Outback Skoolie's step-by-step guide for their custom skoolie skylights

Charlie Nicole two Outback Skoolie Skylight Project Cover

Hi there! We are Charlie and Nicole of Outback Skoolie. Charlie grew up in Brisbane, Australia and Nicole is from Chicago, IL. We met while we were both in Las Vegas, NV by complete chance and have been together since. Neither of us has ever been happy staying in one place and we both want to explore as much of the world as possible. We spent 4 months backpacking through Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand in 2019 and realized how much happier we were living with memories instead of things! This inspired us to downsize our way of living and dive headfirst into buying a school bus. We haven’t looked back since and are so excited to get on the road.

What led you to this project?

We’re the type of people who want all of the curtains open during the day and all of the lights on at night. The more natural light we could add to our bus the better! This led us down a rabbit hole of researching different ideas on how to replace the emergency hatches in our bus. We saw a couple of ideas from other skoolies, (such as Colaventures), where the hatch was made into a skylight and we loved it! We decided to put our own spin on these ideas which brings us to this how-to. 

Cost Breakdown:
Roofing screws - $18.54
Plexiglass sheet - $60
We found this cheaper at Home Depot, ~$38
Poplar Boards (or wood boards of your choice)
1 x 6 at 8 ft - $23
1 x 2 at 8 ft - $9.20
Weather Stripping Seal - $11
One step wood stain - $27.50
Utility Hinge, pack of 2 - $2.18
Supporting hinge, left and right sides - $6
Window Sash Lock - $3
Small handle - $3
Clear Silicone - $6.39
Flex tape (optional) - $12.99

*The links on this product list were supplied by Outback Skoolie.

Total approximate cost: $147.81

The Step-by-Step: Below are the steps we followed to replace our emergency exit hatch with a skylight!

1.) Demo time - First, remove all screws from your emergency exit hatch. Then scrape off the caulk around the hatch until you are able to pop it out. Scrape away any remaining caulk off the roof and clean it thoroughly. The cutout from your emergency hatch will most likely have rounded corners. Using a speed square, trace 90-degree angles on each corner of the cutout to form a true square.

Step1 Demo Emergency hatch Outback Skoolie

Next, use an angle grinder to cut out the steel of your roof along the lines you just drew to square out each corner, forming a box.

Step1b Demo Emergency hatch Outback Skoolie

2.) Measure, Measure, Measure - Measure all sides of the fresh new hole in your ceiling. For us, the measurements were 24 ¼” L and 23 ¾” W.

Step2 Demo Hole in the roof Outback Skoolie

Once you have your measurements, cut your 1”x6 “and 1”x2” boards to match. We cut the 1”x6” boards first, for a total of two 24 ¼” boards and two 23 ¾” boards. We then used the 1”x6” boards to mark the exact same lengths on the 1”x2” before cutting. You should now have 8 total cut pieces.

Step2b Measure Saw Outback Skoolie

3.) Choose your Aesthetic - Stain your cut boards to your desired color. We chose a traditional cherry stain as we wanted it to contrast with the white ceiling we plan to install. Let dry before continuing.

Step3 stain boards Outback Skoolie

4.) Build your Boxes - Using a speed square to help, screw together your 1”x6” boards to form your base box. This is the box that will be drilled into your ceiling. Repeat this step to create a box from your 1”x2” boards, which will form the lid of your skylight.

Step4 Build Boxes Outback Skoolie

5.) Cut your Plexiglass - Trace the plexiglass sheet to match the measurements of the boxes you created. This should still measure 24 ¼” L x 23 ¾” W. Next, use a utility knife to score the plexiglass sheet 5-10 times along your measurements. Repeat this on the top and bottom of the plexiglass sheet. Once the line is thoroughly scored, the plexiglass will snap cleanly on your lines.

Step5 cut plexiglass Outback Skoolie

6.) Attach your Plexiglass - Place the plexiglass sheet on top of the box made from 1”x2”s. Mark every 1.5 inches on the plexiglass with permanent marker all the way around the square. Pre-drill holes through the plexiglass and into the 1”x2” box on all your marks. Once you have everything pre-drilled you can begin attaching the plexiglass to your skylight lid, (or 1”x2” box), with your roofing screws (1 in).

Step6 Attach Plexiglass Outback Skoolie 

7.) Avoid Leaks - Cut 4 pieces of your weatherstripping to attach to the bottom of your skylight lid. This will be attached to the 1”x2” but rest between the base box and lid box when the skylight is closed. Be sure to add clear silicone to the corners to fill in any gaps that exist between the weather strips.

Step7 Avoid Leaks Outback Skoolie

8.) Installation - Take your base box made of the 1”x6”s and check the fit against your hole in your bus’s roof. You want it to be nice and snug so it’s easy to caulk. You may need to use a rubber mallet to fit it perfectly. We left some overhang so you could still see the stained wood below the ceiling level!

Once snug, it was easy to drill in 4 screws in each corner to attach it to the bus. We used self-tapping screws (1 ¾”) since we were attaching straight to metal.

Step8 Installation Outback Skoolie

9.) Attaching the Lid - Make your way to the roof and add your utility hinges to connect the top and bottom boxes. Be sure to push down on your lid to ensure a seal with the weather stripping.

Step9 Attaching the Lid Outback Skoolie

Next, add supporting hinges so the skylight can stay open on its own.

Step9b Attaching the Lid Outback Skoolie

10.) Final Touches - Grab your window sash lock and install the appropriate pieces on both your base and lid. Make sure you are pushing/pulling down on your lid against the base to have a tight seal when latched! We also added a handle to make opening and closing easy.

Step10 Final Touches Outback Skoolie

11.) Final step - Head back to your roof and caulk all the way around the skylight box. There should be no gaps to avoid all leaks. Once we had a good rain and the bus was still dry, we considered these skylights a success.

Step11 Final Step Caulk Outback Skoolie


How can people reach you and follow your journey?

We’re so happy to share our steps on this project! If anyone has questions or wants to follow our journey, we are available at @outbackskoolie on Instagram.

Charlie and Nicole Outback Skoolie