All About the Different Types of Skylights

All About the Different Types of Skylights

Skylights bring natural light into areas that normally wouldn’t have windows. They come in a range of designs. Check out the three standard types of skylights that are used—ventilating, fixed and tubular.

Ventilating Windows

Ventilating windows are installed at the same pitch as the roof, so no other roof structure needs to be built in order to accommodate the window. Access for maintenance is also easier with a tilting design and remote controls are available for operation. Because of the ease of installation and upkeep, you can install pivot windows when you renovate other areas. The success of this type of window design has expanded product ranges. In addition to standard tilting windows, it is now possible to buy top- or side-hung variations, as well as specially designed blinds and shutters. These may attach to the inside of the window, or sit between two panes of glass inside the window itself.

Installing a Skylight


Three different designs of windows, all of which are installed using much the same technique, include tilt, fixed and escape window. One major advantage of tilt windows is that the installation process can be carried out entirely from inside the roof space. Unless you are adding a very small window that can sit between rafters, at least one rafter will need to be cut to make room. To ensure this does not weaken the roof, support members called false rafters and trimmers will have to be inserted to strengthen the opening. The way in which rafters are cut and trimmers are inserted is very much dependent on window size and positioning. The three examples below are aesthetically quite different, but structurally similar.

Tilt Window
This is a variation on a straightforward design. The window opens from an upper hinge instead of tilting around the central window axis.

Tilting roof windows are installed in conjunction with flashing kits to make sure the window is waterproof. Flashing kits vary not only with window size and design, but also according to the type of roof shingles.

Fixed skylights do not provide exterior access, but offer additional light and the opportunity to enjoy views outside.

Escape Window
By hinging the window along its side, it can easily be “thrown” open, for use with an emergency ladder if required.

Tubular Skylights

Skylights are not limited to just the rooms in your attic. When you want to brighten a room that is too small to install a wall window or is simply lacking direct access to the roof to allow traditional skylight installation, there still remains another option to bring natural light in. Tubular skylights are installed using a shaft that starts at the roof and extends down through your home. Capturing sunlight on the rooftop, the tube redirects it down a highly reflective shaft, and diffuses it throughout the interior space. Unlike the direct light of a skylight, tubular skylight uses a type of optics that spread the light out over more floor surface area. The tube can also be angled around attic obstructions.

Tubes are available in a range of sizes. The model shown below is offered in diameters of 10, 14, or 21 inches. The 10- and 14-inch models can easily fit between rafters and ceiling joists so no structural modifications are needed. Such units also offer the Energy Star® rating, designating them as offering optimal energy efficiency. Because of their compact size, tubular skylights are ideal in smaller areas where traditional skylights couldn’t be accommodated, such as powder rooms, shower stalls, hallways, and walk-in closets.

These skylights have optional features that are available from manufacturers. Integrated bathroom fans are an optional feature, ideal for use in bathrooms and laundry rooms. Electric light kits can be used to modify the unit, allowing you to use the tube at night as an additional light fixture. There is also a dimmer that allows you to adjust the level of daylight that pours through the tube. The entire unit is sealed to lock out dust, bugs, and moisture.