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A Complete Guide to Rooflights

Buckland Barn - A Complete Guide to Rooflights - Helpful Guides

In this guide, you’ll learn all about what a rooflight is, the different types of rooflights, and how to choose the right rooflight for your home.

What is a rooflight?

A rooflight is an opening in a roof, with the key function to let more light into an interior space. rooflights can transform living spaces, creating a bespoke architectural feature while letting light flood in and maximise the potential for a room. Depending on the layout of your home, you may struggle to enjoy natural light in your property. Rooflights are a simple solution for this, without the need for major structural changes to your home.

What types of rooflights are there?

There are several different types of rooflights. The two main types of rooflights are pitched rooflights and flat rooflights. Depending on your property, the existing external and internal aesthetic, and in particular any conservation restrictions, a certain style of rooflight may be more suitable than another.

You can explore some of our most popular rooflights below.

Conservation rooflights

Conservation rooflights are necessary for listed buildings or any building that is recognised by a heritage body. This is because the building has historic cultural significance, meaning there are building regulations that must be met with any structural changes to the property. Conservation rooflights are available in both flat or pitched design, depending on your property and where you plan to install your rooflights. For those looking to install rooflights on a listed property, conservation style rooflights offer the perfect solution. They are designed to appear flush to the roof and feature the wrought iron, smaller pane design which is fitting with the age of the building. This allows homeowners to alter the look and feel of their property while considering the exterior aesthetics and how those changes will look compared to surrounding properties and areas.

Contemporary rooflights

Other modern styles of frameless rooflights are also widely popular. Contemporary rooflights can be flat or pitched. Contemporary rooflight design features include frameless aluminium to blend seamlessly with your existing roof, as well as energy-efficient, double glazed units. With a patented design to stop heat entering your home, these sleekly designed rooflights can add a touch of class to your home while letting the light flood in.

Lantern rooflights

Lantern rooflights offer a different aesthetic, as they are a 3D structure that sits proud of the roof. They can be installed to great effect in properties and are usually constructed from timber, or powder-coated steel. Lantern rooflights are great at channelling light into a living space from various angles, making the most of natural light and allowing it to fill your home. They are also an architectural feature that can make space seem much bigger, allowing homeowners to open up space with ease.

Pyramid rooflights

Pyramid rooflights are similar in design to lantern rooflights in that they sit proud of the roof in a pyramid shape. It features a slim steel structure and can be suited to both modern and period properties, as well as commercial properties and company buildings, as you can see here from our case study.

Flat rooflights

Flat rooflights or fixed flat roof skylights are often used to great effect in extensions, and are a popular style of rooflight. Flat rooflights are unobtrusive, and are a great choice if you are looking for minimal upkeep, as they are non-opening flat roof windows with low maintenance rooflights that are cost-effective because there is no additional expense for opening mechanisms. If you are simply looking for a simple solution to allow light to flood into your home, without the need for a window, then fixed flat rooflights are the choice for you.

Automated rooflights

Automated rooflights let in a great amount of light to the home, with the additional option to open the window electronically. For those looking for rooflights that require minimal operation, automated rooflights are a great choice. Automated systems can be added to flat rooflights, pitched rooflights and casement rooflights, depending on your budget and the desired functionality. Automated rooflights can be a hassle-free way to give you total control of a rooflight and utilise the space available.

Skywalk rooflights

Skywalk rooflights offer an added sense of the wow factor for homeowners with flat roofs looking to create a true feature of their rooflight installation. Fitted with toughened security glass, skywalk rooflights enable homeowners to walk across their flat roof terrace, as the walk on rooflight structure is constructed from triple-ply laminate glass. The glass also features an anti-slip surface for added safety. For homeowners with roof terraces looking for a way to still let light flood in without obstructing the use of a roof terrace space, skywalk rooflights are the option for you. Insulation and thermal efficiency have been considered too, with a contemporary and functional design for the modern home.

Maintaining your rooflight

Rooflight maintenance can help ensure your rooflights last for a long time, and perform optimally, bringing in uninterrupted natural daylight to your property. The longevity of your rooflight can be improved with regular cleaning and maintenance of any mechanisms, should your rooflights be automated or open at all. Homes that are exposed to extreme weather regularly, or live in coastal areas, for example, may need to clean their rooflights more regularly than other homes. We recommend you clean your rooflight every six months as standard, and more often should it be required.

You can contact the team at The Rooflight Company to enquire about the different types of rooflight warranty available. Warranties can offer additional peace of mind that you are investing in a reliable product and are available with a number of our rooflights.

