Installing Tubular Skylights on Cement and Clay Tile Roofs

Elite Solar Systems installed six tubular skylights and solar-powered attic fans, incorporating them into the existing tile roof of this 3,900-square-foot Gilbert home. Photos: Elite Solar Systems

Installing tubular skylights, or solar tubes, can add a profit niche for any roofing company and provide a lifestyle enhancement for existing and new clients.

“Tubular skylights allow natural light in to brighten rooms and offices during the day without the need for an electrical light source,” explains Jovane Estrada, general manager for Elite Solar Lighting & Fans, based in Chandler, Arizona, southeast of Phoenix. “They can be retrofitted into any existing roof system and placed where windows or traditional skylights are not options.”

In the desert Southwest, cement or clay tiles on pitched rooftops are a popular choice by owners of upscale homes. Recently, Estrada’s team installed six tubular skylights and solar-powered attic fans on a 3,900-square-foot two-story home built in 2009 with cement tiles in Gilbert, Arizona.

In 2001, the company began offering high-quality residential and commercial tubular skylights, solar-powered attic fans and garage exhaust fans. The parent manufacturing company, Southwest Metal Spinning, was founded 26 years ago by Estrada’s father, Saul, and brother, Juan. The components for the Elite product are made in the same location.

Typical tubular skylight components include a high-impact acrylic dome, which locks into a ring on the 1100-O aluminum flashing; this seals to a flat or pitched rooftop, protecting against rain and cracking. Beneath this, an acrylic diffusing lens connects to highly reflective anodized tubing leading to the ceiling, where it fits into a three-glazed polycarbonate diffuser.

For the Gilbert home, Elite installed a 10-inch-diameter tubular skylight with a bathroom exhaust fan kit and light kit; a 10-inch-diameter tubular skylight through the garage into a downstairs bathroom where the skylight was installed on a wall; four 13-inch-diamter tubular skylights with synchronized dimmers, which open and close the solar lights at the same time and position; two solar-powered attic fans; and a solar-powered garage exhaust fan.

“Experienced professionals can install a tubular skylight with any roof penetration,” Estrada says. “If they can cut and seal roof flashing on the tile roof, they should know or learn how to install the tubular skylight fairly easily, and your clients can enjoy new light and the peace of mind knowing the job has been done right.”

Cement Tile Challenges

The tools required for a cement or clay tile installation are minimal: safety googles; gloves; stud finder; measuring tape; pencil; drill gun; ladder; reciprocating saw to cut wood deck; grinder to cut roof tiles; caulk gun for sealant; drywall saw; tin snips; utility knife; and plumb bob/laser.

Of course, installing tubular skylights through cement tiles requires following the basic steps for any roof breach.

To avoid damage to clay tiles, unless a roofer has a great deal of experience walking on them, Estrada recommends that the tiles be removed from walk areas on the roof up to where the tubular skylight will be installed.

“Make sure the install is possible — and sometimes it isn’t, at least exactly where the client wants it — and have the appropriate tools and materials available,” Estrada says.

Next, mark where the tubular skylight is to be placed and check in the attic or crawl space for plumbing pipes and vents, wires, trusses, HVAC heat pumps and ductwork, water pipes and roof valleys that might be obstructive. “If there is an obstacle, the challenge is determining if using tubular skylight adjustable elbows will allow the install to be completed,” he says.

With the attic inspection and cuts done, an aluminum tile skirt and pitched flashing must be installed properly to the deck. “Most roofers do not use a tile skirt for tile roofs, and later a leak can damage the paper underneath the tiles,” Estrada says. He recommends applying a premium flexible sealant (supplied) to the flashing.

In this home, the central challenge was installing the tubular skylight on the roof through and into the first-floor bathroom, without disturbing the second floor just above it. “We knew we had to go through the side wall of the bathroom, but we had to make sure we had the room in the attic and inside the adjacent garage to install the tube on the sidewall,” he explains.

To do this, the 90-degree adjustable elbows were needed to be able to make the turn from having the tube travel straight down into the inside of the garage and then shift direction into the bathroom, Estrada says.

“This kind of installation requires more effort and time,” Estrada says, “but the result is that a lower level, even a basement, can be enhanced with more natural light.”

All Ups, No Downs, for Roofers, Clients

For the roofer and the homeowner, the best time to install a tubular skylight (other than at construction) is during a roof replacement or repair. The attic space and roof are open and accessible and can be sealed along with the new roof or repair. But as this case study shows, most retrofits can be easily completed, too.

“It’s an extra income stream and an incentive for customers to choose your company,” Estrada says. For example, one of Elite’s roofer clients offers a free 10-inch tubular skylight with each signed re-roofing contract.

