Roof Windows vs. Skylight: What is the Difference?

Often seen in luxury homes, roof windows are an excellent addition to any home, and provide sunlight to rooms that may not be appropriate for regular-style windows (or when you simply want more sunlight!) In many cases, like zero lot line homes with minimal space between homes, bathrooms or other rooms where you desire more privacy, or second-floor rooms under a sloped roofline, roof windows can provide natural sunlight to an otherwise dark room. Some studies have shown that roof windows can provide more than double the light as regular vertical wall windows!

Differences between a roof window and a skylight

Many homeowners will use the terms ‘roof window’ and ‘skylight’ synonymously, and you may see them used interchangeably in industry content as well, but there are differences to note, so you can ensure you are looking into what will work best for your home. Both the skylight and a roof window are a window set into your roof, with a few notable differences.

Skylight: The skylight is a window set into the roof that does not open or only opens slightly. It may include ventilation features but does not physically open.

Roof Window: The roof window, unlike the skylight, opens and allows airflow between your home and the outside. It may include a window screen and can open in several different ways, depending on the needs of your home and the style of the roof window.

Types of Roof Windows

Just like regular windows, there are many options for roof windows, depending on your homes unique needs and your preferences and budget. How the roof window operates will depend on which style you are looking for:

Top-Hinge: Easy to operate, top-hinge roof windows allow you to easily open the window and allow airflow through the bottom of the window.  

Centre Pivot: While closed, the centre pivot roof window appears similar to the top-hinge, with the handle or control bar at the top of the window. However, the window will open in the centre of the frame, allowing more air flow and 180-degree rotation.

Roof Access: The larger roof access window provides easy access to the roof for repairs and maintenance, with a locking arm to keep the window in the open position (and prevent anyone from being locked out on the roof!)

In addition to the style of roof window, you will also have choices for the glass (single, double, or triple-pane), glazing, and any accessories like motorized functions to open and close or screens. Keep in mind that no matter what style of roof window you are looking for, it’s best to look for highly durable shatter-resistant glass, since the window is on your roof and may be exposed to hail or inclement weather.

How to maintain roof windows & prevent leaks

Just like regular windows and roofs, your roof windows need regular maintenance! Because they are part of your roofing system, it’s especially important to maintain roofing windows to ensure a complete seal with your roof and no moisture is getting through. To maintain your roof year-round, add the following to your regular home maintenance schedule:

  • Inspect your ceilings and floors near the roof window regularly. Look for damp spots or leaks which may indicate the seal has been broken.
  • Dust your windows monthly – use an extended handle to safely dust the window pane from the ground.
  • Don’t forget to wash roof windows when you wash regular windows annually! Gently mop or scrub the inside pane, and use a power washer on the exterior pane to keep your window clear.
  • Hire a professional to inspect your roof annually, and ensure they are trained in roof windows so they can accurately assess for any cracks, damage, or flaws. If you’re looking for a local Edmonton or Calgary roofing professional who can do it all, leave it to the experts at A. Clark Roofing & Siding.
  • Regularly clear debris and heavy snowfall from your roof. During the winter use a rake or shovel to safely clear off heavy snow before it freezes to your roof. Skipping this could potentially lead to the formation of ice dams around your window.

What do I need to budget?

Roof windows likely cost less than you think! They are a great addition to any home, but keep in mind the following costs when you’re building a budget:


If you are installing a brand-new roofing window, be sure to budget appropriately for cutting a hole in your roof and altering the framing to support your new window. If you’re looking to install your roof windows between the roof trusses, you will be able to avoid re-framing and save money on this step.


Because there are an abundance of styles and types of windows, costs will range greatly, from $300 for a basic top-hinge window to $1,000 if you are looking for remote or smart controls included.


Depending on your home’s unique design and the amount of work needed, the installation cost will also vary greatly, anywhere from less than $1,000 to over $5,000. Installers may need to build a shaft from the window to the ceiling, install and flash the window itself with your shingles or roofing material, and you may need to repaint the ceiling beneath the skylight.  

Professional roof window installation and repairs

Roof windows can provide an excellent addition to your home, greatly increasing the natural light and ventilation and thus adding value to your home and appeal to your chosen room. However, the installation can be more difficult as it is incorporated into your roofing system. The professionals at A. Clark Roofing & Siding are trusted local Edmonton roofers with more than 70 years of experience on our client’s roofs, and provide warranty and guarantee for all roof window installation, giving you peace of mind with your sunlight.  

To get a free no-contact quote or learn more about adding roof windows to your home, contact the Edmonton and Calgary roofing professionals at A. Clark Roofing & Siding

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