Roof Window vs Skylight: Which One is Right for Your Home?

June 24, 2024

Ever looked up at your ceiling and wished for a bit more sunlight? Whether it's in a dimly lit kitchen or a shadowy loft, adding natural light can transform your living space. Natural light offers a plethora of benefits ranging from enhanced mood and better health to significant energy savings. Roof windows and skylights are fantastic solutions to achieve this. But which one is the right fit for your home?

In this post, we’ll dive into the differences between roof windows and skylights, their benefits, installation considerations, and how to determine which is best for your home.

Understanding Roof Windows

Definition and Characteristics

A roof window, or a window on the roof, is designed to be installed in the same orientation and plane as the surrounding roof. Typically, roof windows are operable, allowing them to open for ventilation. They are often found in loft conversions, where they can serve as loft windows.

Types of Roof Windows

  1. Center-Pivot Roof Windows:
    • These windows pivot from the center of the frame, allowing easy cleaning of both the interior and exterior glass from inside the room.
  2. Top-Hung Roof Windows:
    • These open outward, providing an unobstructed view and better water performance.
  3. Balcony Roof Windows:
    • These can transform into a small balcony, adding versatility in attic spaces.
Type of Roof WindowDescription
Center-Pivot Roof WindowPivots from center for easy cleaning
Top-Hung Roof WindowOpens outward for an unobstructed view
Balcony Roof WindowTransforms into a small balcony

Benefits of Roof Windows

  • Ventilation and Airflow: Most roof windows can be opened, providing fresh air circulation throughout the home.
  • Views and Accessibility: Roof windows offer clear, unobstructed views of the sky and surroundings.
  • Aesthetic and Architectural Flexibility: Available in various styles that can suit traditional and modern homes alike, these windows allow natural light to enter efficiently.

Installation Considerations

  • Roof Slope and Angle Requirements: Ideal for steeply pitched roofs.
  • Cost and Time for Installation: Roof window installation can be complex and costly, requiring modifications to the existing roof structure.
  • Structural Modifications Required: May necessitate adjustments to roof rafters and insulation.

Understanding Skylights

Definition and Characteristics

A skylight, or a roof light, is typically installed on a flat or pitched roof to allow natural light into the home. Skylights can be either fixed (non-operable) or operable, such as a skylight that opens for ventilation.

Types of Skylights

  1. Fixed Skylights:
    • Does not open and is primarily used for daylighting.
  2. Ventilated Skylights:
    • Can be opened to allow for airflow, similar to traditional windows; these types of windows allow for good ventilation.
  3. Tubular Skylights:
    • Uses a reflective tube to bring sunlight into small or enclosed spaces.
Type of SkylightDescription
Fixed SkylightFor daylighting without ventilation
Ventilated SkylightOperable, allowing for both light and airflow
Tubular SkylightUtilizes reflective tube for small spaces

Benefits of Skylights

  • Natural Light Enhancement: Maximizes the amount of natural light entering the home through skylights and roof windows.
  • Thermal Performance and Energy Efficiency: Modern skylights are designed to minimize heat loss and can be energy-efficient.
  • Minimalistic Design and Unobtrusiveness: Skylights are seamlessly integrated into the roofline, making them less noticeable.

Installation Considerations

  • Roof Structure Suitability: Can be installed on both flat and pitched roofs with minimal structural changes.
  • Cost and Installation Complexity: Generally less complex and costly compared to roof windows.
  • Potential for Leaks and Condensation Issues: Proper skylight installation is crucial to prevent leaks and condensation problems.

Direct Comparisons

Natural Light Impact

Both roof windows and skylights significantly increase natural light, but their effectiveness varies based on placement and design.

FeatureRoof WindowsSkylights
Light DistributionMore directional lightEven spread of light
IntensityHigh specific areasSofter, overall illumination


  • Roof Windows: Excellent for ventilation as most designs are operable.
  • Ventilated Skylights: A skylight that opens provides some ventilation benefits but often less effective than roof windows.

