Best types of glass to choose for your home (Interior and exterior)

May 3, 2023
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New home buyers place a lot of emphasis on how much light a new place has. Still, there is very little focus on precisely what those windows are made of. Glass is one of the most versatile materials in home construction and renovation, but there are many more types than most people are aware of!

Many different glass types are used within the home for various purposes, but a few main ones can be found depending on interior or exterior use. These include:

  1. Tempered Glass
  2. Insulated Glass
  3. Obscure Glass
  4. Plexiglass
  5. Annealed Glass

Today, much of the glass used in home construction and renovation is some kind of specialty glass, helping ensure that your home stays in good shape through basic wear and tear. 

Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is one of the most useful types of glass, and it is used in many different industries due to its impressive strength. Tempered glass is also used in car window manufacturing for the side and rear windows since it is much more projectile resistant than regular glass. It is made by heating and then rapidly cooling glass back to room temperature to temper the glass. The surface contracts into itself and causes compressive stress while the center that is still hot expands from the residual heat and produces a glass with high tensile strength. 

Tempered glass is sanded around the edges to reduce weak spots before installation because the center of the glass is very strong, but the edges are fragile. Because of its strength, it can be used for window or door panels and shower doors. It is scratch-resistant, resistant to high temperatures, and when it shatters, it is specially designed to break into small, dull pieces that are less likely to cause injuries. Storm doors are required to be made of tempered glass by the International Residential Code (IRC). However, it is expensive and cannot be cut or drilled after the tempering process. 

Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is another type of glass that prioritizes sturdiness and is used in homes and cars, making up the strong front windshield. It gets its strength due to a unique process where two pieces of glass sandwich a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), a resin used for strong binding. They are sealed together with pressure and heat, which bonds the PVB and the glass. Its strength makes it popular as a safety glass used in doors and windows- it is known as ‘hurricane glass,’ which can sometimes use both tempered and laminated glass. Laminated glass is suitable for insulation and does not shatter into pieces. However, like tempered glass, it can get expensive and multiple layers of laminated glass can reduce visibility. 

Insulated Glass

Thanks to its temperature-regulating abilities, insulated glass is another popular choice for exterior glass used in doors and windows. They are also very popular for skylights or roof panels. The process for making insulated glass is similar to that for laminated glass with two pieces of glass sealed together, but leaving a vacuumed or gas-filled space between them rather than PVB. 

Insulated glass has unique temperature control capabilities that can save you money on your energy bill while still protecting your doors and windows from storm damage. It can also block UV radiation and outside noise up to a certain level, but it is more expensive than regular glass and cannot be cut or repaired. 

Obscure Glass

Privacy glass is a name that can be used for several variations of glass, including frosted, etched, or beveled glass. The latter choices are often used on a small, decorative scale with artistic designs for the windows of front doors. Frosted glass is often used in bathrooms and some bedrooms. Two processes make frosted glass: acid-etching and sandblasting. The results may look similar at first glance, but they differ. 

Acid-etched glass is more economical, less likely to get marks, and lasts longer. Sandblasting is more precise, rougher, and requires more effort to clean, although it has a higher maximum opacity. Overall, they both allow for uniform distribution of light and a level of privacy while still providing an opportunity for aesthetic designs. However, it is more delicate than the previous glasses- it can be uneven or thin at parts of the surface and more susceptible to breakage in extreme temperatures. For this reason, frosted glass is not generally recommended for exterior use. 

Plexiglass

Plexiglass is a popular option for interior glass, also known as acrylic glass. It is strong, light, and chemically resistant, making it overall useful in architecture and design. Plexiglass is also highly customizable- it can be produced in clear, reflective, tinted, or patterned sheets. It is also a very safe option to use in children’s rooms because it is less likely to shatter and can be cleaned with any basic cleaner chemical or disinfectant. 

It is cheaper than ordinary glass, lightweight, UV resistant, environmentally friendly, and recyclable. However, it is easily scratched and cannot withstand heat for an extended period of time. As such, it is generally not considered the best for exterior use. 

Annealed Glass 

Annealed glass, also called float glass, is the most common type of window glass. It has not been heat-strengthened or tempered. This glass has been annealed – a process where the hot glass is cooled and controlled to prevent residual stress. This is an inherent part of the glass manufacturing process and happens within the annealing process. Annealed glass is one of the more malleable types of glass in that it can be cut, machined, drilled, edged, and polished. However, it breaks easily into large, sharp pieces and cannot be classified as a ‘safety glass.’ 

Many glass professionals that work on home glass also work on auto glass. If you are an auto glass technician, the Elmo Anywhere software is an all-in-one tool to help glass shops stay efficient and organized. Check out a full-price breakdown of the Elmo Anywhere software for more details.


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