Roof Window Vs. Skylight: What Is The Difference?


If you have not interacted with roof windows and skylights before, you might not be able to differentiate the two. Both openings allow natural light in the room through the roof, but they have differences. So, how does a roof window differ from a skylight?

One significant difference between roof windows and skylights is that skylights are more flexible because they have more installation options. On the other hand, roof windows have a specific orientation in which you must install them. View here to learn more about tweed heads roof ventilation.

Difference between Roof Windows and Skylights

Now, let’s dive deeper into the fundamental differences between the two roof structures.

How They Operate

Most skylights do not open. It might not be the case for windows, but they are mainly opened for lighting and not for ventilation. On the other hand, roof windows are operable, and they can open widely like casements for ventilation. However, sometimes roof windows do not have a screen.


Skylights are available in two styles which are different from the standard windows. The two types are curb-mounted skylights and deck-mounted skylights. The curb-mounted are tubular like while the deck-mounted skylights have rectangular and square designs.

Roof windows are available in many styles that resemble standard windows. Some roof windows open in awning and casement styles. Others are fixed and require another operable window for ventilation.

The Difference Between the Two and How They Can Be Used

A roof window is the most ideal if the homeowner wants to have access to the roof. These windows open wide for ventilation, and some open even wider like an egress. Skylights do not open, and those that do open, open only a small space for ventilation.

When replacing an old bubble skylight, your best option is a new Lubbock skylight. This is because it will fit well in the hole, unlike using a roof window that is not shaped the same as the skylight. Meaning you will have to do new whole construction.

Skylights are fixed and on the roof, and those that are open have a remote control. On the other hand, roof windows are reachable, and you can manually operate them. Those in higher places have a rod for opening and closing.

Roof windows are a good option if you are creating an attic. They act as the standard windows for the upper room, but they are roof windows for the rest of the house. Skylights would bring in a lot of light and heat that won’t reach the other rooms.

Flat roofs require flat roof skylights. You cannot install a roof window here because they need a roof pitch of at least 15 degrees. On the other hand, skylights can be installed on roof pitches between 0 degrees to 60 degrees.

Similarities of Skylights and Roof Windows

The glass on both windows is more robust and has higher shatter-resistance than that of the standard window. This is because skylights and roof windows are more prone to impacts from falling tree branches and hails.

Besides, you can choose between single, double, and triple glass panes and various reflecting coatings. Double and triple panes are ideal for energy efficiency. These two have argon gas filled between the panes. Reflective coatings help to reflect sun rays.

There Are Installation Options for Both Windows

Like you can choose who to install your windows in the standard windows for walls, you also have options for window installation with the skylights and roof windows.

Homeowner Installation

Small skylights that can easily fit between two trusses are easy to install. You can DIY using the manufacturer’s instructions, your knowledge and skills, and the right tools. If your skylights are electric, you need electrical experience.

This also applies to roof windows. Most of them resemble the wall windows, and if you have skills in the latter, you can easily install the roof ones. Ensure you compare the amount of work you will have to do with the cost of installation.

Window Companies

Most window companies have installers, and they are usually recommended because they are good at their job. Getting a skylight and roof window installer from the window company is ideal because they have experience with a particular window type.

However, the downsides of using a window company installer are that they only do the installation job. For example, you are responsible for finding someone to prepare the window hole and frame out the area. This option is expensive.

Pros of Skylights and Roof Windows

Roof windows and skylights are both perfect for allowing natural light into the house. Roof windows are used for lighting and ventilation, while skylights light usually has limited wall space for installing a window.

Both windows add value to the house. You can quote your home a higher resale value with skylights or roof windows because the place is more attractive to homebuyers.

These windows offer sound insulation and energy efficiency because they are completely sealed. You can also get them in double and triple panes for more energy efficiency.

Limitations to Roof Windows and Skylights

You cannot use Skylights and roof windows in place of a window. This is because the building code requires your house’s window to have an egress opening for escape in case of emergencies, but skylights have a small space. Besides, the windows are high in the roof and require a ladder or another means of climbing down.

Skylights and roof windows have a high solar gain rate because they directly face the sun and are closer to the heat. This is an advantage during winter but a disadvantage in summer. Note that blinds for the skylights are expensive.

These two windows are luxurious, so they are both expensive. They also have a higher installation cost than the standard window because they are high in the roof and require more skills for installation.  Skylights and roof windows are also prone to leaking because rainwater gets directly to them.

Final Words

A skylight or roof window can do if your house has limited wall space and wants more light. However, the two windows are different. Skylights are suitable for lighting, while roof windows offer both lighting and ventilation.

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