Stylish & cheap solution for old Airstream skylights

Updating your old Airstream skylight for under $10 each? It’s possible!

The first thing I did when we got our Airstream is remove the ugly, yellowed skylight covers. Not only were they unsightly, they were bulky and blocked out almost all of the natural light. I mean isn’t that the point of skylights? Light?? They also had actual light bulbs inside the covers. I just didn’t see the point of these lights and would rather install soft lighting throughout the trailer. I wanted to let as much lights and air through the vents as I could. From what I researched, replacing the skylights with fresh, new ones would be costly as vintage trailers have a vent opening that is a few inches narrower than modern skylights. This would mean a custom install and cutting the roof to accommodate the new vents. This sounded like more than we wanted to take on with all we have going on with the reno. Plus the thought of possibly making three new leaks from new skylights wasn’t so thrilling. So I looked and looked for a temporary solution. What I came up with worked so well that I don’t see any reason to change them!


Here’s what the vents looked like after the vent cover was removed.

My first attempt at fixing the skylights was ordering a new vent ring. My plan was to custom fit the ring and wedge a sheet of screen. Easy, right? Not so much. This is when I discovered that modern vents are wider than vintage ones. The ring was way too big. So onto the next idea which took a few months to come to me. I’ve passed those decorative aluminum sheets in Home Depot so many times. I always wanted a reason to use them and one day it finally popped into my head. Duh, THOSE would make great vent covers! Home Depot carried the small version of the Union Jack aluminum so I had to order it off their website. Two sheets of 24×36″ was enough to cover all three vents.

Supplies / Tools needed:

+ Union Jack Aluminum

+ Screening material

+ Scissors

+ 3/4″ #10 sheet metal screws (8 per vent)

My dad is a metal fabricator so he used a machine to make clean cuts to form a square with angled corners as well as a hole for the crank. I would recommend finding a shop to do this for you as I’m not sure that cutting by hand would turn out well. (Another option is cutting by hand and using trim to cover the cuts.) If you’d like to order pre-cut vents from my dad, contact him below:

For the install, I wedged a piece of regular screening material that I had leftover from the screening of the windows and attached right into the skin with eight screws. Be sure to cap off the electrical wires if you have those in your skylights. I tucked the majority of ours back into the hole, capped them off and then taped them flush with electrical tape.

On thing to take note of on this Union Jack pattern is that when cut into a perfect square, the four corners don’t cut exactly symmetrically. You can see in the photos that the two opposite corners are slightly longer. I can only notice the the asymmetry if I’m underneath them and looking straight up.









Sheena is a free-spirited adventurer who designed and renovated a 1975 Airstream in 2016 and travels the US with her husband and mohawk-sportin' poodle. She's a business owner, self-taught carpenter, blogger, yogi, professional photographer and a lover of the outdoors and healthy living.

Latest posts by Sheena (see all)

4 Comment

  1. Did you paint your cabinet doors with a brush and latex paint?

    1. I did! I primed with that Jasco deglosser and painted with latex paint and a brush. It worked wonderfully and no issue with chipping!

  2. Di you rivit or screw those into ceiling ? and those had a plastic ring frame prior? ours do so you did this in replacement of them?
    Thank you

    1. These are just screwed into the ceiling with sheet metal screws. I wish I had a photo of the skylight cover before but it was literally the first thing I ripped out of the trailer the night we got it. Ha! It was a big, bulky plastic cover with a light fixture inside. No plastic ring. I couldn’t figure out how to update the skylight cover without installing new assemblies which we weren’t willing to tackle with all of the other things we had going on with the reno. This decorative metal did the trick!

Leave a Reply