Are you tired of your old skylights? Are they drafty in the winter and let in a ton of heat in the summer? Do they fill your home with a dim, yellowy light? Tubular skylights are so much more energy efficient than traditional skylights and can really brighten your home with natural light. Most of the tubular skylights out there from companies such as Velux, ODL, and Solatube, can be installed by most do-it-yourselfers fairly easily in places where you want a new skylight. However, the installation instructions and procedures don't apply to replacing an existing skylight and doing so requires quite a bit more work both on the inside of the home and on the roof. But, for a slightly more ambitious than average do-it-yourselfer, this project is definitely doable and well worth it!
My husband and I recently decided to replace 2 old skylights in our living room with ODL tubular skylights. Our living room has a vaulted ceiling and the skylights have about a 2 foot "tunnel" from the ceiling, up to the roof. The skylights we are replacing are those rectangular, brownish plastic skylights. We elected to split the project up over 2 weekends. It definitely could have been done in one weekend, but we have a thirteen month old baby and didn't want to coop him up inside all weekend and had to tag-team who was working on the project and who was taking care of the baby.
So, the strategy for the skylight replacement was to acquire all of the materials the Friday before we wanted to start and then wake up early that Saturday morning and head up to the roof to do all of the external work to get the external part of the skylights installed and the roof put back together by the end of the day. Then, on the following Saturday, we did all of the interior work. Both Saturdays were long days; about 11 hours each. This is partly due to the fact that we both couldn't work on the project at the same time and had to wait to do some parts of the project until our baby woke up from his nap. Your situation may be different in many ways from ours, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that while this isn't a very difficult project, it has a lot of steps, so it is fairly time consuming.
Things You Will Need
Tubular skylight installation kit (ODL 14 inch tubular skylights are what we used)
Tools listed in the skylight installation kit manual
Shingles for the roof
An additional tube of roofing sealant to reseal the shingles you will loosen
2x4s for the long sides of skylight tunnel, both interior and exterior
Plywood of the same thickness as is currently used on your roof
Drywall (we used the pre-cut 2 foot squares, 2 for each skylight)
Insulation (we used non-backed R38)
Face mask to protect you from the fiberglass insulation
It definitely pays off to do a careful and neat job removing the shingles. You'll be thankful when you re-shingle around your new skylight.
For our project, you can see that we couldn't find shingles to exactly match our existing ones, so I interspersed the different ones so that it wouldn't be as noticeable. Also, we didn't install the mirrored tube yet to avoid any issues with the sun reflecting around inside it before we had the inside part done. There is a danger that a sunbeam could be focused and do damage to an area if you don't have the diffuser on the inside installed yet. So, the skylight domes in this picture haven't been screwed into place yet and the mirrored tube is not inside.
Step 9scraped the popcorn off of a border around the skylights and then removed the drywall corner bead from each edge. Then, we trimmed back the drywall inside the tunnel so that the new drywall for the ceiling would be flush with the rest of the ceiling. After that, we cut 2x4s to fit the long edges of the tunnel and mounted them. Finally, we went back up to the roof and inserted the mirrored tube into the skylight flashing. As you can see, there is a lot of light that comes through the mirrored tube! To prevent ourselves from being blinded while doing the rest of the work, we draped towels over the skylight domes on the roof while we finished working on the inside.
You'll notice that there is still a big hole in the ceiling. We planned to do the drywall in 2 parts for a couple of reasons. First, the attic space in this area of the vaulted ceiling is just too tight to work in and the tunnel for the old skylight is still there and would prevent us from accessing the new skylight even if we could get to it. Second, by only putting up half of the drywall, you have space to work in. You can get your head and shoulder up there to trace the exact location of the hole for the diffuser, access the tube to get the seams between the top and bottom tubes taped, and have room to stuff plenty of insulation around the tube.
You'll notice in this picture that we haven't finished taping and mudding the drywall seams and so the installation definitely doesn't look complete. We will be doing that soon when we tackle the rest of the popcorn ceiling in this room. As we've done for the other rooms in our home, we will be taking down the rest of the popcorn, applying knock down texture, and then painting. So, we'll be finishing up the drywall work on our skylight installation in conjunction with redoing the rest of the ceiling so that the final product is consistent across the whole room. For your installation, you'll want to do a good job taping and mudding and then match the texture on the new drywall to your existing ceiling to give you a professional looking installation.
These skylights are also much brighter than they appear in this picture. They are so bright that the pictures I took of them in the afternoon didn't turn out very well because all you could see was the bright circle of the skylight. I took this picture in the evening when the sun had gone behind a tree in the backyard. The ODL 14 inch skylights claim to be as bright as five 100 watt light bulbs and from what we've seen, that appears to be true.
Hopefully the above was helpful to you in planning your skylight replacement. If you are anything like we are, you'll be so happy that you got rid of your old skylights and replaced them with energy efficient tubular ones. We love all of the natural light in our living room and the updated look the new skylights give. Have fun with your project!!
Tips & Warnings
This how-to is specific to replacing traditional skylights with tubular ones in a home that has an asphalt single roof, vaulted ceiling, and a tubular skylight model whose tube angles can be adjusted. A certain amount of know-how with respect to roofing, framing, and drywall work is assumed.