New skylight for our Airstream

Old skylight was crazed, dull, and cracking near every screw

Old skylight was crazed, dull, and cracking near every screw

We’ve seen the light! Our new skylight is so much clearer than the old. The original skylight was two years old when we bought the Airstream and, apparently, enjoyed some dulling effects. The original skylight admitted light from the sky, as intended. But we couldn’t see through the skylight.

Some Airstreamers say their skylight blew off the roof along some highway or other. Some people cap off the hole in the roof and seal it up in lieu of replacing the skylight. “Just a problem we can avoid!”, or “One less hole in our roof.” And a skylight is more subject to hail damage than the metal roof. Our previous Airstream trailer was not built with a skylight and our first reaction to this one was, “Wow, look at all the light!” We love it.

Not all skylights are installed equally, either. The factory installer may, apparently, be less intent on the skylights’ longevity than on initial water-tightness. The installer of our original skylight bedded it in some caulk and tightened sixteen sheet-metal screws through the skylight into the aluminum curb. And it didn’t leak through the skylight. Not ever (although it did leak under the curb flashing at the trailer roof).

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on top of this Airstream. We had two very small leaks July 2007 in a torrential downpour in Perry Ga. The next day I borrowed a ladder and caulked visible openings at two roof vent fans. November 2007 I installed two solar panels on the roof. April 2008 I washed and waxed the trailer roof.

New Larsen 270 NMO 1/4 wave antenna

New Larsen 270 NMO 1/4 wave antenna

July 2008 we had a small drip into the trailer from a long slow drizzle while parked at Ocean Park on the Washington peninsula. I climbed onto the roof and recaulked the skylight curb to the roof. A month ago I installed a UHF/VHF amateur radio antenna on the roof.

These frequent visits allow me to inspect the vastness (not!) of our Airstream roof and look for cracking caulking or seals. The skylight mounting flanges showed cracking around almost every mounting screw, suggesting a blow-off failure sometime in the future. We started shopping for a new skylight.

Radial cracking created from oem installation over-tightened screws

Radial cracking created from oem installation over-tightened screws

North Carolina has a wonderful Airstream dealership near Winston-Salem. Out of Doors Mart claims,
“We’ve been selling and servicing Airstream Longer
than any other Dealership in the World.” We picked up last Saturday from their parts department the needed skylight for our trailer.

Yesterday I spent a few hours up and down a ladder and on the roof removing the old skylight and installing the new one. I needn’t have worried about the old skylight coming off on the highway. Darned good thing I’ve been working out at the Y every week or I couldn’t have pulled the thing off. It was glued on so thoroughly with the caulking seal the factory installed. And yes I did remove the screws first, thank you very much.

I scrubbed and applied Vulkem caulk smoothly over the curb caulking. I cleaned the mounting surfaces and applied 3/4″ butyl tape on the roof curb to bed the skylight. After setting the skylight on the taped curb I applied 3/4″ butyl tape on top of the mounting edges of the skylight and covered the tape with 1/8″ X 3/4″ aluminum strips.

The mounting screws attach through clearance holes in the aluminum strips and skylight and into pilot holes in the curb. The mounting screws are just tight enough to squeeze some of the butyl tape evenly out. The aluminum strips evenly distribute pressure from the mounting screws on the skylight.

We think/hope this installation will last as long as the skylight. Why did the original skylight get so dulled and lose transparency in just four years? Will the same happen to this skylight in four or five years? We’ll have to see. For now, we can see much better through our new skylight and are thrilled with it.

Replacement skylight installation is much better than oem

Replacement skylight installation is much better than oem

Total cost for this project: $135 and four hours of my time.


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