Skylights: Signs It’s Time To Replace (and What to Expect When You Do)
Do you know the lifespan of your building’s skylights? You can pray for 20 years, but you should plan for 10 to 15. There comes a time when replacement is inevitable. If you’re wondering if that time is now, we’ve got five signs to help you know.
1. Cracks and Spiderwebbing
Acrylic skylights can become brittle over time, resulting in cracks. Spiderwebbing is another common sign of age and wear. When either of these is present, expect leaks. It’s tempting to install additional caulking as a repair. Dan Edie, Service Field Office Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Concord, CA, cautions against it though: “This is a temporary fix. Chemicals in the sealant can cause premature deterioration of the plastic.”
If you’ve noticed staining of ceiling tiles or water near where a skylight is located, contact your roofing contractor to investigate. They will be able to determine if the source of the leak is the curb that supports the skylight, or the skylight itself. The former can be repaired with flashing, the latter is a sign that your skylight has a damaged frame, cracked lens, or that the gasket may have aged and is no longer providing a watertight seal.
Extended exposure to UV from the sun can cause the lens on skylights to yellow. This darkening minimizes the amount of daylight that can penetrate the building, increasing the need for artificial light. This darkening reduces the energy efficiency benefits of skylights. Cleaning the skylight with regular frequency can help to prevent yellowing.
If the skylight looks foggy or you notice condensation, it’s possible the skylight’s seals have failed. An inspection will tell you if the culprit is the skylight or simply a hot humid interior and cold exterior.
5. Inoperable Vent/Hatch
Smoke hatches that don’t work properly are dangerous. If excess heat doesn’t trigger the hatch to open, you could endanger building occupants and compromise fire safety. “If smoke hatches have broken release handles, old fusible links, or don’t close properly, repair or replacement is necessary,” says Edie.
What to Expect When You Replace Your Skylights
When preparing for your skylight replacement project, keep the following in mind:
- Replace the skylights when you’re doing a reroof project; it’s more cost-effective.
- A skylight replacement project is the ideal time to install fall protection and security bars.
- If you had self-flashing skylights before, the price of your replacement project will be greater because the roofing contractor now needs to install curbs (i.e., more labor and materials equals more cost).
- The roofing contractor will need a place to stage equipment and materials. They’ll also need access to the interior to barricade areas underneath and have a ground monitor inside to keep people away in case any tools, debris, or materials are inadvertently dropped into the open hole.
- Your skylight warranty is materials-only; if the unit needs to be replaced, you’re out the cost of labor to install a new skylight.
Skylight replacement projects are typically relatively short, but your roofing contractor can better predict the duration based on your specific circumstances.