What’s the Difference Between Roof Lanterns & Skylights?

Aluminium roof lantern

Roof lanterns and skylights share the same purpose: to flood a room with wonderful, warm natural light. By capturing the light from above, they maximise how big and bright any space feels. If you’re planning a single-storey extension to open up your living space, or if you’ve got one already that feels a little dark or dingy, deciding to have a skylight or roof lantern installed is an easy win.

Deciding between a roof lantern or a skylight can be more difficult though. They each have their own benefits, their own drawbacks and they won’t both be suitable for everyone. This article gives a rundown on the differences between the two, highlighting their features to help you decide which is best for your home.

What is a skylight and what is a roof lantern?

First off, it will help to know what a skylight and a roof lantern are. They are both types of windows that are built directly into a roof, rather than a wall. 

The differences are that a skylight is flat, and is installed flush with the roof. It can be completely level or at a slant, but it can only follow the direction of the roof.

A roof lantern is its own structure, which protrudes from the roof in a pyramid shape and tends to be larger than a skylight. It features its own frame, glazing bars and multiple panels of glass. Roof lanterns feature their own pitch, so are usually only suitable for flat roofs.

What’s the difference between roof lanterns & skylights? 

The different shape and construction of skylights and roof lanterns have a big impact on their suitability for different homes. You should consider more than just the visual differences when trying to pick one for your home. 


The basic structure of a skylight is the same as a window, so its overall appearance is also the same. Sleek, functional and unobtrusive pretty much covers it. There’s nothing unattractive about a skylight, but it’s also not a design feature in itself. It’s all about the impact that the additional light has on your home. If you have a flat roof on your extension, your skylights might not even be visible from the ground at all.

Compare this to the architectural elegance of a roof lantern. Even a small one will add a decorative flourish to the roof of your extension. The contrast of the frame and the shaped glass panels are striking on their own, while the pitch will add a structural appeal to a plain flat roof.

Size and shape

When picking a skylight, you will be restricted on potential sizes as they consist of only one pane of glass per frame. The strength of the frame and the weight of the glass will limit the size. Even with the strength of aluminium frames, gravity will only allow your skylight to be of a certain size.

One way to get around this limitation is by having multiple skylights. This can give visual impact but it can also look cluttered, and even then there you are restricted by how many you can have without compromising the structure of the roof.

In comparison, roof lanterns are made of many connected panels of glass. This means they can be far bigger and still support themselves. In fact, they can go as big as 2000x4000mm to fill your home with bright, beautiful sunlight! Their pitched shape is also optimal for catching the most amount of natural light throughout the day.


Perhaps the biggest difference between a skylight and a roof lantern is when it comes to ventilation.

Though a roof lantern will let sunlight soak your whole room in bright warmth, you can’t usually open them up to increase airflow. If you want to add an extra source of fresh air to your room, you will need to add skylights. 

Some skylights are fixed shut but most will function in a similar way to standard windows, albeit at roof height. You can open them when you want to up the air circulation in your living space, and shut out rain or wind.

Maintenance and cleaning

One area where skylights potentially have the upper hand over roof lanterns is when it comes to cleaning them. However, for either window, you will likely need specialist tools. Depending on your roof height, this could be an extendable washing pole or it could be a sturdy ladder (and willing assistant to hold it.) 

Even with these tools, the multiple angles of a roof lantern can make it more awkward to clean – particularly if you are planning to stand on the floor and use extendable tools. With a skylight, you only have to worry about reaching one angle, as it is flat with the roof.

Buy the right roof lanterns, however, and this won’t be as much of an issue. We use self-cleaning glass in our roof lanterns. This specialist glass comes with a coating which is engineered to allow light and rainwater to break down and then wash away any dirt or grime that builds on the surface.


There is actually very little difference in price between the standard cost of roof lanterns and skylights per m2. The major differences will come down to size. You can get much bigger lanterns than skylights, so it makes sense that these will cost more.

Roof lanterns can cost a little more to install as they won’t come preassembled. However, they can be designed to ensure the installation process is quick and easy – with the Windows & More range, for example, they’re simple enough to install yourself.

Roof lanterns vs. skylights: which should I get?

A lot of factors are going to influence whether a roof lantern or skylight is the best for your home.

Skylights are an easy investment. They’re quick to install, they won’t dramatically alter the look of your property, and will give you the option to let fresh air in as well as that added light.

Still, we can’t deny we love the shape, structure and architectural style that glass roof lanterns bring. They hold enough classic elegance to suit a period property, with clean, minimalist profiles that look perfect with contemporary builds too. Their strength and size mean you get the maximum light filling your room as well.

If you think aluminium roof lanterns are the right choice for you, take a look at our range of easy to install, thermally efficient and competitively priced roof lanterns. They can help transform even the smallest, darkest room into a bright, fresh-feeling space. Just get in touch to find out more or make an enquiry.