What is a Clerestory Roof?

A clerestory roof is a vertical wall with a row of windows above the roof line. These roofs feature two sloping sides – one under the row of windows and one on top.

The purpose of a clerestory roof is to maximize natural light and allow for ventilation. But, even though these roofs add to the looks and function of a home, they require a lot of maintenance.

Here’s what you should know before adding a clerestory roof to your home.

What is a Clerestory Roof Design?

Clerestory Roof

A clerestory roof highlights a row of windows. Its design features a short vertical wall on top of a roof. The windows allow light to flood into a space while still providing privacy. And in some instances, clerestory roofs can increase the energy efficiency of homes.

You can customize a clerestory roof to fit any house, depending on the windows and roof style you choose.

The Pros and Cons of Clerestory Roofs

While clerestory roofs are a unique design feature, they also have practical advantages.


  • Increased natural light while maintaining privacy – Since clerestory windows are on a roofline, they provide privacy while allowing natural light into the home.
  • Ventilation – Some building designs incorporate these roofs to increase ventilation.
  • Solar heat gains – If you live in a cold climate, clerestory roofs can help with solar heat gain when north-facing.
  • Aesthetics – Clerestory roofs have a unique look.


  • Allow a place for heat to escape – Even though north-facing windows allow for solar gains, these windows also give heat a place to escape if the windows aren’t airtight.
  • Obstructive light – If you live in an area with many streetlights, the light can enter your home at night through the windows.
  • Hard-to-find window coverings – Finding window blinds or shades for clerestory windows can be challenging.
  • Upkeep – With a row of windows in a clerestory roof comes the maintenance of keeping the windows in good condition, checking for air leaks, and replacing them when needed.

What’s the Difference Between a Roof Monitor and Clerestory Roof?

A roof monitor is a raised structure built on a double-sloped roof. Roof monitors can be of various sizes and sometimes look like mini-buildings on top of a house. Clerestory roofs feature only one short vertical wall sitting between two slopes. Both designs are often filled with windows but look quite different.

Examples of a Clerestory Roof

If you’d like to see examples of a clerestory roof, here are some images to draw inspiration.

Rustic Mountain Home with Clerestory Roof

Rustic Mountain Home with Clerestory Roof
Habitations Residential Design Group

As shown in this picture, a clerestory roof doesn’t have to cover your entire roofline. The designers of this home added a clerestory roof with four windows over the front entrance only.

The rest of the roof features different designs that work together for a custom look.

Contemporary Home with a Clerestory Roof

Contemporary Home with a Clerestory Roof

The clerestory roof on this modern home spans from chimney to chimney, highlighting a row of short windows. The roof features a mix of materials – shingles and metal, which helps draw attention to clerestory design.

Clerestory Roof on a Modern Farmhouse

Clerestory Roof on a Modern Farmhouse

The row of windows on this modern farmhouse adds to the contemporary look while allowing natural light to enter the home. The clerestory roof adds height to this house, drawing the eye up.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How do you pronounce clerestory roof?

You can pronounce clerestory as “clear-story.”

What kind of windows can you put on a clerestory roof?

You can customize your clerestory roof by choosing the type of windows you’d like. Many modern clerestory roofs feature fixed windows. These windows don’t open, which helps them keep an airtight seal.

How many windows for a clerestory roof?

There are no minimum or maximum windows for a clerestory roof, as this number depends on how big the windows are. You can use one large, horizontal window to several small ones.

Can you put a clerestory roof on a barn?

You can put a clerestory roof on a barn, and if it faces north, it can help heat the building with solar heat transfer.

Where did Clerestory roofs originate?

Clerestory roofs have been around for centuries, originating in ancient Egypt. You can find them on churches, railway carriages, factories, and modern homes.

A clerestory roof is a short vertical wall that sits on top of a roof. The design allows daylight to enter the home and can sometimes help with solar heat gain. But even though clerestory roofs add a unique detail to a roof line, they come with a fair share of potential problems.

If you want a clerestory roof, purchase high-quality windows suitable for your climate. If you try to skimp on window quality, you can end up with a less energy-efficient home.