Fixing a Skylight Leak

Installing a skylight in your home or buying a home with a skylight already installed is great for four reasons:

1. Brings extra light into your home;

2. Lets you see the sky from the comfort of inside;

3. Lets you scare the crap out of your family by going on the roof and knocking on the skylight when they’re quietly watching TV; and

4. They inevitably leak. Wait, what?…

Leaky skylights

Drip drop … it’s only a matter of time …

Skylights are cool, but they usually will leak in a home’s lifetime. And unfortunately, fixing the leak is usually a difficult process that isn’t recommended for your average homeowner.

In the case of the skylight I recently had to fix, the roofing around the skylight was the main culprit of leaking. The difficulty is greater than just spreading tar on the roof, though. You have to:

1. Start by cleaning around the roof area very very very good.

2. Roll out granulated flat roof roofing material.

3. Roll out 4 inch mesh on all of the seams.

4. Heat it up very very hot so it will stick to the original roof.

5. Spread roofing tar all over this to ensure no leak springs in the future.

It’s a pretty time consuming process. If you have shingles and not flat roofing, the process is complex as well (just in a different way). Like I’ve said before, you really shouldn’t DIY roofing unless you really know what you’re doing because that’s one place you don’t want to mess up on!

I don’t usually recommend skylights because they’re an obvious weak spot in your roof that will probably leak; however, if you have/get them, make sure when they do leak to have it fixed by someone who knows what they’re doing so they don’t leak again!


Fixing a Skylight Leak — 31 Comments

  1. OK, so I’m not crazy. I was also under the impression that skylights would leak at some point. When I was looking at buying a house with a skylight, the realtor told me that they shouldn’t leak if they are installed properly. I was a bit leary of that. It just goes to show me – again – that I need to remember what somebody is trying to sell me before I take their advice.
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..Options for Your Structured Settlement AnnuityMy Profile

    • Right on, right on. Of course a realtor would tell you that it won’t leak. A skylight that is installed properly to begin with will probably not leak for a long time. But at some point, it defintiely will.

    • I know some people spend money on blinds for their skylights to keep light out when they want and to help with drafts. Seems crazy to me, but people are crazy.

  2. I’m going to probably file this under “things I will hire someone else to do”. :)

    I’m definitely interested in learning about repairs I can do on my own and I’ve had some experience with renovations while helping my dad renovate the basement when I was younger. But, things like roofs, skylights, plumbing, etc. all seem to have a large window of Things That Can Go Wrong. I think I’d rather not risk it! :)
    CF recently posted..Why you should chill out about student financeMy Profile

    • Do the roofers keep saying it’s the same problem? Or is it different every time? I know with the company I work for, they guarantee our work. So if we fix something and it gets messed up again, we’ll come back out for free to repair it.

  3. So far, my skylights have never leaked. After the hailstorm (which, to my astonishment, did NOT break the skylights), I had to have the house reroofed. Since the great old guy who put on the existing roof had retired, I had to select a pig in a poke at a time when the place was swarming with itinerant out-of-state roofers and con men, so I really was worried.

    Luckily, though, his crew did a decent job, even though none of them could speak English (or would admit to it) and he treated them like animals. We’ve had several hard rains, and even though the roof did leak around the gas water heater vent, the skylights have proven to be sound.

    I love the things. They make a HUGE difference in the house’s interior.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Shoring up the Defenses, and Tales of Perps and Dumb MarksMy Profile

  4. “Installing a skylight in your home or buying a home with a skylight already installed is great for four reasons: …They inevitably leak. Wait, what?”

    Fantastic advice. People love their pot lights and granite counter-tops and won’t listen to rational arguments when it comes to things that make their house look “pretty”. Shoddy “professionals” like Realtors thrive on this type of ignorance. My Dad always said: don’t build a skylight, don’t add a skylight, don’t buy a house with a skylight. Glad to hear this from an experienced person (and it’s clearly honest because you’d actually make money from people installing MORE skylights as well as inevitable repairs!)
    Joe recently posted..Baby Expenses Aren’t an Excuse to Break the BankMy Profile

    • Exactly, a lot of people are after looks over function and reliability. They’ll gut out solid, old work and replace it with “new” popular materials even though the new work may be shoddy and the new materials don’t function any better (or they function worse!). It means I’ll always be able to get work repairing stuff for people, but it sucks that people are sinking money into unnecessary costs if they just wouldn’t be too concerned with the looks. Your dad sounds like a smart dude!

  5. Yet another confirmation that I shouldn’t add one to the loft overlooking my living room. My cousin told me the same thing. He said if the skylight is built in during construction it’s better than adding one on to an existing roof which I’d be doing. Oh well, so much for bringing light to my dark living room!

  6. Ours haven’t leaked yet, but I’m just waiting for it to happen. thanks for the tips. And though you recommend leaving it to the pros, I’m a hardcore DIYer, so I think I would give it a shot first.

    Also, we installed my mother’s roof this summer, we’ll see how it holds up. We followed youtube and packaging instructions, and had to old-timers out there who had done it before helpeing out, and we haven;t seen any issues being 2 months into rainy season. I’ll hit you up if we have any issues :)
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  7. Wow. I knew a neighbor that had one that always leaked and they could never find out where it was leaking from. They ended up getting rid of it and just shingling over where it was. Now that looks terrible on a sloped roof where the old and new shingle meet. I am glad my house doesn’t have these they just seem like something else to worry about in homeownership.
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