Difference Between Roof Lights and Skylights

We’ve all heard of roof lights, skylights and roof windows. Many of us even have them fitted to our roofs! But do you actually know the difference between them all? A lot of people will use these terms interchangeably but there are in fact some crucial differences, outlined below. All of them, however, are brilliant ways of using glass to allow more natural light to pour into a room, brightening it up and giving the illusion of greater space.


Skylights are the most basic option of the three. They are simply glass windows set in a roof on the same orientation. Suitable for any domestic property with a traditional pitched roof, they are commonly used in lofts, hallways and other storage spaces which aren’t regularly lived in. This is because skylights cannot be opened like a roof window. Historically, skylights have had problems with leakage but this issues has now been solved by reputable brands. Another previous source of criticism has been the amount of heat loss that skylights contributed to. However, thanks to recent advancements in the technology used, this issue has been vastly reduced.

Roof Lights

The only essential difference between skylights and roof lights is the fitting. Roof lights can be fitted on either flat roofs or pitched roofs, but unlike skylights they will not sit flush on a pitched roof. Instead, they will noticeably jut out from the roof’s profile. Similarly, on a flat roof we would recommend raising the roof light up on an upstand or kerb system. This is done to allow water to easily run off, further reducing the chance of leaking through.

Roof Windows

The most distinct feature of a roof window is its ability to open and close. How they do so is your choice. One of the most popular types available features a central pivot. When the window is opened the bottom half of the glass pane moves smoothly outwards whilst the top half moves inwards. If you have children we would recommend this style as it is much harder to climb out of. Another type of roof window features a top hinge, subsequently allowing you to open the window further and get a wonderfully clear view of the sky. Perfect for stargazing?

In some cases, roof windows are actually a statutory obligation. If you plan to use a loft room as a living space you will need to be aware of the relevant fire regulations and the need for an escape route. In this instance, the roof window would need to be a minimum of 450mm wide and high. It would also need to be more than 1.1 metres above floor level.

As a rule, these roof features do not require planning permission. However, if you have a listed property or live in a national park or conservation area, you may need permission. We would thus recommend that you check with your local council.

If you are keen to learn more about roof lights, skylights and roof windows, get in touch today.