We have been repairing leaky skylights over 30 years
There are many brands, sizes, and shapes of skylights. There are many reasons for a skylight to leak. The two most common place for the leaks to occur is between the frame and the glass and also the flashing.
Every brand has its way of being repaired. Some skylights have a flat glass surface, and some have a domed plexiglass surface.
Troubleshooting what causes the leak on the skylight is the hard part. It is never evident. The glass must be separated from the frame to be able to replace the gasket. This leak repair is tedious and costly.
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Glass skylights leak repair
Glass skylights are harder to make a leak repair on. There is a gasket between the metal frame and the glass of the skylight. The frame is factory assembled and sometimes not possible to be removed. Many times the cost of repairing a leaky skylight outways the cost of installing a new one. The gasket is not replaceable and therefore a new skylight must be installed.
Glass Skylight leak repair flashing
The other area where it can leak is on the flashing. When the rubber membrane separates from the flashing water can leak in. This type of leak repair on a skylight is relatively easy and not too costly.
Any roofing contractor that is familiar with that particular roofing system can make a repair.
Plexiglass Dome Skylights
Plexiglass dome skylights will crack over time causing leaks. The best way to make a leak repair is to replace the top part of the skylight. Some brands allow you to replace the plexiglass by itself. Skylight leak repairs are possible in some case when there is a gasket between the dome and the frame.
We Install and Repair Commercial and Residential Flat Roofs in:
New York – Manhattan to Buffalo, Port Jervis, Peekskill, Brooklyn
Connecticut – Hartford to Greenwich, Stamford, Millford, New Haven, Westport
New Jersey – Newark to Trenton, Morristown, Parsippany, Paterson
Pennsylvania – Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, State College, Altoona
Skylight Leaks and Repairs
We typically find skylight leaks on flat roofs, develop because of the degradation of the rubber gasket or the flashing connection to the roof around the curb (the curb is the base or housing used to hold the skylight in place on the roof) of the skylight. A gasket is the seal between the window and window frame.
Installing new skylights is easy, however, repairing them can be a little more costly if there is degradation beyond the rubber gasket or curb flashing.
Two Types of Tradesmen to Consider:
1. Skylight Dome and Gasket Leaks. – some leaks are caused by the deterioration of the plexiglass or the gasket. A tradesman familiar with skylights, can repair and/or replace either of them.
2. Roof and Flashing Connection – leaks are caused by the deterioration of the flashing connection to the roof area around the skylight. A roofing contractor can make the necessary repairs.
Skylights for Natural Light
When a room does not have windows, the best way to get natural light into that room is to install skylights. The light can set the tone by enhancing the look and feel of a room. There are many types of skylights available in both glass and plexiglass.
There are 3 parts to a skylight:
Curb section – this is normally a wooden frame that is approximately 6 inches in height and placed over the opening of a roof.
Glass or plexiglass section – this is placed on top of the curb and held in place with a metal frame and gasket.
Metal or plastic flashing – this gets wrapped around the curb so the roofing material can be secured to it to form a water tight seal.
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Skylight Leaks on a Flat Roof
When we are called to repair a skylight leak, the first things we check are the age of the roof, its condition, and the type of roofing material that was used. Often, we find that skylight leaks stem from the shrinkage of the roofing material. This stress will separate the membrane from the flashing.
Another common leaking problem we see, is caused by the brittleness of the rubber gasket. Skylights have a metal frame whereby a rubber gasket is used to seal the window to the frame.
Skylight with Metal Frame
The image below is a skylight with a metal frame which holds the glass in place. In between the frame and the glass is a rubber gasket that makes a water tight seal.The rubber gasket may harden and crack over time and cause a leak.
Still in the process, notice that the roofing membrane has not been attached to the metal flashing yet.
Reasons for Skylight Leaks
improper installation of flashing
rubber gasket becomes old and brittle or shrinks
a poorly designed skylight
it’s placed at an improper angle
plexiglass will degrade and crack from years of exposure to harmful UV rays
The plexiglass on the skylight below is secured by a metal frame. It is likely that the rubber gasket between the metal frame and plexiglass will deteriorate over time and need to be replaced.
Glass vs. Plexiglass Skylights
There are many kinds and shapes of skylights. The important fact to remember glass skylights should be installed at an angle so that water will not collect inside the frame that holds the glass. On the other hand, dome plexiglass skylights are the best choices for a flat roof because water and snow cannot collect on top of them.
Skylights can be Reused
Skylights can be reused, but they will need maintenance or replacement over time due to harmful UV damage to the Plexi/glass and the gaskets.
This skylight’s curb was removed when a new roof was installed. After the roof was done the skylight was re-installed.
The proper way to install a skylight is to have it fastened to a curb as seen in the image to the right. This helps to make a transition to the roof and also keep the the skylight above the water and snow levels when a roof floods.
Dome skylights are best for flat roofs, and are commonly used because they can last up to ten years without any maintenance.They stay free of water and snow collection because they are domed.
Concerns with Skylights on Flat Roofs
It often happens that water will pool around a skylight curb on a flat roof. This pooling water can eventually penetrate the area where the rubber membrane connects to the metal flashing, resulting in a leak. The best solution, in this case, is to build the roof up, to remove the pooling water
Velux is known for quality skylights, sun tunnels, and roof windows. They also market solar, electric and manually powered skylights. No matter what the application is, there is a product for you. We have installed this brand many times without incident. As in the many repair calls we have answered, the issue of leaking is not the fault of the skylight itself, rather, it is the installation technique. It is very important that the flashing be installed properly. A pitch roof has a different kind of flashing requirement than a flat roof. Sometimes, a carpenter or roofing contractor will not know the difference and install the wrong flashing around a skylight.
