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We have a 20 year old leaking skylight, and right now I am contemplating either removing or replacing it. Not exactly sure why it is leaking, perhaps the flashing is bad, but it's leaked for a while. One thought was perhaps it had to do with the actual skylight mechanism (this one used to open) So I'm thinking of replacing it with a sealed one or roofing over it. I've read a bit about the latter, and it seams to do it properly it's quite a bit of work, you have to tear out the framing structure, so that air flows to the peak, and make sure it is sealed an insulated like the rest of the structure. On the other hand, replacing the skylight will require re - flashing and perhaps changing the size of the frame a bit.

  • Removing and roofing over is not that hard, yes you will want to sheet rock the hole but you don't have to take out the frame work just open it up by taking the sheet rock off it will breathe just fine. Most of the skylights I have worked with are standard sizes so it may not be hard to find one that fits well the toughest part is getting the top edge flashing under the shingles and sealed without damaging them especially if the old one had layers of Blackjack or other types of sealant added. – Ed Beal Jun 13 '16 at 18:56
  • What kind and pitch is the roof? – jgrant Jun 14 '16 at 2:27
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The real answer is: Don't do anything until you've identified the root cause. Find the leak. FLashing and sealant can be replaced a lot more easily than a whole new unit, not to mention the difference in cost and time.
Similarly, if there's a leak where the glass (and frame) separates from the support frame as you open the skylight, address that specifically.

Never start out by attempting the most expensive solution.

  • We did have it looked at before, the roofer "fixed" the flashing but it never fixed the leak. It only happens under really hard rain conditions. It may indeed be the flashing but my thought is that it probably is the seal on the skylight ( considering it is 25 years old and only started 6 years ago. – user379468 Jun 16 '16 at 19:27
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    @user379468 Water moves in strange ways on roofs and often where the leak is visible is not where the water is penetrating. It could be another part of the roof entirely (e.g. chimneys or other roof penetrations somewhere above and adjacent to the skylight) and the skylight is just the point where water collects enough to drip down. If you're comfortable with the idea, go on the roof with a hose and slowly and systematically work your way up the roof around the area to identify the source of the leak. Otherwise, hire someone to do the same (or similar) to guarantee you know what to fix. – statueuphemism Dec 20 '16 at 16:09
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If it's a composite roof, I think it's a little more work to roof over the skylight just because of the interior sheet rock repair, but much more expensive to buy a new skylight. You don't need to do any framing to tear out the skylight, but to do it right you should remove the sheet rock from the skylight walls, and repair the hole in the ceiling. If you replace the skylight, go with the velux (or similar price point brand). The flashing kits that are made to go with them use step flash and are very effective in preventing leaks.

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The best way is to install a curb mounted skylight. Almost all new skylights are done this way. A wooden frame, usually from 2x4s, is mounted, sealed and flashed, then the skylight mounted on top of the curb with screws. If there is ever a problem with the skylight it can be replaced in minutes. Most often problems occur with how the skylight was mounted to the roof. Get an installer who guarantees the roof work for life, then buy a skylight quaranteed for life and you'll never have a worry.

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Remove for sure. You can replace a skylight, throw down flashing around it, caulk it up and basically do a really good install in about 1-2 hours (not accounting demo as this is all over the place with skylights) per light.

If you totally remove it you are going to have to do a lot of patchwork on the roof and a lot of shingle repair. You might have cut past the hole for your skylight and replace adjacent boards or at least cut them - depends on how skylight was installed. Also you may need to replace rows of shingles below skylight - it can be a mess and costly.

On leaking - THEY ALL LEAK. Their seals go bad sitting in the sun. They require maintenance and possibly replacing every 10-15 years. There are things that are easy to do to make your seals last longer but that is a different question. But I would only get rid of my skylights if I was reshingling the whole roof. As it stands to remove it you are probably reducing the value of your home and costing yourself more money.

  • That's funny I just added one to my house I like the extra light. My last house had 3 None leaked but they were high end with copper flashing. I agree if re roofing it is the best time to make any changes. – Ed Beal Jun 13 '16 at 19:00
  • @EdBeal - Since you got copper flashing I am guessing the skylights were pretty high end - therefore no leak YET. Your big box $200 skylight will leak in 15 years. It is the sealent/rubber between the glass and frame 90% of the time. If you have trees shading the light a lot of the year or if you don't see 90F maybe it lasts longer. – DMoore Jun 13 '16 at 19:09
  • over 18 years and we have had a few 105-110 days here not many but always in the 100 range in summer for 1-2 weeks. Most of the problems I have found is crappy installs, At a minimum there should be galvanized flashing. Some tar slapped on may last a year or 2 but it will leak soon. – Ed Beal Jun 13 '16 at 19:13
  • @EdBeal - didn't think anyone was tarring these still. – DMoore Jun 13 '16 at 19:30
  • blackjack cold / wet tar for patching I think is what was used in this area by several contractors, it is good for a season maybe longer but some were putting sky lights in with it. I have replaced several that I did not know how they made it through the first rain. I still see hot tar roofs, I quit doing them almost 30 years ago... nasty stinky ruin your clothes and everything it gets on. – Ed Beal Jun 13 '16 at 22:06

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