7 Different Kinds of Glass and Their Uses

When you see a pane of glass, you probably don't think twice about it. Glass is glass, after all.

But that's not entirely accurate. There are dozens of types of glass and architects, engineers, and builders have to be careful to choose the right one for the right job.

Depending on your needs, there are many types of glass. Each is made to offer something unique and should be used as such. Here is a list of some common glass types and the situations in which they are commonly used.

1. Float Glass

Float glass is made with sodium silicate and calcium silicate using a floating technique to ensure an even and level finish across its surface. It is a very common type of glass in major construction projects.

Because of its uniformity, it can be made into incredibly stable large sheets that are often used in high rise and office buildings. Its superior build combined with its relatively low costs makes it a very popular glass type.

2. Toughened Glass

Often referred to as tempered glass, this glass is stronger than most other types. It is made using a special cooling technique. This step creates counteracting stresses within the sheet.

When broken, those stresses cause the glass to shatter into small pieces rather than crack as typical glass would. The result is a significantly decreased likelihood of injury resulting from the broken glass.

Builders often use this product in doors, screen protectors, glass display cabinets, and even automobiles where safety can be an issue.

3. Solar Control Glass

Solar control glass is increasing in popularity as more designers and builders work to make their buildings greener and more environmentally-friendly.

This type of glass is designed to react to the weather outside. Its unique engineering lets (and keeps) heat in when it's cold outside and to do the opposite when it is hot.

Builders have started using this glass to help businesses reduce heating and air conditioning costs while opening their buildings to the world outside.

4. Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is another common glass found all around. Builders make this type of glass by combining multiple layers of regular glass on top of one another. Depending on its intended use, the number of layers can vary.

This layering causes the laminated glass to be both heavier than typical glass sheets and stronger as well. This added strength means builders and architects can use laminated glass in high-stress situations like aquariums and bridges.

It is also commonly used where bulletproofing is necessary, like security vehicles or storefronts. 

5. Shatterproof Glass

Shatterproof glass is similar in its utility to both toughened and laminated glasses. When safety is a potential issue, this is the glass to consider. The way it's made, however, is quite different.

Shatterproof glass is made with a layer of polyvinyl butyral sandwiched between layers of laminated glass. This plastic layer ensures that the glass cannot shatter. Instead, it spiders under significant trauma, while staying intact.

Car windshields, skylights, and even hurricane-safe windows are often made with shatterproof glass as an added safety feature.

6. Chromatic Glass

Chromatic glass is a form of layered or laminated glass that carries one of a few other properties, making it ideal for specialty needs. Depending on the type of lamination involved, this glass has many custom uses like hospitals, board rooms, or upscale solariums.

This glass may contain photochromatic, thermos-chromatic, or electrochromic lamination.

Photochromatic Lamination

This layer of lamination is light sensitive. It can react to light, turning opaque in its presence.

Thermos-Chromatic Lamination

This layer of lamination is heat sensitive. These layers can react to temperature and can regulate the amount of sunlight (heat) in a space, depending on conditions.

Electrochromic Lamination

This high-end lamination is controlled with an electrical current. You can turn your windows opaque with the flick of a switch. 

7. Glass Wool

Not all glass looks like glass. Glass wool is an insulation product made of thousands of glass fibers. It's been a common insulating material in homes and buildings for decades.

Builders like it because it is relatively inexpensive, quite effective, and it has the added benefit of being fire-resistant. Some builders are moving away from this type of insulation in recent years, but it has cemented its place.

8. Heat-Strengthened Glass

Heat-strengthened glass is similar to tempered or toughened glass. Both are heated to roughly 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit before going through an accelerated cooling process to provide them with higher compression strengths.

Both are used in situations that call for extra strength without the extra weight associated with the lamination process as well. The difference is in the cost.

Heat-strengthened glass is not cooled as quickly as its tempered counterpart. This means that it is less expensive to produce, has a lower compression strength, and costs less at the point of sale. As a result, some budget builders may opt for this type of glass.

9. Insulated Glass

Nearly every home is built with insulated glass windows. This is multiple layers of glass separated by pockets of air.

This design is a less expensive solution to temperature regulation. The design of this glass keeps the cold air, ultraviolet radiation, and condensation out.

Some insulated glass designs come with certain noble gases filled into the layers between panes. Depending on the need, different gases like argon can be used to influence the performance of the window unit.

When the seal on an insulated window is broken and the trapped air gets out, you'll notice condensation buildup between the panes. This a fairly common problem that compromises the energy efficiency of this glass design.

More Glass Types

While this list does not cover all glass types and every possible glass need, it hits the more common of them. If you don't see the glass that will best serve your needs here, consult a professional to continue your search.

In the meantime, browse our glass shelving and cabinetry options for your design and utility needs.


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