A Definitive Guide on The Different Types of Glass Used in Construction



It’s the dream of every construction professional.


To be part of the team that put up that eye-catching structure everyone is raving about. That iconic landmark that bloggers can’t have enough of and random passersby can’t help but whip out their smartphones and get a photo.


Glass has played a major role in the way construction has evolved over the years. Because of its versatility, it offers virtually limitless design possibilities. Whether it’s facades, interior partitions, windows, doors or balconies, glass meets almost any imaginable requirement.


And with construction technology continuously evolving and improving, it’s vital that you stay on top of your glass game.


The good news?


We are going to help you remain competitive.


In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different types of glass, their uses and even their respective advantages and disadvantages.


But before we begin, let’s first look at some of the characteristics of glass.

Properties of Glass

The following are the qualities of glass:

#1. Transparency

This is the main characteristic of glass and is caused by the absence of free electrons. It’s a feature that allows light to pass through glass either on one face or both sides. In one-side transparency, the glass acts like a mirror on the opposite side.

#2. Strength

Strength is dependent on the modulus of rupture value of glass. Generally, glass is a brittle material, but the addition of admixtures and laminates makes it tougher. Although it’s weak in tension, glass is four to six times as strong in compression as it is in tension.

#3. Weather resistance

Glass is weather-resistant as it can withstand the effects of rain, sun and wind. This can be witnessed in most cities with ancient churches. These structures have been subjected to the elements but are still able to provide service through centuries of use.

#3. Workability

This is the ease or difficulty with which a material can be molded into any shape. In that case, glass can be blown, drawn and pressed into any shape depending on the usage, dimensions and safety requirements.

#4. Insulation

Glass is an excellent insulator against electricity, heat and electromagnetic radiation. In other cases, special types of glass offer high resistance against infrared, ultraviolet and x-ray transmission. Also, with the appropriate thickness, glass provides exceptional sound insulation.

#4. U value of glass

The U value is the rate of heat transfer or heat loss through the glass. The lower the number, the less the heat lost and the more the insulation the material provides. For instance, insulated glass has a low U value.


Now that you’re familiar with some of the properties of glass. Let’s now jump right into the different types of glass used in construction. Shall we?

#1. Float Glass

Also called annealed or soda-lime glass, it’s the most widely used form of glass today. Float glass has a natural greenish hue, has excellent optical clarity and causes glare since it’s flat and clear.


Float glass is manufactured using the Pilkington Process. A mixture of raw materials such as sand, limestone and dolomite is melted together in a furnace until they fuse together to form molten glass. To produce float glass, the molten mixture is then poured into a chamber containing a bed of molten tin.


Similar to plate glass, float glass can be cut, machined, drilled, bent, edged and polished. It’s thickness ranges between 2 and 20mm with a weight between 6 and 36kg/m2.

Uses

● Due to it’s crystal-clear transparency, float glass is used in shop fronts and public places.

● Can be used for indoor applications such as on tables and shelves.

● Used in smaller windows for domestic housing.

Advantages

● Helps improve aesthetics by offering unparalleled charm.

● It’s easy to cut.

● Produces a high-quality finish.

● With different thicknesses, it offers multiple options.

Disadvantages

● Poor shock resistance.

● Low-tension capacity.

#2. Heat-strengthened Glass

Also referred to as semi-tempered or partially toughened glass.


Heat-strengthened glass is produced using float glass where it’s heated to about 650 degrees and then rapidly cooled. This cooling effect introduces compression stresses on the glass surface. As a result, thermal resistance and mechanical strength increases while the physical features remain unchanged.

Uses

● For general glazing. For instance, heat-strengthened glass can be used in commercial applications where extra strength is required to withstand wind load and thermal stress. In such cases, the strength of toughened glass is not necessary or is not required by the respective building safety codes.

Advantages

● Has almost twice the mechanical strength of annealed glass of the same thickness and configuration.

● Not susceptible to spontaneous breakage due to lack of nickel sulphide contaminates.

Disadvantages

● Risky. On breakage, it breaks into large pieces unlike small shards in toughened glass.


#3. Toughened Glass

It’s also referred to as tempered glass. Toughened glass is stronger than most glass types and still possesses the ability to bend without breaking.


Toughened glass is produced using a controlled process that involves heating the glass to about 650 degrees. Next, rapid cooling using compressed air causes the glass to contract hence making it stronger and more resistant to temperature change.

Uses

● On escalator side panels and fire-resistant doors.

● For viewing partitions in sporting complexes, airports and resorts.

● As glass balustrade, shower screens, and swimming pool fencing.

Advantages

● Is four to five times stronger than ordinary glass of the same thickness.

● Safer. On impact, the glass breaks into small fragments that are less likely to cause injury.

● Great for insulation.

● Reduced risk of thermal breakage.

Disadvantages

● Has low visibility.

● Difficult to work with after toughening. For example, drilling or sand blasting after toughening can cause premature failure.

● The glass edges are prone to easy damage.

#4. Shatterproof Glass

This is a type of glass that’s made from plates of plastic or resin that exist between two sheets of glass and prevent it from shattering. The plastic could either be plastic polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA).


And just as the name suggests, this type of glass is resistant to shattering. No, it’s not unbreakable. It simply means that in the event of impact, shatterproof glass won’t break into sharp pieces because of the interlayer that keeps the glass sheets bonded.


Lastly, there are different levels of shatter proof glass. The first tiers focus on impact resistance while the higher grades offer extra protection.

Uses

● Can be used on windows, floors, skylights, sliding doors and shop fronts.

Advantages

● Safe. On breakage, the glass doesn’t form sharp-edged pieces that are dangerous.

