Head-To-Head: Centre Pivot v Top Hung Roof Windows

‌Centre pivot and top hung are the two most popular roof window opening styles. We look at the qualities of both to help you decide which style is best for your project.

By Larry Bohan on 17 Jul 2018

centre pivot roof windows from VELUX

‌Known to transmit roughly three times more light into the home as vertical windows, pitched roof windows are an extremely popular solution for those looking to brighten up their homes and improve the healthiness of their indoor environment.

Along with size, colour and material, opening style is the one of the main considerations to take when searching for the right roof window. The UK’s two most prevalent opening styles are centre pivot and top hung.

Centre pivot roof windows are windows that, when open, have the sash pivoting in the centre of the frame, half in and half out of the room. With top hung windows, the entirety of the sash exits the room when open. 

Which opening style works best for you though? We have pitted top hung roof windows and centre pivot roof windows against each other across five categories to help you decide. Here is what both have to offer:

Natural Daylight

centre pivot roof windows

No top hung or centre pivot roof window of the same brand with identical spec will transmit light into the home better than the other when taken in isolation.

One important spec to consider when choosing any window is the visible glass size. This is the size of the area that is actually glazing and therefore the best indication of how much daylight will come through into a room. The effective daylight area spec is how much of the room's floor space will be covered by the incoming light. 

To find our how many windows are required to achieve optimum daylight levels in a loft or extension, see our article 'Best Practice on Daylighting Extensions'.

The positioning of the window is also important. Generally speaking, the higher up in the roof the window, the greater its ability to spread light further across the room.

Although both centre pivot and top hung windows can be installed high up in the roof and controlled electronically or with a control rod if manual, it's more common to see centre pivot windows installed out of reach in a loft as top hung windows are almost exclusively fitted at eye level. In extensions, where views are far less important, high pitch centre pivot installations are far more common. 

Winner: Draw


top hung roof window from VELUX

The reason eye-level installations are so popular with top hung windows is because of the views they provide. As the entirety of the sash exits the room when lifted open, top hung roof windows offer unspoiled panoramic views.

As well as being more attractive to look out of, top hung windows are also safer and more comfortable to stand under as there is no frame to bang your head on.

The opposite is true of centre pivot windows as half the sash remains in the room when fully open causing a slight obstruction to both the head and eyes. 

Winner: Top Hung


roof window maintenance

Maintaining the appearance of your windows is important if you want it to retain their original long for as long as possible. 

While cleaning the inside parts of the window unit is a simple task to carry out, especially if the window is installed at eye level, wiping away dirt from the outer pane is a whole other matter.

To help make this easier, centre pivot roof windows come with a 180 degree rotation function which allows easy cleaning on both sides. Some top hung roof windows also have this, such as all VELUX models, but not all do. Not having this practical rotating ability can make DIY maintenance from inside the home a lot more troublesome and even impossible.

Some roof windows come with a special self-cleaning coating on the outer pane to minimise overall maintenance. ECO+ centre pivot windows are an example of this, coming with BIOCLEAN technology that harnesses the power of both UV light and rain to maintain the visual clarity of windows.

Winner: Centre Pivot

Fire Safety

All the most trusted centre pivot and top hung roof window brands use non-combustible material on their glazing to minimalize the chances of the window burning and preventing safe escape in cases of fire.

Should a fire be rising up from below, the only safe exit route for anybody in the loft could be through the roof window. Many top hung roof windows have been built with this exact scenario in mind. These windows, which must have an opening of 450mm or wider, are referred to as egress windows or means of escape windows

As top hung windows allow for the whole sash to be lifted out of the room whereby it can support itself in staying open, people can evacuate themselves more easily or be helped out of the building without having to contend with squeezing through a small opening with the frame pressing against them.

Due to the sash's positioning when open, centre pivot windows can not provide this potentially lifesaving benefit and could never be considered a means of escape window. However, this does not make them an unsafe or less viable option. Building control states that if a second floor or higher room has a protected stair enclosure leadding to an external door, an egress winow is not a necessity.

Winner: Top Hung


centre pivot roof window from VELUX with purple blinds

When it comes to cost, centre pivot roof windows are easy winners. On average, centre pivot windows are between £50-100 cheaper than like-for-like top hung models, though this difference in price will differ slightly from brand to brand.  

This significant gap can be put mostly down to the views that top hung windows offer and the fact that many are acceptable as egress windows.  

At Sterlingbuild, the most affordable prices can be found on our pine and white paint centre pivot roof windows, while all our centre pivot windows from FAKRO, RoofLITE and ECO+ are available at a price we guarantee to match should you find them cheaper elsewhere online. 

Winner: Centre Pivot


white centre pivot roof windows in combination

Both centre pivot roof windows and top hung roof windows carry unique qualities that make them ideal for certain home layouts.

If you want to design a picturesque loft conversion that provides clear outdoor views for miles, top hung windows are the way to go. Being fitted at eye level, as top hung usually always are, will also make the installation of your roof window a lot easier as it can be carried out while standing.

If you’d prefer to create an extension or conversion where the roof windows distribute light more evenly across every square metre of a room, centre pivot roof windows positioned higher up in the roof are by far the cheaper option, especially if you are planning to install a combination of roof windows like in the picture above.

Whether it’s top hung roof windows or centre pivot roof windows you desire, Sterlingbuild has the right window for your needs.