How to Install a Tubular Skylight

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RH:  The State of Oregon is better known for it’s rugged natural beauty than it is for sunshine.  But, the sun will definitely play a part in this house call.  I’m on my way to Salem, Oregon, home of Jeannie and William Bragg and their dog Lacey.  The Bragg’s have a family room that gets very little light and they’d love to brighten it up.  I think a tubular skylight would be perfect for them and today, we’re going to cut a hole in the roof and install one together.

WB:  How’s it going?

RH:  Excellent.  How are you?

WB:  Pretty good.  Pretty good.

RH:  Hi.

JB:  Welcome.

RH:  Who’s this?

JB:  Lacey.

WB:  Lacey.

RH:  Hey Lacey!  How are you?  That’s a good girl.  I don’t know about you but I am ready to cut a hole in your roof.  What do you say?

WB:  All right let’s do it.

JB:  That’s what I want.

RH:  Shall we do it?

WB:  This way.  Okay.  Come on.  Come on.  Good girl.  This is the room.

RH:  Oh yeah.  This is quite a bit darker than the rest of the house.  You know, I think part of it is because of this paneling in here, probably soaking up a lot of light.

WB:  Yeah.  We replaced the carpet.  We put a white carpet in here and we were thinking . . . we sit on this side . . . we thought we’d put it up in this area right up here.

RH:  Okay.  A tubular skylight consists of a roof doom, light weight reflective tubing and ceiling diffuser.  Sunlight enters the dome, is channeled down the reflective tubing and enters the room through a diffuser, softly illuminating up to 100 square feet.  All right, so, let’s get a piece of tape and put it up here right now.  With a piece of masking tape Jeannie marks her preferred location for the diffuser.  That’s teamwork.  Okay.  So, that’s the ideal spot. 

WB:  That’s right.

RH:  Next she uses a stud finder to locate the ceiling joists.

WB:  There it is.

RH:  We’re going to drop this tubular skylight in between the ceiling joists.  We don’t want to be cutting those away.  Our goal is to cut a 14 inch diameter hole in the ceiling centered between the ceiling joists.   You all through?  Jeannie begins by drilling an exploratory hole where we believe the center point to be.

JB:  Okay.

RH:  I want you to push this through the hole.  Then she inserts a coat hanger though the hole and into the attic.  From inside the attic William locates the coat hanger and checks to make sure we’re clear of the joists.  Then he positions a flashlight alongside the coat hanger and aims the beam up to a clear spot between the rafters which he marks.  Next he drills a hole through the roof and leaves the bit protruding so it can be seen from the outside.  Now, we have an unobstructed line from the roof, through the attic into the family room.  The bit marks the center point for the opening we’ll be cutting in the roof.  William this is the flashing that eventually the skylight dome is going to attach to.  Right now though I want to get it centered over that drill bit so if you’d get directly over it and look down . . .

WB:  Okay.

RH:  . . . and let me know if I need to move this a little bit. 

WB:  That’s looking pretty good.

RH:  Right there?

WB:  Yeah, right there.

RH:  . . . this lumber crayon right here . . .

WB:  Okay.

RH:  . . . and draw a circle on the inside of this.  Right up next to the edge.

WB:  Okay.

RH:  The flashing acts as a template for the opening we’ll soon be making.  Excellent.

WB:  Okay.  Looks good.

RH:  So we’re about to cut a hole in your roof.

WB:  All right.

RH:  Which is what I’ve been waiting for.

WB:  Right.

RH:  It’s why I came.

WB:  Exactly.  This is what I was a little worried about.

RH:  One thing I don’t want to happen is to have this fall through and punch a hole in your ceiling.

WB:  I agree with you.

RH:  Okay.  So, this is a  little technique we can use to prevent that from happening.  This is just a screw.  I’m going to put this about oh, three inches or so from the edge being cut. 

WB:  All right.

RH:  By slipping the end of a pry bar over the screw head we’ve now got a handle that will allow us to keep a grip on the cutout.  Finally, the moment William has been anxiously anticipating . . . using a reciprocating saw, I begin cutting that hole in the roof.  Okay, William, you want to give it a try?