Cleaning your rooflights

Wash any visible or accessible parts of the frame with warm soapy water and a soft cloth – a harder bristled brush can cause damage to the surfaces so avoid these.

Removing any dirt should be simple enough, however, if you find any deeper scratches or chips to the frame or glass, this may need replacing so speak to your supplier or building contractor. Always check for any marks before installation too, as this will be easier to fix compared to when the rooflights are installed.

As with almost all exterior building materials, you should undertake regular maintenance to ensure that the product continues to work efficiently.

Self-cleaning glass

One technology that has emerged in recent years is self-cleaning glass. This uses a technology that spreads any rainwater to clean the dirt away, rather than forming water droplets. Self-cleaning glass is a useful addition to a rooflight design, allowing for minimal maintenance once the rooflights are installed.

At The Rooflight Company, we offer Neo® Bio Clean as an optional addition to your rooflight. You can talk to a member of our team for more information.

Internal view of a Conservation Rooflight above a bath - Homeowners Hub Inspiration
Neo Advance
Wykefield House in the Lake District
Conservation Rooflights on Cavendish House
Broadmere exterview view showing Neo Rooflights installed into a slate roof
Internal shot of bespoke Neo rooflight over a stairwell

Rooflight installation

How long do rooflights take to install?

Rooflights can take anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days to install. Speak to your rooflight supplier to get an idea of installation time, and how to prepare for your rooflight installation. External factors such as weather and structural considerations will change the installation time; it is best to discuss this with a rooflight installation company to check this.

How are rooflights installed?

Rooflight installation details will depend on the type of installation that is most suitable for your existing roof structure. The two types of rooflight installation we offer here at The Rooflight Co are as follows:

On the Rafter Installation

An on the rafter installation, is when the rooflight is fixed directly on top of your rafters. A standard clay tile installation with a typical roof build up of 100mm, will result in an elegant finish where the top of the rooflight sits flush in the roofline.

Between the Rafter Installation

Between the Rafter installation, is typically used where your roof build up is lower than 100mm. This is usually the case when installing rooflights into a slate roof. In these cases, the rooflight can sit on bearers recessed down from the top of the rafters, which will ensure you still achieve a beautiful flush finish. This can offer a clean look to more modern homes and means you can’t see the rooflight frame from the outside. This type of installation will require a larger structural opening to accommodate the entire rooflight.

Can I add a rooflight to an existing roof?

If your house is not in a restricted area, then development rights to the property may already be permitted. This will result in automatic planning approval, and a lot of homeowners find this. However, this may differ if you live in a restricted area, such as a listed building, area of natural beauty or conservation area.

If your rooflight is part of an extension, then it will be considered as part of the wider build or project. Flat roofs by their very nature are incredibly unobtrusive, so should not require planning permission to install. Just remember, as we mentioned earlier, if you are looking to install a rooflight to an existing area with a flat roof, then the protrusion should be no more than 150mm above the existing roof level, as at this time, then planning permission will be required.

Do I need planning permission for rooflights?

As you are altering the fabric of the building, you may need to submit a planning application and supply proposed drawings. It is your responsibility to check if you need planning permission. However, in some cases alterations can be made to an existing roof, as long as the installed feature adds little to no height to the existing structure. The rooflight cannot project outwards more than 150mm. The roof will need to be altered considerably to install a rooflight, and considerations will need to be made regarding the energy efficiency and appearance, should you live in a listed building. You must check your local planning regulations before undertaking any work on your property.

Rooflights and building regulations

Building regulations stipulate certain U-value levels that a window unit needs to achieve in order to comply with building installation.

U-values are a measure of thermal efficiency or, more simply put, how well a window stops heat from passing through it. The slower or more challenging it is for heat to pass through the window, the more energy-efficient it is. The more energy efficient it is, the lower the U-value.

Windows with a low U-value reduce the flow of heat through the window, stopping heat leaving in the winter and ensuring that your home doesn’t get too warm in the summer. This will save you money on fuel costs in the long run. The higher the U-value, the more heat is being transferred, leading to higher costs when heating and cooling your home. ​​The lower the U-value of the window, the better the insulation and therefore the efficiency. Trusted companies will always provide these values with their products, allowing you to find the best window for your home.