Cost and Budget Considerations

AspectRoof WindowsSkylights
Upfront CostsHigher (more complex installation)Lower to moderate
Long-term MaintenancePotentially higher (moving parts)Generally lower maintenance

Installation Complexity

FactorRoof WindowsSkylights
Installation ComplexityHigh (structural modifications)Lower (simpler process)
Required Structural ChangesOften significantMinimal to moderate

Design and Aesthetic Compatibility

  • Roof Windows: Suited for traditional homes with attic spaces like loft windows.
  • Skylights: Fit well in contemporary settings as ceiling windows or house skylights.

 The Differences Between Skylights And Roof Windows

Skylights and roof windows serve similar purposes in a home, but there are key differences between the two. A skylight window is a fixed window installed on the roof, while a roof window can open and close. The difference between a skylight and a rooflight lies in their functionality – skylights can be installed on flat or sloped roofs, while rooflights must be installed on roofs with a pitch. Venting is also a factor to consider; roof windows must be installed with the option to vent, while skylights can be installed as fixed windows that don’t open.

The benefits of installing skylights or roof windows in your home are numerous. These windows bring natural light into your space, helping to regulate the body’s internal clock and create a more pleasant living environment. Additionally, skylights can sit flush with your roof, providing a seamless appearance from both the inside and outside of your home.

Additional Factors to Consider

Climate and Weather Conditions

  • Roof Windows: Better for cooler climates needing additional ventilation.
  • Skylights: More suited for mild climates as they provide consistent daylight without excessive heat gain.

Room Purpose and Functionality

  • Roof Windows: Ideal for lofts, attics, and upper-level rooms.
  • Skylights: Best for bathrooms, hallways, and rooms with limited wall space for windows.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

  • Roof Windows: Some come with energy-efficient glazing to minimize heat loss.
  • Skylights: Look for energy-efficient options to reduce heating and cooling costs.

Building Regulations and Permits

  • Check local codes and regulations for both roof windows and skylight installations.
  • Ensure all necessary permissions are obtained before beginning any modification.

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

Success Stories

  1. Home with Roof Windows: A traditional attic conversion with top-hung roof windows transforming the space into a functional and airy office.
  2. Home with Skylights: A modern kitchen illuminated with fixed skylights providing abundant natural light without compromising ceiling structure.

Lessons Learned

  • Challenges: Balancing aesthetics and functionality.
  • Solutions: Consulting with professionals to choose the right type and positioning of roof windows or skylights.


Recap of Key Points

We’ve explored the ins and outs of roof windows vs skylights, from their definitions and types to their benefits and installation considerations. Both options offer unique advantages depending on your home’s architecture and your personal needs.

Final Thought: Personal Preferences and Needs

Your choice between a roof window vs skylight should align with your specific requirements, whether it’s enhanced ventilation, better views, or a seamless integration into your roofline.

Call to Action

Considering a window on the roof or another type of ceiling window? Consult with professionals to tailor the best solution for your home. Want more insights? Subscribe to our blog for more articles on optimizing natural light in your living spaces.


Q: Can roof windows be installed in any type of roof? A: Roof windows are typically better suited for pitched roofs. Flat roofs require specially designed installations that may not be as effective.

Q: Are skylights prone to leaking? A: Proper skylight installation minimizes the risk of leaks. It’s crucial to select high-quality materials and professional installation services.

Additional Resources and References

For those seeking further information, these resources provide comprehensive insights into the installation, benefits, and maintenance of roof windows and skylights:

  1. VELUX USA - Trusted manufacturer of roof windows and skylights.
  2. - Information on energy-efficient home improvements.
  3. HomeAdvisor - Professional services and reviews for window and skylight installation.

By understanding the unique benefits and considerations of both roof windows and skylights, you're well-equipped to make an informed decision that elevates the natural light in your home. Happy renovating!

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