WB:  Sure.  I’ll try.

RH:  I’ll get out of your way here.  Excellent.  Okay.  There we go.  There’s your hole.  Next we slip the reciprocating saw under the shingles and cut the roofing nails around the edge of the hole. This will allow us to slip the flashing underneath the shingles.  We secure the flashing to the roof with a few screws.  Okay William.  Go ahead. With the flashing in place we slip a section of reflective tube through the center then set the plastic roof dome in position and secure it with screws.  Okay guys.  It’s time to cut your ceiling now.  We’ve destroyed your roof, now your ceiling.  Now it’s time to cut a hole in the family room ceiling for the diffuser.  A drywall saw gets the job done in a couple of minutes.  What we’re going to do now is we’re going to construct a long tube which is going to go up through that hole and connect to that piece that we put up on the roof. 

WB:  Okay.

RH:  It comes in sections like this and what I want to do is ask you guys to go ahead and hook these together.  First of all start by putting these tabs in these slots right here.

WB:  Okay.

RH:  Just go ahead.  We assemble the individual solar tube sections by simply inserting tabs through corresponding slots.

WB:  Okay.  I think we’re ready to go.

RH:  Okay.  Now, this is aluminum tape.  It’s got a peel and stick backing on it so peel the back off of it William, if you will.  We’re going to put this right on top of the joint.  Okay. 

WB:  I’ll make sure you . . .

RH:   The tape will hold the sections together and prevent light from leaking out at the seams.  Burnishing or rubbing with a cardboard roller insures a good seal.  Jeannie can you pick that up now?

JB:  Okay.

RH:  We’re going to assemble the first two sections.  That one goes right inside here.  We assemble the sections by simply inserting one inside the other and then taping the joints.  Put that on this joint right here.  Now, this is long enough so it’s going to go all the way up and connect to that piece . . . The assembled sections are lifted through the ceiling hole, aligned . . .

WB:  Okay.  I see.

RH:  . . . and slipped over the roof section we installed earlier.

WB:  Okay.

RH:  A flange on the bottom section is screwed into the ceiling and finally the diffuser which will soften the light in snapped in place.

JB:  I think it’s in tight.

RH:  Boy, I’ll tell you I can’t believe the amount of light that’s coming through there.  That’s incredible.

WB:  That is unbelievable.

JB:  It’s really lightened up this whole corner of the room.

RH:  Yeah.  Look at the way it’s bouncing off the paneling in here. Well, I think we got what we were after here don’t you?

JB:  I think it’s fantastic.

WB:  Oh definitely.  Definitely.  This is unbelievable.

RH:  This calls for a celebration.  I have something here for you.  A little souvenir.  The first time you cut a hole in your roof I think you should have that as a memento.

WB:  Oh my God.

JB:  Something to remember the experience by.

WB:  I can’t believe we did it.

RH:  We did it.

WB:  This is great.

RH:  And this was the part of the job that you were a little concerned about.

WB:  Yeah, I was worried.  I mean . . .

RH:  I was terrified of doing this.

WB:  Well I was really hoping you were going to do it Ron.

RH:  And I made you cut it.

WB:  That’s it.

RH:  Enjoy this.  It was a pleasure working with you.

JB:  Thank you very much.

Learn how to install a tubular skylight to brighten any room; includes step-by-step instructions and helpful tips.

Note:  For information on how to seal the base of the flashing to the roof, please view this video.

Solar tubes or tubular skylights are adept at beaming shafts of sunlight from your roof and flooding it into interior spaces that would otherwise be dim and gloomy during the day.  Because they’re designed to fit between existing ceiling joists and roof rafters, these tubular light funnels can be installed quickly and relatively inexpensively.  Whether you are considering doing the installation yourself or having it done, this video offers a detailed look at the entire process.   This is one of two tubular skylight projects I have done.   The second one, which was installed in an upstairs hallway feature a "switch" that allowed the light to be turned on and off.   You can view that project by clicking here.

One of the major manufactures and distributors of solar tubes is Solatube.  You can visit their website by clickilng here.