Install a DIY Skylight

With these DIY skylight installation plans, you can install a skylight in your roof cheaply and easily.

| February/March 1992

  • skylight
    Building a skylight is an easy way to get more natural lighting in your home.
  • 130-070-01
    The trickiest part of installing the skylight is to make it completely waterproof. A heavy plastic wrap will do nicely, but make certain that no moisture can sneak between the frame and the roofing.
  • 130-071-02
    Hardwoods, such as ash or oak, are preferable for the job. Not only are they durable, but they will resist warping under extreme temperature conditions.

  • skylight
  • 130-070-01
  • 130-071-02

Installing a DIY skylight in your home is a lot easier than you think. There are so many advantages to these skylights that I'm sure everyone would or should want one or two. Aside from the romantic aspects of watching the rain or snow fall at night with the stars glowing, skylights cut down on your use of electricity (in our case, kerosene) and will help heat your home on sunny days.

I'm not a very talented person in this department, but with a sunny afternoon and a little research at the dump, these portholes in the roof proved to be quite simple to add to a new or already existing structure. And let's face it, any home improvement that can actually be done by the homeowner is an invaluable source of self esteem, and accomplishing it for almost nothing can only add to that good feeling.

First gather all the materials (most of which can be scrounged for free) and tools necessary for the job. The building process will only take about two hours.

Materials Needed:Old window (from a dump or demolition company)
1-by-4-inch board cut to the length you need (this is determined by adding 2 inches on all
sides of your window and measuring)
2-by-6-inch board the appropriate length for a window casing
1-by-2-inch board to support the window in the casing on all sides
1-by-6- or 1-by-8-inch board the length of your window
1 quart roofing tar and a suitable paint brush
4 pieces of lath
1 piece of 6 mil clear plastic at least 10 inches larger than window on either side
1 pound each eightpenny and tenpenny common nails
1 box small staples
Scrap roofing (about 2 yards)

Tools needed:

Constructing the Skylight

When it's time to go to work, be sure to pick a day when you'll have a few hours of sunshine. (These directions are for an already existing building, but if you're building a new home, it's even easier.)
1. Remove all roofing where hole is to be cut.
2. Cut hole in your roof the size of your window. Being on the lazy side, I used a chain saw, but a hand saw will work just as well.
3. Measure and cut 2-by-6-inch board and frame under edge of hole, making a casing for the window to set in.
4. Measure and cut 1-by-2-inch boards to fit inside of casing flush with bottom and nail.
5. Set window in place (and smile because it's startin' to take shape)
6. Build a frame from the 1-by-4, 2 inches larger on all
sides than the hole and nail to roof.
7. Cut the 1-by-6 or 1-by-8 to fit inside across middle of frame. Cut so board tapers to 4 inches at the ends and nail in place.
8. Tar and paper around frame on roof.
9. Cover with plastic and staple in place.
10. Nail lath around outside of frame to help secure plastic.

Scott Brown
5/17/2012 3:13:06 PM

As mentioned earlier, the directions are quite vague. More importantly, the use of any old window found at a dump or demolition (or second hand store) will not do either. Consider the effects of hail, wind blown debris, the weight of snow, etc. There is a reason most skylights are domed and constructed out of an ultra durable poly material. I would avoid using these instructions on anything more than a shed or greenhouse...

5/17/2012 12:32:11 AM

Cut the roof hole with a chain saw? The sheer volume of insulation and asphalt that would jam up the works would be prohibitive without mentioning that you located the truss and joist positions from cutting the inside ceiling out first and moved any plumbing or wiring or A/C ducts if needed. Framing an angle for a shallow attic with the correct pitch is not a job for a novice. It might have helped in the article to mention that the dimensions are for a specific location on a specific type of roof and that the shingles need to be pulled and replaced if it even is a shingled roof to begin with. Flat windows are Okay if a properly raised frame is made but an inexpensive preformed dome is much easier and already has an edge flange for sealing the joints.

5/16/2012 7:30:02 PM

Just to warn anyone thinking about doing this project, the way it is described, it most likely will leak! Not at first, but within a few years, this will leak and create a great deal of grief! As people have mentioned the details are kind of sparse to actually use this article for a guide also. Jeff has pointed out a few of the problems with the directions included. :) Not that hard to build a skylight, but building one that does not leak after a period of time, now that is really the idea, isn't it!

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