When you install a skylight, just about any room in a house can be transformed from a drab and gloomy space into a bright and cheerful one, filled with natural light. Still, some homeowners are reluctant to install skylights, even if they think their houses would benefit from them. They assume that a skylight will inevitably leak, and they fear it may not be able to be repaired. This is an unfortunate misconception that sometimes causes people to miss out on an element of home design that can seriously improve their indoor atmosphere.
While it’s true that skylights can be vulnerable to leaks, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risks. As roofing experts, the team at Interstate Roofing can assure you that it is usually possible to repair a skylight that has developed a leak. Read on to find out how:
Parts of a Skylight
The primary purpose of a skylight, of course, is to allow light to enter your home from an angle that is higher than that of a traditional window. This offers some unique engineering challenges that are different from the rest of the windows in your home. Most importantly, it must be constructed to withstand inclement weather to the same degree as the roof itself. There are a few parts that do most of this work:
When your roofer installs your skylight, they will begin by cutting a hole in the roof to match the size of the skylight. The frame of the skylight is the first of the essential parts that will be installed. It is usually constructed from wood or metal and serves to support the rest of the structure.
Next, the glazing is placed within the frame. The glazing is the element that allows the light to shine through, and while it’s usually made from glass, modern technology has also led to sturdier synthetic materials that may be used instead. The glazing has to withstand wind, rain, and sometimes tree limbs and branches that may be carried by the wind; therefore, it is important that it’s extremely strong. To ensure this, the material used for the glazing is usually layered several times and treated with UV radiation-resistant materials.
An experienced installer will ensure that the initial hole cut into the roof is of the exact right size for the glazing to fit snugly into. However, even a glazing that fits perfectly will not be watertight without the next material: weather stripping. Weatherstripping is usually made from rubber or plastic, although it can also be vinyl or polyfoam.
The final element of the skylight that your roofer will install is the flashing. Made from strips of corrosion-resistant metal, the flashing is used to guide water away from the skylight to prevent it from pooling in that area. In turn, this can help to prevent water damage.
How To Detect a Leak in Your Skylight
Just because you notice water dripping from your skylight does not necessarily mean it’s leaking. It may simply be condensation that is forming due to a dramatic temperature difference between the outside and inside air. This condensation will pool and form droplets, which can begin to drip down and lead you to believe your skylight is leaking even though it’s not.
If there is a true leak, it won’t just happen on particularly cold days; it will happen continuously and lead to water damage within the wood and paint surrounding the skylight. This means that, should there be a leak in your skylight, you’ll likely notice both dripping and dark water stains forming around it. You may also notice clear indicators when looking at the skylight from the roof. For example, a simple visual inspection can indicate a worn-out seal or damaged weather stripping.
What Causes It to Leak?
You can probably guess that most skylight leaks are caused by the failure of one or more of the skylight parts we’ve listed above. Many of the parts—particularly the weather stripping and the flashing—can deteriorate over time and necessitate replacement as part of the skylight repair process.
It’s also possible that the skylight was improperly installed in the first place. If the frame is even just a little bit too large, for instance, it may create a gap that is enough to allow moisture to slip through and begin to drip into the home.
Physical damage, such as that caused by a heavy windstorm, can also lead to leaks in your skylight. While a well-constructed skylight can withstand quite a lot, a hard enough hit from a falling tree branch can sometimes damage it enough to allow water to get in.
The Repair Process
To repair skylight parts that have been damaged, your roofer will often need to remove them entirely and replace them. With certain parts, this is easier than others: flashing can be replaced without having to remove anything else, while weatherstripping will necessitate first cutting away the silicone sealant. Still, even with extensive damage, professional contractors are often able to repair skylights if the leak is detected in time.
The skylight may need to be replaced entirely if the glazing or frame is damaged. Replacement is also frequently required when the skylight has been installed incorrectly. To replace the skylight, your roofing contractor will remove the existing frame and glazing and re-cut a new opening to make room for a stronger and more secure installation.
If you have or suspect you may have, a leaky skylight, do not hesitate to contact us at Interstate Roofing. With decades of experience in the business, we specialize in skylight repair and installing new skylights for homeowners who are ready to upgrade. Whatever you need for your roof, our certified experts can help.