Wasco is another manufacturer of skylights. Wasco has all shapes and sizes and specializes in the acrylic or plexiglass type of skylight. If you want a circular or extended vault type of design, they are known for these kinds of specialty designs, as well.
Tip: Purchasing Skylights
A skylight has three parts, the glass or plexiglass, a curb, and metal flashing. When ordering a skylight kit, be aware that some manufacturers do not include all three parts.
Skylights on a Shingle Flat Roof.
The image below is an example of skylights that leaked because shingles, rather than a rubber membrane, were installed on this low sloped roof.
Depending on where a skylight is located on a roof, a plexiglass skylight may deteriorate and crack over time if it is located in direct sunlight throughout the daylight hours. The glass in skylights will last almost indefinitely, but the rubber gasket, between the glass and the frame, will need maintenance over time.
Skylights on Different Types of Roofs
It is not as easy to replace skylight gaskets on steep shingled roofs, as it is on flat roofs. Most of the time, people use caulking to reseal a skylight’s glass to its frame, but the proper repair is to replace the entire rubber gasket.
As with all skylights, the metal frame that secures the glass has a gasket in between them. These gaskets dry out and crack or shrink and can cause leaks. This atrium style skylight, on a flat roof, can be maintained regularly to ensure the gasket between the glass and the metal frame, remains strong and leakproof.
Glass skylights are flat, and should always be installed at a angle so water and debris will not collect on top of them.
Angled Curb Skylight:
Skylights installed on a curb that is angled, will prevent water and debris collection. One can purchase skylights for a flat roof with angled curbs that can be professionally installed.
One Solid Piece of Flashing
Flat roof skylights should have one continuos piece of metal flashing around them. The corners of the flashing should be welded.
Preparing the Flashing for a New Rubber Roof
It is labor intensive to clean and prepare the flashing of existing skylights, however, it is a very important process that must be done properly because the new rubber membrane must be attached to clean metal.
Wasco is another manufacturer of skylights. Wasco has all shapes and sizes and specialize in the acrylic type of skylight. If you want a circular or extended vault type of design, they are known for those kinds of specialty designs, as well.
Dome and Tunnel Skylights for Commercial Flat Roofs
These dome and tunnel skylights are made by Wasco Manufacturer. They’re very popular on industrial commercial roofs because they allow ample light through to work spaces. They come in two parts; the curb and plexiglass sections. Despite their effectiveness and low maintenance needs, they do not last as long as glass skylights because the plexiglass dome becomes brittle, and will crack over time.
Domed Plexiglass Skylights
The best choice for a flat roof skylight is a domed plexiglass skylight. Debris and dirt will notcollect on top.
Fancy Skylights have an Aesthetic Value
Skylights add a certain effect to a room. Some skylight windows are tinted, others have an atrium look, still others, have a tunnel look which all give a room more natural light.
We have seen smeared tar used as a common fix for leaking flashing of a skylight. As in the picture to the right, pouring and smearing tar to seal flashing of a skylight, onto the metal roof, is an improper repair procedure. In a rather short time, the tar will dry and crack, and water will leak into the interior of the structure.
Removing any tar from around a skylight’s flashing, on a metal roof, is laborious and becomes an added expense to the building owner, before a proper repair can be made.
Rubber Membrane Around Flashing
The image shows the flashing after the tar has been removed and replaced with a rubber roofing membrane. This membrane will last for many years to come, and will not crack with the expansion and contraction of the metal during heating and cooling conditions.
Preparing the Flashing for a New Rubber Roof:
It is labor intensive work to clean and prepare the flashing of existing skylights, however, it is a very important process that must be done properly because the new rubber membrane must be attached to the metal.
Bubble, Domed, and Tunnel Skylights for a Flat Roof:
These Bubble skylights are made by Wasco Manufacturer. They are very popular on industrial commercial roofs because they allow ample light through. It is difficult for debris to collect on top of them. They also come in two parts; the curb and glass sections. Despite their effectiveness and low maintenance needs, they do not last as long as a glass skylight because the plexiglass dome becomes brittle and will crack over time.
This is called a bubble skylight. They are very popular on commercial roofs.
Domed Plexiglass Skylights are the best for flat roofs
The best choice for a flat roof skylight is a domed plexiglass skylight. Debris and dirt will not collect on top.
Fancy Skylights that can have an aesthetic value
Skylights add a certain effect to a room. Some skylight windows are tinted. Some have a atrium look. Still others have a tunnel look which all give a room more natural light. There should never be a problem with any skylight leaking. If the installation of the flashing is properly done, and regular roof maintenance becomes part of a homeowner or business owner’s routine, then damage from leaks will not be an costly issue.
As in the picture to the right, pouring and smearing tar to seal the flashing of a skylight onto the metal roof is an improper procedure. In a rather short time, the tar will dry out, crack, and leak water to the interior of the structure.
We have seen smeared tar used as a common fix for leaking flashing of a skylight.
Removing the old tar around a skylight on a metal roof is laborious and becomes an added expense to the building owner.
Installing a Rubber membrane around a Skylight on a metal roof
After all the debris is removed then it’s time to lay the rubber membrane down for the flashing.
The rubber membrane is flexible enough to contract and expand with the metal roof in cold and hot weathers therefore make it the best choice of material for flashing on a metal roof.
Rubber Membramne installed around Flashing
This what it looks like after the rubber membrane has been installed. This membrane will last for many years to come and will not crack with the expansion and contraction of the metal during heating and cooling conditions.