For ground floor extensions, the total area of ‘glazing’ must be less than 25% of the new floor area, which means you are somewhat restricted with the size of rooflight you can install. This is to avoid any excessive heat loss or gain to the property, and glazed areas beyond this will be classed as a highly glazed extension. You’ll likely find plans will be rejected for your extension if the percentage of glazed area is over 25%. If this is the case, then adjustments will need to be made to the plans for example, by increasing the thermal resistance (or U-Value) of the walls, floor, roof, or windows, then you may be able to have larger areas of glass. The lower the U-value of the property, the more glass you can include, so high-performance glazing could be the solution for you.

You calculate the U-value by working out the sum of the thermal resistances of an element of a building. This could be a wall, floor, or roof, and will need to consider fixings and air gaps, too. Part L building regulations are frequently updated to ensure our future homes are the most efficient they can be.

You should always consult with your architect or building contractor if you are unsure of the regulations and limitations involved in your project. If you’re unsure and want to discuss your options with a professional, contact us and our team will be happy to help.

Rooflights can be fixed, opened manually, or electrically operated. With opening options such as hinged or sliding, there are plenty of suitable options for your home. Depending on your specific needs as a homeowner, the space you have to work with and how the rooflight works with a room, one type of rooflight may be more suitable than others.

How to choose the right rooflight for your home

You may be wondering, which rooflight is best? Or which rooflight will suit your needs the most?

There are several things to think about when deceiving which rooflight to buy, including:

Any structural concerns

You’ll need to think about where the rooflight will sit in your home. Consider the space you are working with as the rooflight will need to be installed without disturbing existing structural features of the building such as beams or electrics.

The size of the rooflight

You’ll need to decide the best size rooflight for the room. Bigger rooflights are fantastic for adding more light, but depending on the materials used, the amount of material needed and the size of the rooflight, bespoke rooflights will incur greater costs. The rooflight will need to complement the space and be big enough, or small enough to work with the existing architecture.

The style of rooflight

Do you want to be able to open your rooflight? Is self-cleaning glass a priority? Early on establish the key features of the rooflight you’re planning to install, as this can provide a good starting point for a supplier to offer your realistic options and budgets.

What materials are rooflights made from?

Rooflights are mainly made from aluminium, steel or PVC. Our rooflight range includes aluminium rooflights, as well as rooflights made from carbon steel. Our patented Thermoliner is made from PVC-U, which improves thermal performance and drains away condensation.. We also use silicone beading to resemble traditional putty which acts as an excellent sealant, for long-lasting protection from the elements. Silicone retains its shape and durability even in the hottest and coldest conditions.

What colours are rooflights available in?

Rooflights traditionally come in tones of black and grey, as these are traditionally the most suitable colours for the external material. This is because the finish on the steel would incur greater costs with additional painting, as the paint would also need to be weather resistant and durable. Additionally, rooflights are added to become a seamless feature of a house, therefore these traditional colours allow the rooflights to blend in to become a permanent feature of a roof. The Rooflight Company also offer a wide range of RAL colours for our rooflights for customers to choose from, with the most frequently used being RAL9005 Jet Back, which can be found on the Conservation range.

How much do rooflights cost?

The cost of a rooflight will depend on various factors. Some materials may cost more than others, and installation costs are another thing to consider and budget for. Additional features such as triple glazing or high security glass may incur further costs. It’s always worth starting a conversation with a rooflight supplier to explore your options.


If a rooflight is being added as part of a renovation project, rooflights are sometimes the last piece of the puzzle, so be sure to budget for them early on in the project. Rooflights can bring a great amount of wow factor to a property, so ensure they are not an afterthought so you can invest in a high-quality feature that can really bring a room to life.

Get in touch with our team today to discuss options, including bespoke rooflights, conservation rooflights and more.

Rooflight FAQs

How big should my rooflight be?

Your rooflight should aim to maximise the space available in a room, but not take up too much surface area. The greater the size of the rooflight, the more chance of thermal imbalance and greater costs of upkeep. It’s also important to consider the U-values of the room once the rooflight is installed, as we mentioned earlier.

What’s the difference between a rooflight and a skylight?

Although these terms are both used frequently, there is no real difference between a rooflight and a skylight.

Are rooflights secure?

Rooflights are designed to be strong, sturdy and secure, offering additional light as well as safety and security to a property. For enhanced privacy, glazing options at The Rooflight Co can include frosted glass for any areas where you could be overlooked. What’s more, The Rooflight Co offer the widest range of Secured by Design accredited rooflights, that are compliant with Part Q building regulations.

If you are interested or want to learn more about finding the best rooflight for your home, speak to a member of our team today or explore our entire range of rooflights.

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