What are the Different Types of Attic Windows?

D. Monda Dill

Attic windows, or roof windows, are commonly installed for three main purposes: attic ventilation, natural lighting, and aesthetic value. There are different types of new construction and replacement windows that are specially designed for attic installation. They include skylights, dormer windows, rose windows, and top-hinged roof windows.

A rose window is circular and decorative.
A rose window is circular and decorative.

Skylights are one of the most popular types of attic windows, and they allow significantly more natural light to pour into the interior space than any other type. They also disperse the light more evenly in the attic. In colder climates, skylights help to warm up a room by funneling solar radiation inside.

A top-hinged roof window allows for escape in case of emergency.
A top-hinged roof window allows for escape in case of emergency.

There are two types of skylight windows: shaft and cathedral. Shaft skylights are built with a corridor that runs from the roof-line to the ceiling, funneling natural light into the attic. They are used when the ceiling is more than 1 foot (0.3 m) away from the roof-line. Cathedral windows are the most common type of skylight, and they are installed flush with the roof-line, which eliminates the need for a shaft. Skylights are commonly fitted with either bubble-shaped or flat glass panes that are installed into a rectangular frame.

A dormer window is a type of roof window that protrudes from a sloping roof surface. It is fitted with vertical panes that provide the attic with a source of natural light as well as ventilation. Dormer windows are a common element of a loft conversion. In addition to providing more headroom and usable space, they are also attractive architectural elements that add curb appeal to a house.

The rose window is a circular, decorative roof window that is installed flush with the roof. Also called a Catherine window, it is traditionally ornamented with stained glass and geometric designs that radiate from the center. Rose attic windows are reminiscent of medieval cathedral architecture, and have been adapted for modern roof designs.

The top-hinged roof window is designed to be within reach, so that they can be manually opened and shut. These windows provide the benefits of natural lighting and ventilation, as well as an escape route in the event of an emergency. They are often used in attics that have been converted into living space and which require outside access.

Windows that are top-hinged are made using the same technology as regular, rectangular skylights. They are designed to be installed flush with the roof-line. This type of roof window is also well suited for installation on angular exterior walls.

Skylight windows allow a lot of natural light to come into the room.
Skylight windows allow a lot of natural light to come into the room.

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Discussion Comments


@Acracadabra - I'm so envious that you have a big enough house to have an attic. The closest I get to that is making an attic windows quilt! If I had an actual attic I'd make it into a sewing room for sure. Maybe one day!


I'm thinking about converting my attic space to a study area, so thinking about which windows to go for is firmly on the agenda.

The dormer windows sound like the best choice for me, as natural light is a priority. Plus they'll be easy to fit drapes or blinds at, whereas I imagine a skylight is a little trickier.


I grew up in a house with an attic, which was turned into a studio apartment for me when I became a teenager. It was a lot of fun for the furst few months, but once the weather warmed up the skylight turned it into a greenhouse!

It is possible to get attic window fans but for some reason we didn't. So I suffered the summer and enjoyed the other three seasons.

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