With these, home- and business-owners light up their homes, garages, offices, hallways, bathrooms and warehouses. And, tubular skylights also offer lifestyle benefits for pets, plants and people, Estrada says. “They’ve been reported to improve a person’s mood, and the owner of this home in Gilbert told us they’ve simply changed his life.”

About the author: David M. Brown has been writing books and articles for newspapers, magazines, ezines, websites and businesses for many years. A graduate of LaSalle University and Temple University in native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he is the father of two grown children, Shaun and Sheena, who live near him in the Phoenix area.

TEAM

Tubular Skylight Installer: Elite Solar Systems, Chandler, Arizona, www.elitesolarsystems.com

MATERIALS

Tubular Skylights: 10-inch Elite Tubular Skylight, 13-inch Elite Tubular Skylight, Elite Solar Systems

Attic Fans: 20-Watt Elite Solar Attic Fan

Tips for Tubular Skylights

Once the vertical pitched flashing is sealed and fastened properly on the roof deck, place the aluminum tile flashing over the pitched flashing, with the EPDM rubber facing down toward flashing. Fold the sides of the aluminum tile flashing and make sure flashing goes over the bottom tiles.

1. Follow the step-by-step instruction manual, supplied with the tubular skylight. Call the manufacturer and ask questions, if necessary.

2. Use all of the parts included with the tubular skylight kit. “Typically, when a part is left out, it is because the installer or roofer does not know its function,” Estrada says. “Leaving out a part can cause condensation issues, dust or bugs to enter the unit, a rainbow (distracting prism) effect on the interior of the home or other issues down the line.”

3. Quality and safety are paramount: Tested and certified products ensure your clients that the units will last through the harshest weather. Check products for certification by the International Code Council (ICC). Secondly, quality products offer UV-protection plastic, which inhibits fading of interiors. And, for installers, find out if the tubular skylights adhere to OSHA fall-protection standards.

The roof install is complete, with the tiles back in place. Notice that you can see the aluminum tile flashing toward the bottom of the tiles. Both the flashing and the aluminum tile flashing can be painted to blend in with roof.

4. For condensation control, the skylight must breathe, so don’t place sealant between the dome assembly and the roof flashing. This will cause condensation buildup.

5. For condensation, dust and bug issues, seal any gaps between the ceiling kit and the light tube as well as the light tube and the flashing with tape or spray-foam insulation, following the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

6. Offer no-leak guarantees to fully back your work for your customers. As a respected roofing company, you offer warrantied materials and installation. Look for that, too, in the tubular skylights you install.

Innovative Solution Serves Up Perfect Blend of Color and Strength for Restaurant

A barrel-vaulted canopy made up of Pentaglas panels in a rainbow of hues lends a festive flavor to the outdoor dining area at Mexican Radio Restaurant. Photos: Kingspan Light + Air

Located in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District, Mexican Radio specializes in two things: tacos and cold drinks. The newly opened concept restaurant conceived by A Good Egg Dining Group occupies a lively, fun space.

The property’s major restoration includes a covered outdoor dining area. There, a translucent vaulted canopy crowns the space in a swirl of bright colors. Inspired by a colorful fine art glass installation, the owners and architect collaborated to find the right solution.

The canopy adds more than just a bright accent for diners: It creates an additional dining space that protects diners from the elements and makes the space useful nearly year round.

Style and Substance, on Budget

During the renovation, the outdoor dining area was demolished down to the existing steel tube structure. Kingspan Light + Air manufactured a fully engineered, customized and prefabricated vaulted canopy to fit the existing steel structure. Kingspan provided a clear anodized aluminum structure, and six unique glazing colors designed to bring the owner’s vision to life.

“We knew colored glass wouldn’t work on this budget,” says Zack Woods, AIA, with Gardner Architects. “But with the Kingspan product, we could get the bright tones of color the customer wanted, and we could cover more square footage, spanning a full patio instead of a very small area.”

Mindful of the project budget, Kingspan provided a variety of color panels with no high setup costs. Non-standard “off the rack” hues lend a lush, custom-job look. “The tones of colors used give this a unique feel and kept the budget on track,” Zack says.

The canopy provides a durable, inviting and comfortable venue for diners. Because one end of the canopy is open to the street and the other is connected to the building, the space is largely sheltered from the elements. Ceiling and attic fans circulate air and pull heat out in the warm summer months; patio heaters create a cozy space in the winter.

Providing more than just a comfortable environment, the Kingspan Light + Air Pentaglas canopy system is built to last. The system has undergone rigorous 10-year testing to ensure both color stability and impact durability over time. Should the need arise, the unique KLA system allows spot replacement of single panels, so the entire canopy does not have to be replaced.

