Skylights and Ice Dams

We have four good-sized skylights built into the roof of our log home. They add a great deal of daylight to what would otherwise be darkened areas in the living room, loft, and master bedroom. The carpenters who installed them tried to talk me out of the idea, claiming I would have endless leakage  problems down the road. But, for aesthetic and practical reasons, I insisted.

For the most part, after 25 years, the skylights have been trouble-free. The only issues I’ve had were due to lack of snow and ice removal. Because of the low e-factor of the glass, lots of heat escapes through a skylight, melting whatever snow that accumulates. That water then drips down the inclined glass and often freezes just below the edge of the unit. Slowly, a dam builds up and the water tries to back up under the flange, causing an occasional leak. Most winters, I start shoveling snow off the roof in early February when there’s nearly two feet of accumulation. The work is fairly exhausting, so I spread it out over 3 or 4 shifts in the course of a week. One side of the roof has a 4/12 pitch and the other is a combination of a 6/12 joining a 4/12 shed roof over the back porch. I used to tie myself off to the chimney with a heavy rope, but that was too awkward. Now I slip on a pair of Yaktrax  over my boots and seem to have plenty of traction.

Even if you don’t have too much snow on your roof, it’s a good idea to keep the skylights shoveled off, especially between the unit and the eave. If the melted water can escape, there’s no worry about it backing up. Just to be sure, every September when I’m up on the roof to clean out the chimney for the coming winter, I caulk around the skylights with a good quality silicone. A little precaution goes a long way. Ideally, if I ever build another house, it will have a steeper 12/12 roof pitch. When you live in a snowy climate, the steeper the roof, the lower the maintenance. For the same reason, metal roofs have become quite popular.

I don’t regret the installation of skylights in our log home because they add so much beautiful light to each room. But unless you like surprises, you  have to be vigilant.