Green Renovation: Tubular Skylights, Part 2

Jim Mallery

Part 2 of a two-part series, Green Renovation: Tubular Skylights

In Part 1, you learned the advantages of tubular skylights. One of those advantages is the relative ease of installing them. In Part 2, the series concludes with these general tips for easy do-it-yourself installation.

Location, Location, Location

  • Locate the spot in the ceiling where you most want the light, and measure from the walls to that spot. Check the measurements in the attic to see whether that spot is feasible for the installation. If you have obstructions that block the path of the light tube--wiring, ductwork or framing--move your location. While the tube is adjustable to get around obstructions, the more you bend it the less light it will transmit. The straightest shot from roof to ceiling is best.
  • Your tubular skylight kit will come with a length of tube. If you need a longer tube, you can buy extensions, but moving the position of the tubular skylight a few inches might save you having to spend another $40.

Measure, Mark, Cut

  • Once you have set your ceiling location, mark the holes. Dropping a plumb line from the underside of the roof to the ceiling is the most accurate way to line up ceiling and roof holes. With the holes marked, punch a long nail through the roof so that it is visible from the top.
  • Center the template from your kit over the nail--or use the roof flashing as a guide if no template was included. With chalk or a marking pen, draw your circle. Drill a starter hole near the edge of the circle and with a jigsaw or reciprocating saw, cut the hole. Take note, if you are cutting composition shingle, you might eat up a couple of blades.
  • Use the same procedure to cut the ceiling drywall, but use a manual drywall saw instead of a power tool. A power tool can easily take off on you when cutting drywall, and you could end up with an ugly gash in the ceiling darting out from your skylight. Cut the ceiling hole from the attic side, and with masking tape, stick a garbage bag to the underside to catch falling debris and dust.

Slide, Seal, Snap

  • Slide the flashing up under the shingles (obviously, leave it on top of the lower shingles so draining water stays on top of the shingles). You may need to pry out some roofing nails, or cut them with a reciprocating saw to get the flashing into place.
  • Seal the flashing with roofing caulk under the shingles. Install the ceiling ring according to instructions.
  • Snap the tube together and seal it with aluminum tape. Put it in position and screw it to the flashing. Put the solar collecting dome on the flashing. Snap the light diffuser and trim ring into place on the ceiling, and your room is lit!

It's really a simple process. Your tubular skylight kit will have specific directions for assembling your skylight, so read and follow them carefully, as each manufacturer's procedures vary.

About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.

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