What you Should Know about Skylights and Polycarbonate Panels

Some of you are old pros at installing and handling polycarbonate, but some of you may handle it so infrequently that sharing a few tips and tricks would be helpful to ensure a successful installation. Palram Americas offers the following:

Palram polycarbonate panel installation

Polycarbonate panels are tough, but care needs to be taken during installation. Photo courtesy of Palram Americas

On the Job Site
When storing the materials either in the yard or on a job site, it is important to stack shorter panels on top of longer panels and ensure they are on a flat surface that is equal to or longer than your longest panel. It is recommended that the panels be stored in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight.

You may be wondering why the panels should not be stored in the sun. After all, they will be used on a building that is exposed to the sun. When the panels are stacked together, each panel layer acts as a magnifying glass under the sun’s rays with nowhere for the solar heat build up to escape which can then warp the panel. Not to worry, the service temperature for polycarbonate is -4°F to 212°F, so it will perform beautifully on the building.

While polycarbonate is a very tough material, you’ll want to avoid some handling mistakes, such as driving over the panels, folding the panels, dragging the panels on the ground or scraping panels against the structure or other sharp or rough objects. To keep your polycarbonate panels in pristine condition, use care when handling.

Installation Time
First, some safety tips. Never walk directly on a polycarbonate panel, even if they are fastened. Use scaffolds, ladders or crawl boards. Don’t leave the panels unattended and unsecured on a structure.

If you are installing with metal panels, make sure your polycarbonate panel is an exact match to your metal panel. If the gaps between the major ribs and/or the minor ribs are too large, your installation will not be successful. Some manufacturers can match your panel exactly to ensure a smooth installation.

When installing, be sure to have the UV-protected side facing out. It is also recommended to install with a roof pitch equal to or greater than 1:12 and make sure you know the load ratings for the chosen panel with the configuration of your structure. Pre-drilling is required to allow for expansion and contraction. Polycarbonate expands and contracts at different rates than steel or aluminum. This needs to be accounted for in the installation to avoid cracks or buckles. Each profile usually has a unique recommended fastening pattern either for best results, or to meet more stringent codes, such as the Florida Building Code. Consult the manufacturer of the panel for these details.

Do not use tek screws on the polycarbonate. EPDM-washered fasteners are often recommended for use on polycarbonate. Again, don’t forget to pre-drill and don’t over tighten the fasteners. A 100 percent silicone sealant or butyl rubber tape may be used to seal side laps and end laps. Of course, consult the installation instructions provided by the polycarbonate panel manufacturer for the best results.

Polycarbonate requires very little maintenance. However, the panel may need to be cleaned if pollen and other materials start to build up and affect your daylighting solution. The safest cleaning method includes using a sponge or cloth made from 100 percent cotton and a mild dishwashing detergent. A power washer may be used, but be certain to use a wide spray tip to avoid damaging the panels.

Skylights are popular for commercial and residential applications, and for many good reasons. Studies have shown that they not only provide significant energy savings but can even help lift moods and productivity among building users.

Leakage however, was all too common in the formative years of skylights that continues to cause concerns for customers. Bay Insulation Systems, makers of the BayLight Prismatic Skylight, notes that a lot of progress has been made in the industry.

“Although complaints about leaking skylights were once valid, new designs and better flashing materials have largely put an end to water-infiltration worries,” noted a company spokesman, adding that most issues today are not the actual skylight system but the correct installation of the curb. “The installation of the curb that supports the BayLight must be followed to the letter,” he noted.

Kenneth Schlabach, DayStar Systems, said a common question from contractors is: Can we install them without expecting any leaks?

“One of the ways we address this is that we supply a roof curb with each unit that’s engineered especailly for your building’s roof type,” Schlabach said. “All of our curbs are made in-house and we can design curbs for special needs. This eliminates many problems from the start.

“We also have a detailed (illustrated) installation manual sent with each job that shows recommended installation step-by-step,” he added. “We recommend reading this before starting. We also encourage them to call our toll free telephone number. We offer “live person” phone support for the installer.”

American Building Company echoes the need for careful installation planning. “Implementing daylighting goes beyond cutting a hole in a roof, but requires an integrated approach to be successful,” the company noted. “Effective daylighting requires decisions about the building form, location, climate, building components and lighting controls.”

Additionally ABC cautioned: “One thing to be careful of is that hail can cause major damage to a structure, more than $1 billion in damages in the United States annually. The best way to prevent hail damage is to make sure your building’s roof and roof components are as impact resistant as possible.” RB

Download more information from DayStar

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