Do You Have Stinky Skylights?

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Fiber Bloom

Building managers and owners are typically surprised that skylight can stink, horribly, but have no idea what causes this unpleasant condition.

Fiberglass skylights are protected from the elements by a coating sometimes referred to as “gel coat”. The coating has a UV blockage component to help prevent the sun’s rays from damaging the fiberglass and causing fiber bloom. This coating breaks down over time, and when its lifespan is over, fiber bloom starts to occur.

Fiber bloom is when bacteria are able to get into the fiberglass, and start to break down the material and spread. It’s basically a bacterial infection for your building. Its unhealthy for the inhabitants of the building, and causes a very unpleasant stinky smell.

Detection of Fiber Blooming

One method of inspecting the skylight for fiber blooming is by running your hand across the surface on the exterior of the panels. If your hand picks up fiberglass and you see fiberglass particles in the air, then you know that you have lost the gel coat and immediate maintenance is required.

If you notice brown spots inside the panels or even notice an unpleasant or stinky smell permeating the air inside the building then the gel coat is gone and water has penetrated to the interior of the panels. The spots are bacterial growth spots, and the smell is from them breaking down the fiberglass. Replacement of those panels with a product other than fiberglass is recommended.

Fiberglass Gel Coat

fiberglass gelcoat repairUnfortunately the coating applied to the exterior of the skylights by the fiberglass manufacturers does have a short life-span and requires a regular scheduled maintenance. This time span varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Fiberglass Skylight Inspections

Our experience has shown that the skylights should be inspected about every five years to insure that the exterior surface is in good condition and does not degrade too far. If the coating disintegrates it leaves the fiberglass strands exposed and allows water penetration. This should be avoided if at all possible, because it begins a process that is very difficult to return the skylight to its original condition. If caught soon enough a new layer of gelcoat can be applied that will extend the life of the product.

A warning sign of fiberglass breaking down is when the skylight emits a yellow light. This yellow light is bad for our health and typically our clients are tired of the feeling it gives.  They express the desire to replace the skylight in order to capture the blue light available from the sun. But if the skylight has become smelly, then it’s too late to save, and absolutely needs to be replaced.

Skylight Specialists, Inc., a Denver, CO company brings 35-years of commercial skylight repair experience to the table. We approach skylight repairs from a perspective that comes from decades of hands-on experience with problem skylights. From the smallest to some of the largest skylights in America.

Detailed information on our services and repair process.
Available for work in Colorado and coast to coast — It all starts with a simple phone call: 1-866-759-7732

Chase Bank of Loveland

Chase Bank of Loveland Hero

A Pyramid Skylight Retrofit Will Provide Improved Daylighting

The Chase Bank building in Loveland, CO has four low-rise pyramid skylights. The bank has experienced problems with these skylights over the years. Gaskets failing, condensation problems, and popping noises were a just few of the constant problems.

The biggest complaint, however, was the quality of the light and the heat from the sun. The light the skylights were projecting into the building was the number one complaint over the years. The longer the acrylic panels were in place the worse the yellowing of the light and the unbearable heat gain, especially on the second floor.

Going up to the second floor was like being an ant under a magnifying glass in the summer.
The Contractor

We discussed with the contractor and building owner the combinations of colors we could use to gain the control they were looking for. It was decided to use a blue polycarbonate outer layer with an interior layer of Ice White Matte. The Ice White Matte allows the light to be dispersed evenly across and down from each skylight.

A Daylighting Comparison: Yellowed Fiberglass vs. Translucent Polycarbonate

Failed Fiberglass Skylight at Quabbin Regional High School

Decade old fiberglass skylight failure and successful poly-carbonate replacement by CPI Daylighting

After only a decade, the translucent insulated fiberglass skylight at Quabbin Regional High School in Barre, Mass., had deteriorated beyond repair. Thermal and wind movements, repeated leaks and yellowing compromised the skylight’s ability to perform to the point that it was non-compliant with current energy and state building codes.

The fiberglass skylight is structurally unsound or otherwise in a condition seriously jeopardizing the health and safety of school children where no alternative [to replacement] exists.

Massachusetts School Building Authority

The product they had up there was outdated and it wasn’t worthwhile to put back. In our research, we found the CPI daylight system and we used it because we liked the detailing and that it didn’t rely on sealants. The energy value was just so much better and it looked better—it’s a slick looking product.

Elvin Phillips Boston Bay Architects, Allston, MA

The added insulation is just so much higher than the other products to consider with a thinner envelope. This is a huge skylight so the amount of energy mathematically that you save made a compelling argument. The school will probably make their money back on that within five to 10 years, that’s for sure.

Elvin Phillips Boston Bay Architects, Allston, MA

Retrofit Skylights

Many fiberglass skylights are failing and need replaced

Many architects, contractors, insurance adjusters, engineers, forensics specialists and building maintenance people are discovering the deterioration of fiberglass skylights. Fiberglass is protected from the suns damaging UV rays by a gel coat. Unfortunately, the gel coat only lasts 10-15 years and then the fiberglass begins to fall apart, allowing water and debris penetration. Many times the water inside the system causes mold growth an/or causes a very rotten-smelling skylight.

The good news is there is a superior product on the market that can “skin” the skylight, utilizing the existing structural components, which keeps the cost down. Polycarbonate products on the market push a single layer, but a dual layer is much better for many reasons including UV protection, U values, and storm protection.

Check out the CPI Daylighting link below for more detailed information.