How to Decide Whether You Should Repair or Replace Skylights

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated July 29, 2022
Skylights in sitting area
Photo: Jo Ann Snover / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Skylight repairs are about $500, while skylight replacement is around $1,000.

  • Repairs work for small leaks and cracks or discoloration.

  • Older skylights, around 15 years, need to be replaced.

  • You may want to replace skylights during roof repairs to save money and hassle.

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You’re relaxing to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the skylight over your living room, only to notice those droplets are leaking through and hitting the floor. Once you’ve grabbed a bucket to catch the water and mopped up any mess, you’re probably in a panic—is it time to shell out for a skylight replacement? 

A small leak or some discoloration may just need some minor repairs, but older skylights with major problems likely need an upgrade. Here’s how to determine whether you should repair your skylight or invest in a skylight replacement.

Skylight Replacement Types

If you need a skylight replacement, you can expect to choose from one of three main types of skylights:

  • Fixed: These skylights are similar to standard windows, except they are located on the roof.

  • Vented: Vented skylights can open or close to let in air. They may be controlled manually with a latch or crank, or they can be controlled with a motor.

  • Tubular: Looking for just a little light? Tubular skylights are small, dome-shaped windows that bring in just a little bit of light to smaller spaces.

Skylight Repair Types

Like standard home windows, skylights are long-lasting, with a 15- to 20-year lifespan. But from time to time, they can require a little TLC to prevent or stop leaks. If your skylight is giving you trouble, it may just need repaired, not replaced.

Leaks

Leaks don’t always warrant a replacement. Small leaks may mean the flashing needs to be repaired. The flashing surrounds the window where the skylight meets the roof and is important for shedding moisture after it rains.

Don’t ignore a leak. If you notice water coming from the skylight, it will need to be repaired immediately. Otherwise, the moisture can quickly cause water damage to the roof or drywall of your home.

Discoloration

A cloudy or discolored skylight may simply need a good cleaning. But discoloration can also come from extended UV exposure and age, so if cleaning or reglazing the window doesn’t fix this problem, it may be time for a skylight replacement.

Excess Heat and Light

If standing under your skylight feels like standing on the sun, you may be able to reglaze the skylight panel to offer better protection from UV rays and heat absorption.

Repairing vs. Replacing Skylights

Making the decision to repair or replace a skylight can depend on a number of factors, from your budget to the extent of the damage. Even the age of the skylight can help determine whether or not you need a skylight replacement.

Damage

The damage to your skylight can determine whether a repair will suffice or if it’s time for a replacement. 

  • Leaks: Small leaks from faulty flashing can usually be repaired, but larger leaks mean you’ll need to replace the skylight. 

  • Cracks: Cracked window panes may be repaired, but if the skylight glass has a crack, you’ll need to replace the entire skylight.

  • Discoloration: Some discoloration can be easily solved by cleaning the glass, but discoloration from age or UV exposure can only be resolved by replacing the window.

  • Condensation: Condensation may be caused by poor ventilation in the home, or it could mean your window sealant is no longer effective. Have a pro take a look.

Age

Skylights will look and perform their best for about 15 to 20 years. If your skylight has even a small leak but is around 15 years old, it’s better to go ahead and replace it. Otherwise, seemingly minor damage can cause further wear and tear and lead to more expensive repairs down the road.

Cost

A skylight replacement costs about $1,500. Removing the old skylight alone costs about $50 to $200. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of skylight repairs is around $770. While skylight replacement is a higher upfront cost, a new skylight is a long-term fix for any damage.

Roofing Projects

Planning for a roof replacement or to handle some roof repairs in the near future? For older or damaged skylights, consider replacing them at the same time as doing a new roof. It’s easier to replace a skylight during other roof work. The average cost of a new roof runs between $5,700 and $12,300.

DIY Skylight Replacement vs. Hiring a Pro

There’s a lot that can go wrong when it comes to replacing a skylight. For one: Working on the roof is dangerous, and a slip or fall could seriously injure you. If you aren’t skilled at skylight installation, you may have trouble fitting the skylight into the roof properly, which can lead to a damaged skylight and costly water damage.

The best option is to hire a local skylight installation specialist, who will know how to install different types of skylights into various types of roofs. These pros can also offer recommendations for skylights that will perform best based on your climate, so your skylight can stand up to elements like rain or excess heat.

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