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Different Types Of Glass And Their Uses

As an incredibly versatile material, glass can be found in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. And, like many materials used in the building industry, glass is a favoured choice for safety, privacy, insulation, or purely aesthetic purposes. In this article, we’ll look at the most common types of glass, their unique properties and characteristics, and the various ways they’re used in different installations.

Different types of glass and their uses

From toughened glass to mirrored and obscured glass, we’ll look at the attributes that make each type of glass different and why they’re used in specific installations. So, whether you’re a designer, an architect, or a homeowner, you can learn more about the different types of glass and their suitability for your home build or renovation project.

Float glass

What is it?

Float glass, or plate glass, is a primary type of glass made by floating molten glass on top of low-melting point alloy metal, usually tin, at around 1,200ºC. This results in large panels of smooth, flat glass of even thickness which, when hardened, can be cut to specific sizes or shapes. Glass manufacturers often use it as their base material before modifying it for other applications.

Where is float glass commonly used?

As the most common type of affordable glass, float glass will often be used for low-cost windows and smaller display cabinet-style doors, as well as being the base material for almost every other application.

Toughened glass

What is it?

Toughened glass, or tempered glass, is a type of glass known for its high strength. Made by the glass being heated to temperatures of around 650ºC before a process of rapid cooling, it gives a tough outer layer. While lightweight, toughened glass can withstand extreme pressure, impact, and temperatures. However, if it breaks, the glass will clump into small, blunt pieces rather than sharp shards.

Where is toughened glass commonly used?

This type of glass is mainly used in commercial or residential buildings where safety and security are a concern. It’s the most common type of glass used for balustrades and handrails, doors, glass roofs and skylights, and even shelving.

Tinted glass

What is it?

Tinted glass is made by adding metal oxide pigment to reduce the amount of light passing through it. Shades can vary and can be used to increase energy efficiency, privacy, or minimise glare while allowing natural light to come through. Tinted glass can also reduce harmful UV rays, though solar glass is better suited for this and is preferred for glass house extensions.

Where is tinted glass commonly used?

Tinted glass is suitable for any environment where it’s needed, though it’s most commonly seen in car windows, electronic devices, and office doors and windows. It’s also well suited to skylights or windows at home for privacy.

Obscured glass

What is it?

Obscured glass is manufactured with a texture to reduce visibility through it. This is done through various methods such as frosting, etching, sandblasting, or applying a film or coating. While obscured glass is available in different degrees of transparency while still allowing maximum light in, it can be customised to suit the specific needs of a project.

Where is obscured glass commonly used?

The most common use of obscured glass is for privacy in bathroom windows and shower screens, but it can often be used for security reasons, such as in front and back doors or even as a decorative design statement to add interest.

Laminated glass

What is it?

Laminated glass is a strong safety glass made up of two or more separate sheets of glass with a plastic film, usually made of PVB (polyvinyl butyral), placed in between them. This plastic layer makes the glass stronger, but if it breaks, the layer holds the glass in place, preventing shattering and possible injury. Laminated glass also provides improved UV protection and soundproofing qualities.

Where is laminated glass commonly used?

Laminated glass is used extensively in public buildings and is common in shop windows and doors, skylights, and balustrades, while a variation of it is used in car windscreens. In residential installations, laminated glass is often a preferred option to toughened glass.

Mirrored glass

What is it?

Mirrored glass is a type of standard float glass with a thin layer of metallic coating, usually silver or aluminium, applied to the surface during manufacture. Once cooled, the glass can be cut to any shape or size with the coating used to create a ‘mirror’ effect for interior and exterior use.

Where is mirrored glass commonly used?

Mirrored glass is very common and used in a wide range of decorative and functional situations, such as bathrooms and any other rooms where mirrors are needed in any shape or size. It can also be used for privacy in building design for windows and building fronts while also letting in natural light.

Low-E glass

What is it?

Low-E glass (low-emissivity or solar glass) is an energy-efficient glass coated with an ultrathin layer of metallic oxide. This coating helps to save energy by reflecting the indoor temperatures back inside to keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It also reduces the amount of UV and infrared light that can pass through the glass, reducing sun fade on furniture and fabrics.

Where is Low-E glass commonly used?

As a solar glass, Low-E glass is used in commercial buildings where larger windows are common. But it’s also popular for new build, renovated homes, or modern glass house extensions to maximise energy efficiency, especially in colder climates.

Coated glass

What is it?

Coated glass is a type of glass that’s been modified with a thin coating, applied to one or both sides of the glass to give it specific characteristics. It can deliver scratch resistance, glare reduction, or improved UV protection, but applications can vary widely with many different coatings available.

Where is coated glass commonly used?

Some of the most common uses of coated glass are for double-glazed residential windows and doors that improve a property’s thermal insulation. Low-E glass (above) is a good example of a coated glass installation.

Wired glass

What is it?

Wired glass is a specialist type of robust fire safety glass which is difficult to break. Made by embedding a wire mesh into the glass during the manufacturing process, the wire provides additional strength, making the glass more resistant to breakage when exposed to impact or intense heat from fire.

Where is wired glass commonly used?

Its industrial looks don’t make for an attractive finish on residential homes! But wired glass serves a specific purpose which is why it’s commonly used throughout industrial or commercial buildings on doors and windows where safety and security are needed.

Trust GlasSpace for your architectural and structural glazing

Plenty of different types of glass are available, each with unique properties and uses, suitable for any type of residential or commercial installation. This article will give you a solid overview of the most common types, giving you enough information to decide what to use in your property, specifically when considering a custom glass house extension and all the benefits Low-E or solar glass can offer.

When you’re ready to take the next step on your project, talk to the GlasSpace team today about the design and construction of a contemporary glass house extension, staircase, or skylight for your home. Contact us today, and we’ll answer your questions and give you a free, no-obligation quote to help you get started.

At glasspace we encourage you to take advantage of our complimentary design consultation with an advisor who will have the expertise and knowledge to assist you with a structure that is right for you.

Taking your brief and ideas we can design for you. If you have an Architect or designer, we will collaborate to ensure your new bespoke glass structure is the best it can be.

GlasSpace’s structures are unique and not made up of standard parts so designers have the freedom to express your idea.