How to Install a Skylight in a Shed


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If your shed is in a shaded place or dim inside on a cloudy day, you might get tired of trying to find things in a darkened shed. Running electricity for lights is one solution. Another is installing a skylight in your shed roof. They do require a rather complicated installation, so if you want to do it yourself, be prepared to spend some time.

Installing a skylight in a shed can be more difficult or simple depending on the type of roofing you have. It’s much easier to install the skylight during the construction stage, in this article I’ll go over some basic questions and then go over installing the skylight and flashings.

How Easy is it To Install a Skylight?

While installing a skylight is certainly possible, it is not an easy job. You’ll have to cut through the roof and install metal flashing properly on the roof to prevent leaks. You’ll also have to install a light shaft so that the light flows through the attic floor.

It is a fairly involved job taking an assortment of skills to complete. Unless you are an accomplished carpenter with roofing experience, you may not want to tackle the job yourself.

Can You Install a Skylight Yourself?

People can install a skylight themselves. As long as you have the proper tools and are good at precise measurements and working with roofing, it certainly can be done. If you built the shed yourself, you probably have the skills needed to do this. Since this is a fairly involved project, however, if you have any doubts as to your ability to do it correctly, or you will have to cut more than one rafter, you should probably hire a professional.

If the skylight isn’t installed and sealed correctly, you’ll end up with a leaking roof and moisture problems. Installing roofing shingles may not be a particularly arduous job or one that takes special skills. Cutting a hole in an existing roof using precise measurements and possibly having to cut through a rafter or truss chord is another story.

Add to that the installation of flashing and other kinds of work may be a bit too involved, even if you built your shed yourself. Putting the light in yourself is something that needs to be investigated as to what it will take before deciding to do it yourself.

How Much Does It Cost to Put in a Skylight?

The price of installation varies with the type of skylight you choose, and whether you hire a professional or do the work yourself. Market prices in your area also play a big part, both in the price of materials and the price of hiring an installer. One source lists a price range of $957-$2,415, with an average of $1,684. Another source lists the price range as $900-$2,300, with an average of $1,500. You can read my article Top 5 Best Outdoor Shed Lighting Ideas and Solutions for more options to get more light into your shed.

How Long Does It Take to Install a Skylight?

Much of the time it will take is dependent upon your specific needs and circumstances. These include the shape, roof pitch, and depth of the interior light shaft. If you hire a professional installer, the job could take between half a day and three days. If doing it yourself, you probably will take longer.

It’s important to take the time required into consideration, as weather can be a big hindrance to your completing the project on time, not to mention the extra effort and materials involved in case you need to tarp over the roof after you cut it for the skylight.

Where is the Best Place to Put a Skylight?

Typically, skylights placed on the north side will provide a consistent amount of the same type of light year-round, and you won’t be bothered by a strong beam of light in just one area. If you are interested in energy efficiency, it is recommended to put it on the south side. Some people prefer morning light from the east side.

Potential damage is another consideration. Putting a skylight on the part of the roof that is under a large tree is inviting leaves, sticks and even branches to fall on the glass, covering it up and blocking the light or perhaps cracking or breaking the glass.

Are Vented Skylights Worth It?

If your shed gets too hot sometimes, adding a skylight may well add to the heat problem. Having a vented skylight will let the heat rise and travel out of the skylight, keeping the shed cooler. The additional airflow that a vented skylight will provide will also help keep the inside of your shed dry.

Whether the vented type is worth it to you will depend on your situation. Does your shed have at least partial shade? Do you live in a hot climate? Does your shed face in a way that your skylight will have to be placed on the south side? Will your vent opener be easily accessible?

There are skylights with automatic vents available that use a motor to open the vent, but these are naturally more expensive than a crank-operated type and require electricity in your shed to operate it. Only you can examine your particular situation and the price of the vented skylights available to you and decide if the vented skylight will be worth getting for you.

What You Need to Know Before Installing a Skylight?

You’ll want to choose placement of the skylight carefully to prevent glare. It can make the shed too hot to be comfortable, especially if you are using the shed as a workshop. It can also cause fading in some materials you may store in the shed. There are filters you can add to the skylight or add a shade to counteract the glare.

To keep the shed from getting too hot, choose a skylight that is made from double-insulated glass that has been tempered with low-E coatings. A bronze-tinted skylight can also help, especially if the skylight is on the west or south side.

The shape of the skylight can affect how the light shines into the room. Skylights with straight sides focus the light in a straight line, but there are some with flared sides that spread the light out a bit. To mitigate potential damage from falling debris such as tree branches, there are domed skylights available.

These allow leaves and other tree debris to slide off. However, these only come in plastic instead of glass. One good thing is that the plastic can be coated with dark or reflective solar film to minimize heat buildup in your shed.

