Are Skylights Good for Your Home?

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You may have an awesome, bright, sun-shiny day this morning. And,who does not want to wake up to blue skies and sunny days? As the 5th Dimension’s beautiful version of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the 70’s leaves happy visions in our memories… Or the sky may be overcast and the day may be gray and rainy. With skylights in your home you can experience the best of days and the not so best of days.

But are skylights good for your home? There is a lot of hype about skylights in the home construction and renovation business. There are many who would strongly advise against having a skylight installed in your home. Why is that?

  • Do you really want to cut a hole in a perfectly good roof?
  • They can cause leaks
  • And energy loss
  • Too much light can come in causing furniture and carpeting to fade

In the construction industry there was a saying “It’s not if your skylight will leak, it’s when your skylight will leak.” It’s a fact (and I know from experience) that skylights are the source of many roof leaks. In our business they are absolutely the #1 source of roof leaks for our Capitol Hill customers. No matter how vigilant one might be in roof maintenance, homeowners with skylights often find that roofing issues such as leaks and flashing damage are more likely to occur around skylights. Especially the older generation of skylights from 15-20 years ago.

So here we are in 2018, and while many homes have the older skylights, the construction has made many advances in home construction products. In the history of technology, Accelerating Change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological change which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future. 3D printing is on the drawing board in the construction industry as it is in many industries and believe it or not there is a race to complete the first 3D printing fully developed home including concrete, plumbing and electrical wiring.

What does all this have to do with skylights? There are many new technologies in skylight development. Nanotechnology inventors have developed coatings that keep the glass clean. Other coatings such as Low E (emissivity) that help block UV rays and also raise the R value (insulation) of glass offering increased energy efficiency. Also, new flashing technology that reduces the amount of reported leaks and some companies claiming “no leak skylight” have hit the market in the last few years. So, new technology leads to new advantages for skylights. But even all the new technology in skylight development cannot prevent leaks from faulty installation. Curb-mounted skylights are most commonly used with flat and low slope roofs and utilize a frame or box attached to the roof deck around the skylight opening. There are five keys to consider when installing your skylight:

  • The quality of the manufactured skylight
  • Flashing
  • Underlayment
  • Insulation
  • Installation

All are key components to a water-tight skylight. If all five go well you are on your way to many years of stress-free enjoyment.

As a roofer, stress-free is always a desired outcome for me and my customers and while new technology has enhanced the quality of skylights overall there is no perfect leak-free solution. But, it is always enticing to “Let the Sunshine In.” There’s that song again! And there is no substitute for natural light!

 

Tom Daniel is owner and general manager of R. Thomas Daniel Roofing, LLC and is the third generation of the family to provide roofing services to Capitol Hill homeowners covering a span of more than 95 years. Tom was born on Capitol Hill and supports numerous community organizations. For help with your roofing needs he can be reached at 202-569-1080, 202-544-4430 or tom@rthomasdanielroofing.com.