TEAM

Architect: Gardner Architects, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, https://gardner.studio

Contractor: J&R Windows, Goldsby, Oklahoma, http://www.jandrwindows.com

MATERIALS

Barrel Canopy: 12mm Pentaglas in six colors, glazing, purlins and rafters, Kingspan Light + Air, www.kingspanlightandair.us

Re-Roofing a Frank Lloyd Wright Home

The Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, Wisconsin, was designed and built in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photos: DaVinci Roofscapes

Frank Lloyd Wright. Just the name brings to mind images of beautiful homes. So, when the team at Allrite Home & Remodeling had the opportunity to work on one of Wright’s creations, they jumped at the chance. A year later, the newly-added DaVinci Single-Width Shake roof brought the team industry recognition along with praise from Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts.

The home, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is located in Racine, Wisconsin. It was designed and built in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright for attorney Thomas P. Hardy. The stucco finished front, intricately detailed windows and breathtaking waterfront views make this a home like no other in the neighborhood.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Wisconsin, the Thomas P. Hardy House has changed hands seven times. In 2012, the then-homeowner began working to restore the home to its former beauty.

The exterior was repainted to the original terracotta color. The foundation was jacked up and rotting beams were replaced. And, original light fixtures and pocket doors were all restored. As the restoration progressed, Allrite Home & Remodeling was brought in by the home’s newest owner to tackle the roof.

Selecting the Right Shake Roof

“The homeowner had three very important priorities for this historic renovation project,” says Randy Miller, owner of Allrite Home & Remodeling. “First, they wanted cedar shake, just as Frank Lloyd Wright had intended for the roof. However, they wanted to take advantage of modern advances in materials. Second, they wanted to be environmentally responsible. And third, they wanted the roof selection to please Frank Lloyd Wright loyalists.”

Many years prior, previous owners had asphalt roofing installed on the home, which was not consistent with Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. After reviewing a variety of products, the current owners decided on a composite shingle that simulates a cedar shake roof.

Single-Width Shake from DaVinci Roofscapes in the natural Aged Cedar color was chosen to restore the original appearance to the home’s exterior.

“The DaVinci product has the right quality, texture, color and warranty that the owners wanted,” says Miller. “The Single-Width Shake in the natural Aged Cedar coloring brought back the original appearance to the home exterior. As an added bonus, the composite shake shingle has a longer lifespan and will require far less maintenance.”

Soon after the team started removing the old roof, they noticed significant fire damage to the rafters above the kitchen area. Apparently a fire in the early 1960s extensively damaged the inner structure of the roof.

“The current owners had no idea so much harm had occurred,” says Miller. “We proceeded to replace the damaged wood. That was important so the home will be structurally sound and able to support the new roof.”

According to Miller, safety was also a concern. The home is located on a steep bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. High winds were a challenge as the team worked to keep materials, tools and technicians secure.

Another challenge was the location of the home on a busy road. There was also a walled-in yard. This meant there was not a good staging location for materials or a dumpster. They were able to squeeze a dumpster onto the property, but neither the placement nor the access was ideal.

Finishing Touches

After the installation of the composite shake roofing came the finishing touch: copper accents. The area around the chimney had previously been plain brown flashing. It was decided to update it with copper flashing that will continue to add character to the home as it ages and patinas.

“Installing the copper without it rippling required our expert technicians to be extremely precise as they worked,” says Miller. “Then there was the added pressure of knowing that every step of this project was being scrutinized.”

Copper accents were added, including copper flashing around the chimney.

“There are Frank Lloyd Wright fans and enthusiasts both online and in our community who watched our progress closely,” Miller continues. “They wanted to make sure every step of the way that we honored the original design of the home.”

For their successful efforts, the team at Allrite Home & Remodeling won an award in the 2019 National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Milwaukee Remodeler of the Year Awards competition. The home received a Silver Award in the category of “Residential Historical Renovation/Restoration.”

“Our company has installed many DaVinci composite roofs during the past 15 years,” says Miller. “We’re proud of all of them. However, this project was a true labor of love. We’ve now added our mark to a beloved historical home in our community. Our entire team takes great satisfaction in knowing we were able to help bring a longer life to this Frank Lloyd Wright home.”

TEAM

Roofing Contractor: Allrite Home & Remodeling, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, https://allriteremodeling.com

MATERIALS

Composite Shingles: Single-Width Shake, DaVinci Roofscapes, www.davinciroofscapes.com

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Features a Striking Standing Seam Metal Roof

The roof of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab incorporates striking V-shaped sections of standing seam metal panels and a tapered EPDM system. Photos: AJBROWNIMAGING.COM

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab provides rehabilitation services to help patients recovering from severe conditions including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, strokes, and cancer. The organization’s new 25,000-square-foot outpatient facility in Burr Ridge, Illinois, features a unique, uplifting roof design incorporating angled, V-shaped sections of standing seam metal roofing.

The low points in the center of each section and other low-slope areas are covered with an EPDM roof system. At the building’s perimeter, the roof and walls frame clerestory windows that allow natural light to flood the interior.

