Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Repairing a Skylight, A Dad’s Approach

My Dad is a “retired” mechanical engineer.  He reads directions.   My brothers and I dismissed this as kids, breaking things before my Dad had a chance to finish reading.  But life comes full circle and now I read everything, even the label on a pillow.


There is a lot to learn from a label, directions or specifications. You don’t have to call the paint manufacturer to know to paint above 40 degrees in dry conditions because it is on the label.  You can call them to ask specific questions, like compatibility of under coats, how products can be used, etc.. The technical support people get as excited about their products as I get about buildings.  I feel comforted afterwards.  It’s not that home centers and hardware stores don’t know, it’s just that manufactures know their product.


Sometimes my Dad knows finds solutions on his own.  Sometimes we work through problems together. He is inquisitive, handy and keeps a meticulous house.  He finds the internet less efficient than a conversation. The problem: condensation on a skylight.

Me- What’s the make?

Dad- It’s brand “X”.

Me- Did it happen from the beginning, after job completion?

Dad- No, it has been getting worse over the years.

Me- Is the condensation inside, outside, or in between the glass?

Dad- Inside, near the edges.

Me-When does it happen?

Dad- When it gets cold outside.

Me- The condensation is from cold air blowing against warm glass. It seems like you seals are shot around the edges.  You may want to go up and inspect them to see if air can get in anywhere or if there is damage.


My Dad inspects it and finds no damage, but they are dirty.  He goes to the local lumberyard and asks them about the unit.  They give him the phone number of the manufacturer.  The manufacturer gives him some pointers and comments:

  • The unit’s seals are not meant to be replaced, typically they will last the life of the unit.  [The seals of insulated glass can last about 20 years or so, and that is about the life of the seals.  But the seals can be replaced, just not easily and considered not worth it]
  • But the seals can get compromised from dirt and mildew.  If they are dirty, use a household cleaner to wipe them down.
  • If it still happens, you may need to replace the unit.


My Dad went a step further.  He picked up some tube seals, not the foam backer rod, but the silicone based tube seals.  He began to clean the seals, and realized the foam was compressed from the debris and organic material.  As he happily cleaned, he realized the foam was expanding a bit, regaining some of its resiliency.  Although not one for taking risks, he installed the tube seal on the outer edge.  He “Rube Goldberged” the seal on by rolling up pieces of tape, sticky out, so it would stay.  He closed the window and felt quite pleased.  And it worked too.


Some other winter prep tips:

Close windows completely.  Storm windows should be completely closed, with the upper up and the lower down.  Also, make sure the bottom expander is touching the sill, and if it is caulked, make sure there are weep holes.  Close and lock interior windows, especially new ones.  Insulated glass does not work when there is a breeze.  If you have loose basement windows, cover them with rigid insulation, plywood or a storm window, fill cracks with backer rod, just not fiberglass insulation.


Close doors completely (covered that a few weeks ago).  If you have an outside basement door that leaks air, cover it with a blanket.


Clean and open the vents for radiators or forced air.  Forced hot water baseboards have louvers and some older ones have vents.  Steam has vents, which could be clogged.  If you have a chance to clear out your house, blow out the radiator vents, they can get clogged.  Have you furnace serviced.   Consider someone outside of your oil company only because I have experienced poor servicing due to a conflict of interest to actually make it more efficient.


Thanks Dad.



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