You may need to contact your local building authority to find out if you need a permit to install a skylight. The rules seem to be a bit confusing. Generally, installing a new skylight, door or window requires a permit. Replacing any of these things does not.

This is because the permit is not needed for actually installing the skylight, but is needed for cutting the hole for it. You may have a building code that needs to be followed to make sure your shed is still structurally sound after installation.

What is the Life Expectancy of a Skylight?

A skylight’s lifespan depends on the quality of its manufacture and how well it was installed. With that in mind, a skylight typically lasts between eight and fifteen years. Of course, there are other factors, such as something falling on the glass and breaking it, or hail cracking the glass.

How Do You Waterproof a Skylight?

A self-adhesive underlayment that goes all the way around the skylight. Once you have the skylight in place and attached, take off the cladding from the window first. Apply the first strip of underlayment extending six inches on either end and six inches from the bottom. Cut the corners and press it down firmly.

Apply the underlayment along the sides next, extending about six inches past the top edge of the skylight and overlapping the bottom part you installed before. Cut the corners and press it down firmly. The top piece is the last part, extending it across the underlayment you installed on the sides.

To prevent water from getting underneath the skylight when rain runs down the roof, cut a small slit into the roofing underlayment just above the top of the adhesive strip along the whole top. Slip a strip of your adhesive underlayment underneath the roofing underlayment. Putting small pieces of the adhesive over the corners to cover the junctions will also help.

How Do I Install a Skylight?

First, you’ll need some tools for the job, Your skylight should come with installation instructions and may include suggested tools. These will probably include a reciprocating saw, power drill or driver with bits, ladder, hammer, utility knife and measuring tape. You can also use a pneumatic nail gun with an air compressor.

A chalk line will also be handy for marking placement on top of the roof. As far as materials, the skylight should come with a materials list, but they usually include 2x4s for the frame, wood screws and one-inch roofing nails. Having somebody to help you with some tasks, such as holding the roof piece while you are cutting it out will be a big aid.

Inside your shed, decide on where your skylight will be placed and the orientation. Draw a pencil outline of the area. One side should be against a rafter. Drive screws upwards through the corners of the outline to mark the roof for the location of the skylight. Now it’s time to get up on the roof and use the screws to guide the placement of a chalk line. Cut the shingles just outside your chalk line.

Now you can remove the corner screws. Cut the roofing underlayment according to instructions provided by the skylight manufacturer. It will probably be cut back a couple of inches or so beyond the size of your opening. You’ll need to peel back the shingle edges to do this, but be careful not to crack the shingles when doing so.

Cut out your opening, following your chalk line. Finish up inside the shed by cutting any rafters needed, trimming them for 2×4 horizontal braces. You’ll need to cut 2x4s for the skylight frame.

This can be a three-sided frame, with the horizontal pieces attached to one rafter or truss chord. The long side should go all the way across the height of the roof, attaching to both the top rafter or chord and the top wall board. Make sure this frame is square. For additional support, use two boards to form the side not connected to a rafter and use an additional piece on the outside of the rafter.

These extra supports should be attached to the frame. It’s finally time to install the skylight, attaching it with one-inch roofing nails. Then you will attach the waterproofing materials as outlined in the previous section.

How to Install the Flashing

Installing the flashing comes next. This is probably the most important part of the installation, as it needs to be done properly or your skylight will leak. Skylights usually come with a flashing kit supplied by the manufacturer, or will sometimes come with flashing built-in. Just in case yours doesn’t come with the flashing, here’s how to install the proper flashing.

You can buy your own or have someone fabricate any pieces you still need. Sill flashing goes first against the bottom of the skylight and is attached with roofing nails. It collects runoff from the other flashing and directs it down the roof. Install step flashing all around the sides. This is flashing that is bent at a 90 degree angle.

Install step flashing next along the sides, overlapping each piece and weaving it in with the shingles around the opening. Step flashing is much better at preventing leaks than continuous flashing. Once you have this done, you can reattach the cladding to the skylight.

At the top, attach the saddle flashing along the sides of the skylight. Slide a piece of underlayment underneath the roofing underlayment, using it to cover the top edge of the saddle flashing. Add the last shingles to the top but don’t let the nails go through the flashing.

I have added a video that shows how to install a curb mounted skylight, they are using a 2×4 curb, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow you can use a 2×6 or higher curb. Also note that skylights are made to fit between framing rafters that are installed on 24 inch centers, if you have trusses than you’ll be able to install easier. However if your rafters are on 16 inch centers you will need to cut and box in the rafters to fit the skylight in. Also note the use of flashing and waterproofing membranes.

Conclusion

As can be seen, the installation of a skylight can be quite complicated, especially when it comes to properly install the flashing. For most people, it’s probably a job that is best done by a professional, especially to ensure peace of mind, if nothing else.

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