It took a talented team of construction professionals to execute the design conceived by architects in HDR Inc.’s Chicago branch. Willie Hedrick, Division Manager of All American Exterior Solutions, Lake Zurich, Illinois, notes that he and his team worked closely with the architect and the general contractor, Krusinski Construction of Oak Brook, Illinois, at each phase of the roof installation process.

“Initially the architect had specified a very nice but very expensive Terne-coated stainless steel panel,” notes Hedrick. “The project had budget issues, so we offered the Petersen prefinished steel panel as a value engineering option. The mechanically seamed Tite-Loc panel could handle the low-slope application and also came in a variety of colors. We also offered a 20-year watertight and finish warranty. For approval, we built a mockup for the architect and owner to review and also provided several references for completed projects around the Chicagoland area that they could visit to see finished examples of the proposed panel and color.”

Three different sections of the facility sport the Petersen’s V-shaped PAC-CLAD metal roof, with the wedges on each side sloping down to a valley in the center. Within the valley, the Carlisle SynTec EPDM roof system was installed over tapered insulation to ensure water would flow properly to the roof drains.

“The EPDM was an appropriate selection on the balance of the roof,” Hedrick says. “The workability of EPDM with tight, intricate details worked well throughout the project but especially within the gutter troughs between metal panel wedges.”

After the building’s metal deck was topped with half-inch DensDeck Prime and a self-adhered vapor barrier, crews from All American Exterior Solutions installed tapered polyisocyanurate insulation and 5/8-inch DensDeck Prime cover board. They then fully adhered 8,600 square feet of 60-mil EPDM.

All American then installed 21,500 square feet of 24-gauge steel PAC-CLAD Tite-Loc standing seam panels. The metal panels were installed over Carlisle WIP 300 HT underlayment, which topped 5/8-inch fire-rated plywood and 7 inches of polyisocyanurate insulation. Finishing touches included 3,800 square feet of Petersen .032 aluminum PAC 750 soffit panels and PAC 2000 prefinished Kynar column covers.

Installation Challenges

The weather was a concern, as the roof installation began in November and typical Midwest winter weather was looming. “The metal roof would be a time-consuming installation, so initially we focused on getting the building watertight for the GC by installing the EPDM roof and the metal roof underlayment, including insulation and plywood,” Hedrick explains. “The WIP 300HT allows for a 180-day exposure time to UV, so it gave us ample time to install the metal roof while ensuring watertightness in the space being finished below.”

Communication between all of the trades involved on the project helped ensure everything went smoothly. “There were trade coordination meetings with both the carpenter and the plumber,” Hedrick explains. “With the carpenter, we had to coordinate blocking heights to accommodate the tapered insulation. Also, due to the limited height to work within the gutter troughs and because the deck came down to a true V in the valley, we did an in-place mockup with the plumber to see how low the drain bowl could physically be set. Based on that elevation, we ordered custom EPS tapered edge panels to offset the V shape and provide a flat base to begin our tapered insulation system.”

Other details needed to be refined, including roof-to-wall transitions. “We worked with the GC and other trades to modify the detail for superior performance,” notes Hedrick.

Safety was always top of mind on the project. “Fall protection was the biggest safety concern,” Hedrick says. “We set up warning lines 6 feet from the edge creating a controlled access zone. Any work outside of the warning lines required workers to have 100 percent fall protection. All of the fascia and rake trim pieces were installed from an aerial lift.”

The installation was a complicated one, but All-American Exterior Solutions was up to the challenge. “We take pride in our ability to offer a range of products with a quality installation,” Hedrick says. “Our experience with multiple systems and manufacturers gives us the knowledge to be able to advise the design team on an appropriate product based on performance expectations balanced with budget.”

“Personally, I enjoyed the complexity and challenge that came with this project,” Hedrick concludes. “By no means is it a typical application; it required some critical and ‘outside the box’ thinking. I also enjoyed the collaborative nature a project like this requires. It was really a team approach between All American Exterior Solutions, the architects, the general contractor, and the other trades. The final product really shows that.”

TEAM

Architect: HDR Inc., Chicago, Illinois, www.hdrinc.com

General Contractor: Krusinski Construction Company, Oak Brook, Illinois, www.krusinski.com

Roofing Contractor: All American Exterior Solutions, Lake Zurich, Illinois, www.aaexs.com

MATERIALS

Metal Roof: PAC-CLAD Tite-Loc Plus Panels, Petersen, www.pac-clad.com

EPDM Roof: 60-mil EPDM, Carlisle SynTec, www.carlislesyntec.com

Underlayment: CCW WIP 300, Carlisle WIP Products, www.carlislewipproducts.com

Cover Board: DensDeck Prime, Georgia-Pacific, www.buildgp.com