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Guest Blogger: Should You Repair or Replace a Leaking Skylight?

Guest Blogger #902, Entry #2112, March 16, 2013

Skylights are an excellent addition to nearly any home for a number of reasons. For one thing they can bring abundant natural light to rooms that are otherwise windowless, or those that get only limited daylight thanks to surrounding buildings. This can illuminate your space sans electricity, potentially lowering utility bills, and even make your rooms appear larger. They may also add to the value of your home. But when they start to leak, you might wonder if it’s worth the money to keep your skylight in good repair. And unfortunately, leaks are a fairly common occurrence when it comes to windows on the roof. However, before you decide to scrap the idea and simply replace the skylight with roofing, there are a few things you should know about repair and replacement.

skylight kitchen idea

How do you know if your skylight is leaking?

Image via: John Maniscalco Architecture

Determine the cause of your skylight leak

The first thing you need to figure out is the cause of the leak, and it may or may not be obvious. For example, cracked glass is pretty easy to spot. But if the flashing or seal has started to deteriorate it may not be visible to the naked eye (at least not without in-depth inspection). And if the problem stems from improper installation then you might need a pro to figure it out for you. If an inspection doesn’t reveal the cause of the leak, you may have to try to recreate it. The important thing is to find out where the problem lies so that you can determine if it’s possible to save some money with simple repairs or if you’re better off going straight for replacement.

So how can you tell what the problem is? When water is coming in, whether due to rain or because you are testing for leaks with a hose, you should be able to identify the point of entry. If the seal has deteriorated the water will come in around the glass. If your flashing has gone bad you’ll notice water coming in around the frame. And improper installation could result in leaks in any number of places (even areas of the roof surrounding the skylight). Of course, you might encounter other problems, as well, but these tend to be the most common issues leading to leaks.

skylight bathroom

Should you replace or fix your leaking skylight?

Image via: RW Anderson Homes

Determine the severity of your skylight leak

Luckily, deterioration of seals and flashing is easy enough to repair. In some cases you can do it on your own, but if you aren’t comfortable with the prospect you can generally have the repairs done professionally at an affordable price – more affordable than replacement, in any case. And this is especially true when you catch a leak early and address the cause immediately. You may have to spring for some roof repair in the process, but it’s still bound to cost less than full replacement. That said, there are instances when replacing your skylight will be unavoidable.

If your skylight is more than 10 or 15 years old you might want to think about replacing it when you notice a leak. The main reason is that simple repairs may not be enough to stop persistent leaking, in which case you’re throwing money away on repairs (at $300-500 a pop, in general). Now, if you’ve kept your skylight well maintained during this period and it’s still in excellent condition, repairs may be an option. But if you’ve done repairs and the leak returns, consider that replacement now, while more expensive initially (at $800-1,200+ for materials and labor), could actually save you money over continuous repairs that will lead up to replacement anyway.

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