Which Glass Type to Use for Your Windows

When it comes to the window world, we all know there are so many different types, shapes, sizes, and materials you can choose for your windows.

But did you know that you could also choose the type of glass too?

It’s not a one glass fit all kind of world. Each type of glass has its own benefits and uses.

In this article, we’ll be going over all of the common glass types so you’ll be fully equipped to talk to your window contractors or local window company when the time comes for your new window replacement.

Let’s get started!

Common Glass Types

window glass
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There may be so many more glass types, but we’ll be going over the most common ones that are used in house windows.

Float Glass

The first one is float glass. It sounds weird, doesn’t it? Glass doesn’t float.

Float glass is what you would think of glass, when someone says the word “glass.” It’s the standard fragile piece of glass. This type of glass is created when molten glass is poured into a mold to create thin sheets to large glass panes.

You won’t see float glass used for windows nowadays because it’s so fragile and easily breakable. However, other glass types use float glass as a base to build on top of.

One to two decades ago, float glass was used for single-pane windows. The grids or grilles would then provide the support and structure to hold up the glass and make it less fragile.

Float glass breaks into tiny shards when broken, so be careful if you do have float glass for your windows. A stray baseball or golf ball could make that area into a dangerous minefield.

So now we know the basic foundation of glass.

Laminated Glass

Next up is laminated glass. If you need a strong glass that doesn’t break easily, this is good option.

Car windshields tend to be made out of laminated glass because it’s so durable and strong.

car windshield
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This glass type won’t break into tiny little shards when broken like float glass.

Laminated glass is made up of two layers of float glass with a layer of PVB (polyvinyl butyral) in between to glue the two panes of glass together. This layer of PVB, which is a clear resin, also prevents the glass from breaking into small pieces.

Instead, when the glass is hit, the glass pieces stick to the layer of PVB. Read more about PVB here if you’re interested in how it works.

Because of this property, laminated glass is a great option for impact-resistant or hurricane windows.

Obscured Glass

What about glass when you need more privacy?

Obscured glass is also called privacy glass. It lets natural light in without the clarity of regular glass.

obscure glass
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This type of glass is a good choice for bathrooms and other rooms where you want more privacy such as a home office or a small window next to your front door.

Obscured glass uses various different methods to improve your privacy. This can include etching, beveling, or texturing.

Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is another type of glass that is meant to be stronger and more durable than float glass.

Tempered glass is made by heating and cooling the glass quickly to improve its strength and durability. It’s about 4 times stronger than regular float glass.

It can be broken but not cut. It’s also known as safety glass.

When tempered glass breaks, it breaks into a ton of small dull pieces instead of unevenly sized shards that can be more dangerous.

Tempered glass is a good choice for very large panes of glass, especially picture windows and skylights.

Insulated Glass

Insulated glass combines multiple panes of glass to offer better insulation for your home. If you’re paying a ton of money for windows, you want them to actually decrease your energy bills, not just look pretty.

Insulated glass will help do that.

This type of glass is typically used in double-pane and triple-pane windows.

You get two or three panes of glass that are separated by gas-filled spaces, which boosts the insulation even more.

Because the gas in the middle is an inert gas, it is completely safe and see-through. The gas also decreases the amount of heat rays and UV radiation that enters your home too.

Over time, the gas can leak out, but the lifespan of these windows are good for about 20 years.

Insulated windows are a great choice for a whole house window replacement.

Low-E Glass

Low-E glass also improves insulation, which can decrease your energy bills. Low-E glass may sound confusing because it’s not actually a different type of glass. Instead, it’s just a thin microscopic coating that exists on your window panes.

It helps keep heat in your house in the winter and keep heat out during the summer. This low-E coating reflects heat and UV rays instead of letting them enter your home.

Low-E stands for low emissivity. This basically just means that the heat is reflected more rather than going through the glass.

Low-E coatings are typically combined with insulated windows and gas spacers to improve the insulation of your windows even more.

This is a great option for a full house window replacement as well.

Acoustic Glass

Maybe you live next to the airport, a train, or a loud neighborhood street. Acoustic glass can come in handy.

This type of glass combines different types of glass together to decrease as much noise as possible. This can drastically improve your quality of life if you want to enjoy the peace and quiet of your own home.

Acoustic glass usually has two layers of glass that has a layer of PVB in the middle as well as other materials to strengthen the glass and decrease sound waves from going through.

The glass can be made with different thicknesses in mind with multiple layers of PVB to improve its sound reduction.

There are other benefits of acoustic glass too, such as increased security and better heat insulation too. According to Angi, acoustic windows cost between $300 and $1,500 per window, with an average cost of $900.

So you get better energy efficiency, less sound, and deter burglars. What a win!

Tinted Glass

If you want less light entering your home, tinted glass is a good option. Tinted glass takes a piece of glass and adds a coating on it that decreases the amount of light coming in.

Make sure you get approval from your HOA before tinting your windows, as some HOAs only let you use specific tints.

Tinted windows are a good option for windows that get a lot of sunshine. You could also try getting an awning, exterior shutters, on interior treatments to decrease sunlight here as well.

Mirror Glass

If you want glass for your street-facing windows but don’t want people to look through them, mirror glass could be something to think about.

Mirror glass is a type of glass that reflects light. It can be used for front doors too.

We all know what a mirror is, so I won’t be going on about this much more.

Fire-Resistant Glass

Some cities require that certain buildings have fire-resistant glass in case there is a fire.

It’s used in places such as escape routes. This glass is exactly what the name describes it as. It is resistant to fire and offers protection from fire.

Which Glass to Pick for Your Windows

So how do you pick the right glass for your windows?

Most likely, the place where you window is placed will determine its type.

Most of the windows in your home will end up being insulated windows with low-E coating or a tint, if you choose. The bathroom will have obscure glass.

If you live in an area with hurricanes and high-wind storms, consider laminated glass. If you have large picture windows, consider tempered glass.

Look for An Experienced Contractor

If you’re looking to replace your windows with different glass types, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced contractor who can discuss all of your specific needs with you.

They’ll let you know all of your options, the best window type for your situation, as well as talk about the budget of the prokect.

Remember to get several quotes from different people, so that you can find the best price for your new windows!

Good luck out there. The window world is a big one.

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