In our previous article, we talked about the benefits that come with installing a skylight in your residential rehab project. Prospective buyers will love the way it saves money on lighting, and will be thrilled with the natural beauty that comes from a room with a skylight. It is a relatively inexpensive project that adds real monetary value to the house, as well as a less tangible value that comes from aesthetic grace. It is one of the better ways to use some of your hard money loan from Socotra, California’s leading equity-based lender.

Of course, installing a skylight is a somewhat tricky job. A roof, by intention, is sturdy, and some rooms are facing the wrong way for a skylight to be effective (see prior article). You need to have the right room and the right kind of roof. But if you have a chance to install a skylight, you should take it. It makes your house easier to sell, and if you follow some tips, the job doesn’t have to be too difficult.  

The Measure of Success

“Measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of every good carpenter. In this case, though, you are going to want to measure more than that. This is a very precise and exact project, and making sure that the hole is exactly the right size is key to its success.

The first step is of course to plan where you want it. Don’t worry if there is an attic above the room you’re considering; by building a proper cavity, you can have a dual-skylight system that brings the light in just as well as if it were direct. When measuring where you want the skylight system, make sure there is nothing in the attic that will be an obstruction. It is possible to reroute ductwork or piping, but that is far from ideal. At that point, you may be spending more money and won’t be able to justify the ROI.

After you have the skylight measured, mark it precisely and cut a rough opening in the drywall or other ceiling material. You don’t need to cut all the way to the outside in this step. For low-angled skylights that are going to be in a finished attic or directly to the outside, 38-44 inches above the floor is a good measurement. Remember, of course, when measuring to use a stud finder to make sure you won’t be cutting through anything important.

Following this, here are the key steps:

  • Remove any insulation
  • Install the perimeter frame. Use 2x4s to create the perimeter frame around the sill area.
  • Cut out the rough opening from the inside, preferably with a reciprocal saw.
  • The next step is out on the roof, where you will actually install the skylight. After fitting it into the interior perimeter frame, fasten it with 2-inch screws that go into the metal brackets on the side of the frame.

After this, you will want to install the flashing. The flashing is what diverts rainwater down the roof and into the gutters to avoid leaks. This is installed around the skylight system. You’ll nail the flashing to the shingles and then finish putting back all necessary shingles moved during installation.

If you are diverting the light from the attic to a lower floor, you’ll want to do the same steps in the outside-to-attic and attic-to-lower-floor process, although you won’t need the flashing on the interior. The next step will be to build a cavity out of drywall that will channel the light from the inside into the lower story.

Skylights aren’t the hardest installation job, but they demand absolute precision. Any missteps will cost you in time and money, and any leaks can turn something gorgeous into a disaster. However, done right, they can add value and beauty to any residential rehab project, and help sell your home as a more energy-efficient alternative to those without.