HOW DO I: Install a leak-free skylight?

  • Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 7:28 a.m.

Does your home have dark areas that you wish you could brighten with natural light? You can accomplish this with a skylight. There is a myth that skylights always leak. This is not a true statement, but I understand why it is so prevalent in society’s thinking.

There is a saying that my father often told me, “Price makes a poor yardstick in which to measure quality.” Even though he did not ever install a skylight, the principle still applies.

Many DIY’ers, although not all, may not realize how true this is when it comes to choosing a skylight, and even so-called “professionals” don’t have a good grasp on controlling rain water and knowing how important a good design is in respect to a skylight.

The least expensive skylights are the plastic bubble types you see in mobile home installations, and these almost always do leak. If they don’t leak initially, they will, given enough time. I would rather turn the job down than to install one of these type skylights.

There are not many brands of skylights on the market that I would stand behind and guarantee not to leak, but there were two brands that I would have recommended and had successfully installed leak free for over 25 years – Andersen and Velux.

Andersen has stopped making them, though. Even though they manufactured a great skylight and step flashing kit, an Andersen sales rep told me that because people didn’t install them properly, which caused enough complaints, they shuttled the line. That was very unfortunate.

Now, Velux is the only brand I would recommend, although there are probably other brands around the nation that I’m currently unfamiliar with. The secret to a leak-proof installation is the proper implementation of the step flashing kit. A thoroughly installed step flashing kit provides the best assurance of a leak-free installation.

Corners cannot be cut or shortcuts taken when performing this task. There are many brands of skylights that say they have a “self-flashing” skylight that won’t leak. Don’t believe this sales jargon; there is no skylight capable of flashing itself.

If you don’t understand the concept of capturing and controlling the flow of water when assimilated with a roofing system, then I would say this may not be a DIY’er project. If you do and the proper steps are followed with the step flashing kit, you can rest assured that a leak-free installation can be accomplished.

Questions or concerns can be emailed to jdn.dm@comcast.net.

JD Norris is the owner/operator of DreamMaker Bath&Kitchen and a certified S.C. Master Builder, certified “Aging in Place” Specialist and certified Green Professional.

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