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How to install a skylight in 7 steps?

Rita Deo Rita Deo
Sridhar Sreerama Residence Rooms by Synectics partners
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Skylights bring in natural light inside the house and keep it cool by providing an outlet for hot air to escape in summer. These can be installed on the roof after cutting through the ceiling or attic region for sunlight to shine through directly into the house. A skylight has to be installed in a planned manner to avoid problems of leakage during rain and snowfall. Skylights can be fixed by homeowners also as a DIY procedure by following instructions given by the manufacturer or by taking the help of a friend who has done a similar exercise without any problems. But before carrying out this procedure for the first time, remember that this is not a do-it-yourself that can be undone if you make a mistake. Several factors have to be taken into mind before drilling into the roof and ceiling to setup a skylight like the sun’s path and roof angle to ensure that your home does not become a furnace during summer. To avoid problems of closing and opening the skylight during summer, house-owners can always opt for a remote controlled skylight which can be opened with the flip of a button to let in cool air when it becomes hot inside the house.

Choose the place

Residence Sangeeta Asian style corridor, hallway & stairs by Kumar Consultants Asian
Kumar Consultants

Residence Sangeeta

Kumar Consultants

Selecting the right location for setting up a skylight is crucial to enjoy the feature all the year round and ensure it meets with local building codes for load and wind conditions. While setting up a skylight always remember that a low sloping roof should have a tall rectangular skylight while a small square window would be suitable for a steep roof as both will provide same amount of light. Before going ahead and making a hole in your drywall ceiling, ensure that there are no barriers between the external roof and the ceiling like drainage pipes or electric wires in that region. Ideally keep the skylight between rafters so it will straddle the ceiling opening and you would not have to worry about fixing them back again.  The skylight created in this modern style house provides ample daylight in the dining area and eliminating use of artificial lighting during daytime.

Preparing the roof

The first step of preparing the roof for fixing the skylight has to be carried out from the inside by cutting the drywall of the ceiling below the roof. After earmarking the region where the skylight has to be set up, drill a hole through the ceiling in area that will be the approximate center of your skylight. Mark the area around it according to the shape of the skylight that will be fixed in the area and cut through the drywall.  

After the ceiling drywall has been cut away and removed, make markers on its four edges which will be easy to spot when searching for corresponding location on the roof from the outside. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines about the size of hole that would be required to setup the skylight on the roof and make markers to ensure that it opens in exactly in the same place where the ceiling has been cut. Once the center of skylight location is determined use that to cut the exact dimensions as required along the rafters that have been earmarked earlier.

Inserting the skylight

Before you begin drilling through the roof from outside remove all obstructions from the area where the skylight has to be fixed like shingles or tiles. Once you locate the four corners designated for the skylight then mark the region and ensure that no one is standing below the roof inside the house when the saw is cutting through the plywood.

After the hole in the roof and ceiling have been made and both are in sync, you have to cover the exposed plywood in the roof with 12-15 inch wide strips of roofing underlayment on all sides before setting the skylight over the hole. All manufacturers will give precise directions about how this has to be done to make the region leakproof  If the hole has been cut as specified then there will be wood frame on all sides to nail the skylight’s lip to the roof. These holes are usually pre-punched by the manufacturer and you have to drill it in appropriate locations on the roof plywood to nail it to the roof. 

Secure the skylight to the roof

eclectic  by Concept Interior Design & Decoration Ltd, Eclectic
Concept Interior Design & Decoration Ltd

Bespoke glass chandelier suspended from a central skylight

Concept Interior Design & Decoration Ltd

Once the skylight is nailed into the roof,use roofing underlay strips for covering up the edges of the skylight and provide support to the step flashing. After the skylight is securely fixed unto the frame in the roof start setting the shingles back in place and nail small step flashing to the skylight to divert water away from the edges. Keep roofing paper around the skylight and below the shingles when you put them back in place as a sealant, around the hole to make it more water resistant.

Attention: be aware of water leakage

Once the bottom flashing is driven into the edge of the skylight from outside by driving flashing nails horizontally into the edges of the roof you can slip back the shingles to the original place. Now attach the step flashing pieces around the skylight and under the roofing for water proofing as per instructions given in the manufacturer’s manual. To ensure there is no water leakage put a polyurethane joint sealant around the edges of the joint on the roof after the shingles are back in place.

Finishing the Light Shaft

modern  by homify, Modern

External Roof Blind Installation in Clerkenwell, London


Now that the skylight is in place you have to ensure that the light enters the room below without any hindrance and for this, a light shaft has to be created between the roof and the ceiling. If there is an attic between the roof and ceiling then you have to build a wooden frame to attach the drywall to its edges and close off the attic region completely. If there is no attic between roof and ceiling then seal the area between both the roof and ceiling with a drywall frame and insulate it with foam or anything else of your preference to avoid cold drafts of air in winter. 

Enjoy the sky

Now that your skylight is firmly in place just lie back and enjoy the beautiful sky and clouds drifting across it on a bright day. If the sunlight is too bright during the day install blinds to keep the room cool along with an exhaust fan to get rid of hot air. Skylights give breathtaking view of the sky specially on a moonless night when stars are at their brightest. 

For more tips on finding the perfect location in your home to install a skylight refer to this ideabook.

Do you have any tips on installing a skylight the easy way? Let us know in the comments below.
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