● Protects against forced entry.

● Helps with sound proofing.

● Prevents damage during extreme weather conditions.

● Reduces UV radiation.

Disadvantages

● More expensive than regular glass.

#5. Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is simply two or more ordinary glass layers that are typically held together by an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) using heat and pressure. In other words, it’s a glass sandwich.

As a result, it’s heavier and thicker than normal glass. Additionally, the plastic part of the laminated glass may be clear or tinted. In either case, even when broken, this interlayer prevents the glass from breaking up into large sharp pieces.

Uses

● For bridges, canopies, aquariums, and skylight glazing.

● For store fronts, windows and curtain walls especially in areas requiring hurricane-resistant construction.

Advantages

● It’s UV proof hence reduces harmful rays.

● Provides sound insulation.

● Holds together if shattered.

● Withstands extreme weather.

● Improves energy efficiency.

Disadvantages

● It’s more costly than tempered and standard glass.

#6. Chromatic Glass

It’s a type of glass that has varying levels of transparency to protect the indoors from daylight. It can be photochromatic which includes light sensitive lamination or electrochromic which includes an electrical lamination. Alternatively, it can be thermos-chromatic and have heat sensitive lamination.

Uses

● Can be used in ICU’s and meeting rooms.

Advantages

● Increased energy efficiency.

● Self-regulates hence offering users a comfortable space to live.

● Can block UV and infrared radiations.

Disadvantages

● It’s costly when compared to other types of glass

● Limited manufacturers of chromatic glass.

#7. Tinted Glass

Also referred to as coloured glass. To produce it, colour-producing ingredients are added to the normal glass mix resulting in tinted glass. The additives enhance solar radiation absorption properties but don't change the basic characteristics of glass.


For example when uranium is added, you get a yellowish tint. On the other hand, introduction of iron oxide results in a greenish tint.

Uses

● Can be used on windows, doors, and curtain walls.

Advantages

● Improves a structure’s curb appeal.

● Reduces energy costs.

● Reduces heat penetration into buildings.

● Increases privacy.

● Improves security.

Disadvantages

● Less effective at night. Provides great daytime privacy, but at night people can still see into your home if you have your lights on.

● Colder in winter. Since tinted glass reduces the sunlight that enters into a space, it can make a place colder in winter.

#8. Glass Blocks

Also referred to as glass bricks and can vary in size, form, texture, and colour. During manufacturing, two different halves of glass are pressed and annealed together while still molten to form a hollow inside.

Uses

● As construction walls and skylights.

● As screen walls around a shower or bath to add light and illusion.

● Can function as windows since they allow light.

● As external cladding, to enhance the beauty of a building.

Advantages

● Enhances aesthetics especially when light passes through them.

● Are easy to clean.

● Provide insulation against heat, cold and noise.

● Capable of partitioning a space without blocking light transmission.

Disadvantages

● They can’t be cut to bespoke sizes.

● They are brittle.

● They are unsafe for earth-quake prone areas.

#9. Patterned Glass

This is a type of translucent and decorative glass that’s sometimes called textured glass. On one face or both, it can have various patterns or textures to diffuse light and also obstruct visibility from the outside.


Patterned glass is created by pressing distinctive designs into semi-molten float glass. After rolling, the glass is then allowed to cool before being cut into the intended shape.

Uses

● For decoration purposes such as in offices and restaurants.

● For exterior windows and bathroom windows.

● For enhanced privacy on elevators, shower enclosures and staircases.

Advantages

● Helps provide privacy.

● Enhances curb appeal.

● Allows the transmission of light.

● Can be customized. There are different patterns and textures to suit your individual tastes.

Disadvantages

● Limited lighting. Not ideal for rooms that require bright light.

#10. Wired Glass

Sometimes known as Georgian wired glass, it’s an early form of safety glazing. Wired glass is common in some doors of older buildings, especially public facilities.


Wired glass is a type of glass with a wire mesh in its structure and can either be clear or obscured. The wire doesn’t improve impact resistance but it ensures that in the event of breakage, the glass doesn’t shatter into sharp pieces.


Also, wired glass can be used as an affordable fire-resistant glass where the wire holds the glass in place in case high temperatures cause breakage.

Uses

● Can be used in industrial areas such as garages.

● Can be used in interior partitions, doors, and windows.

Advantages

● It’s a low cost fire resistance glass.

● Enhances aesthetics when used in the form of patterned glass.

● Cheaper when compared to other types such as laminated glass.

Disadvantages

● Can cause injury when the glass surrounding the wire breaks and a person physically comes into contact with it.

● Limited visibility. The wire in the glass obstructs and distorts the view.


#11. Reflective glass

Also called mirror glass, it's commonly used in construction. Whether clear or tinted glass, a layer of metal oxide is applied on one side to increase the amount of reflection.

Uses

● Used in offices and high structures’ windows and doors for privacy.

● Used for facades.

● Used for interior applications such as bathrooms, dressing rooms or even living rooms.

Advantages

● Enhances privacy.

● Reduces glare from direct sunlight hence eliminating the need for blinds and window coverings.

● Enhances a structure’s visual appearance.

Disadvantages

● Reduces the amount of light into a structure compared to float glass.

● In winters, it can block essential solar heat.


There you go. The different types of glass used in construction. Yes, it’s a lot of ground to cover and now you’re probably wondering...

Which is The Best Glass Type?

Your choice of glass will depend on your individual needs. Various types serve different purposes. It’s therefore critical to choose the right kind of glass for the best results.


And if it feels overwhelming, we are here to help. We are always looking forward to meeting your glass needs.


What’s stopping you?