roof, there is a chance they could compromise the integrity of the skylight. They will have to work around the framing of the skylight, and any disruption to the original set-up might cause damage that could lead to leakage in the future. It’s better to have a new skylight re-installed along with the new roof, ensuring a perfect fit.
- Cost-Effective – Although there’s the unplanned cost of adding skylight installation to your roofing bill, it’s actually cheaper to have the skylight replaced along with the roof. You’ll need to replace it in a few years anyway, so it’s financially prudent to take care of it now. Adding a skylight installation to a roof replacement costs anywhere from $800 to $1500. But the cost of installing a skylight on its own ranges from $1500 to $2500.
- Timeline – Your new roof will be expected to last 20 to 40 years, but the skylight will not make it that long. Save yourself time and money down the road by having it replaced now, while the professionals are already on the job.
Replacing a Skylight on Its Own
Although most professionals suggest replacing the skylight while re-roofing, it may not be necessary. If your skylight is less than 10 years old, there’s obviously no urgent need to replace it. Make sure you’re using a trusted roofing company that will take care to work around the skylight with caution.
There’s a chance you can get away with simply replacing the flashing. This is a minimum requirement as a part of the roof replacement, as it ensures that the skylight is properly integrated into the new roof. Your roofing company can handle that for you, and your costs will be closer to $500 versus $1000 for a full replacement.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make. Discuss with your trusted roofing professionals, and they can help you decide what’s right for your skylight.
Available Skylight Features
Many people worry that skylights don’t have enough features or benefits. Skylights are misconstrued as windows that don’t let in fresh air, or natural light that can’t be dimmed. But the truth is that there are many features available to skylight owners that eliminate these concerns.
Standard-sized skylights can now be fitted with light-filtering or even blackout blinds from VELUX. These blinds come in multiple colors, with a solar panel that attaches outside the skylight. The blinds are remote-controlled from inside the house and provide energy efficiency and versatility.
In rooms where moisture tends to build up, like bathrooms, a venting skylight is recommended (although homeowners can install venting skylights wherever they wish). Venting skylights can come solar-powered, electric, or manually operated. The electric and solar-powered skylights are preferred, as they come with automatic rain sensors, so they’ll close themselves in case the homeowner forgets.
Clean Glass and tinting
Skylights come with slightly tinted glass which blocks most harmful sunrays. The glass is also coated with a solution which makes water bead and roll off, keeping the glass much cleaner than a typical window.
Sun tunnels are another exciting option for your home. Think of them as tubular skylights that can illuminate areas of your home where traditional skylights aren’t an option. Sun tunnels don’t require direct sunlight, meaning that a two-story house can have a sun tunnel on the first-floor ceiling. Using a weatherized globe atop the roof and a reflective tube, a sun tunnel directs the sunlight into the room below.
There are two types of sun tubes: rigid and flexible. Rigid sun tunnels are used when there is a straight shot from the ceiling to the roof, unobstructed. Flexible tunnels are used when there are obstacles in the way. Sun tunnels are an excellent alternative to traditional skylights.
Making the Most of Your Skylight
Putting a skylight in your home adds immense value; energy bills decrease and overall health increases because of the extra natural light. Skylights open the space and add brightness to otherwise dark homes. Although the installation can seem like a huge undertaking, the results are worth it.
If you’re considering installing a new skylight or replacing an old one in southeastern Pennsylvania, it helps to find trusted professionals that can walk you through the process. Quality and craftsmanship are the most important factors when considering installation and replacement. Joyland Roofing specializes in residential and commercial roofing and has extensive expertise when it comes to skylights. They offer premium VELUX skylights and accessories and are certified to install, repair, and replace. Call Joyland Roofing at (717) 459-3499 to schedule a consultation or connect online.
Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor License (HIC) # PA124258