Skylights are wonderful for letting in extra natural light from above. They're also great in bathrooms for releasing some of the steamy air out of the house. But the installation itself is tricky and best left to a professional window contractor.
If you must go about it yourself, the key is making sure that the job is done properly from start to finish, ensuring accurate placement, flashing and sealing. Here’s what you need to know about skylights before cutting holes in your roof.
There are basically two types of skylights: curb-mounted and framed-in-place. A curb-mounted skylight will have a frame that is installed on the surface of your roof. The window is set in the frame, with the entire structure raised above the roof. These skylights have more flexibility in design and can include domed and plastic skylights. They welcome in plenty of light, but are more difficult to see out of.
A framed-in-place skylight will be set into the roof so that the window is flush with the exterior surface of the roof—more like a vertical window, only horizontal.
What’s the best way to make sure your skylight is installed exactly where you want it? Mark the ceiling, not the roof. Mark it at the exact spot where you want the center of the skylight to be. Drill a hole at that spot so that when you begin cutting open the roof, the center mark is clearly visible.
If your ceilings are not vaulted, there will be an angled path for light to take from the rooftop into your room. The best way to ensure you receive the maximum amount of light from your skylight is to frame out the skylight in the ceiling, as well as the roof, and build a vertical pathway for the light to follow.
When installing the skylight, be sure to position the fixture and nail it into place first, and then slip the underlayment around the skylight and beneath the surrounding shingles, being careful not to damage them. A steady hand and a pry bar can help lift the shingles just enough to slide the protective layer underneath without having to pull the shingles up and replace them.
To keep moisture and leaks from seeping into the roof and ceiling, you will need to have three layers of flashing installed. First, the bottom flashing wraps part-way around the skylight and sits on top of the roof shingles. Then, the step flashing is installed in individual pieces (overlapping each other by at least four inches) around the skylight with their ends installed underneath the shingles.
For both of these layers, be sure to nail the flashing to the skylight, not the roof. Lastly, the solid flashing pieces are installed on all sides of the skylight, starting with the bottom piece, then the sides, and finally the top piece is installed under the shingles and attaching to the skylight and side solid flashing pieces.
Be prepared to patch and paint the ceiling to conceal the work that you’ve done. If you’ve been wanting to change the color of your ceiling paint, now is a good time to do so, as painting the entire ceiling over will look much smoother than trying to paint just the area around the new skylight.
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