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Terminology

Skylight vs Roof Window

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If you’ve been researching options for adding more natural light to your home, you may have come across two terms: “skylight” and “roof window.” Both are windows installed on the roof of your home, but what are the major differences between the two? And which should you choose to install?

What are skylights?

A skylight is a fixed window on your roof that traditionally does not open manually. However, modern skylights are available in both solar and electric venting options.

One way to install skylights is by mounting them on a curb, which makes them able to be installed on a wider range of roof pitches (or slants). However, unlike roof windows, skylights generally do not offer roof access and are typically installed in out of reach places.

What are roof windows?

Roof windows are like traditional windows in that they can be manually operated and have an optional screen attachment, but they are installed on your roof instead of in the walls of your home.

Compared to skylights, roof windows have stricter installation options. Roof windows must be installed in the same orientation and on the same plane as the surrounding roof with a minimum 15° pitch.

When to Install a Skylight

  • In out of reach places. Unlike roof windows, skylights are operated either electronically or using solar power, making them ideal for places that are out of reach.
  • On a flat roof. A skylight has more options for installation and can be installed on flat roofs with pitches between 0°- 60°.
  • For more operation choices. Skylights can be solar, electric, or manually operated to fit your household’s needs.

When to Install a Roof Window

  • When you need roof access. Unlike skylights, roof windows open manually and wide enough to be used as roof access points. Some brands offer roof windows that even qualify as egress exits.
  • When you have low ceilings. A roof window is ideal for rooms with low ceilings as they are manually operated and require a minimum 15° pitch, making them great for converted attic spaces.
  • For easy fresh air access. Roof windows are unique in the sense they act as a traditional window allowing for a screen to be installed with it.

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