The Ultimate Guide to Safety Glass and its Applications

Feb 23 2022 Posted By Ontario Window Reviews

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Two burglars trying to break in through safety glass on a sliding patio door

Safety glass is a term for modern sheets of glass that are designed to lessen the likelihood of injuries if the glass breaks. This is the minimum requirement for safety glass. 

The difference between safety glass and common window glass is that when it breaks, it shatters into large cutting shards. This kind of glass is called annealed glass which is also known as float glass or ordinary glass. 

In this article, we talk about what safety glass is, the different kinds of safety glass available, and more.

Let’s get started!

Laminated glass, a type of safety glass, breaking without falling apart

What Are the Major Types of Safety Glass?

When considering the different types of safety glass they usually differ in the following areas: 

  • Their design
  • How they break 
  • Their level of strength
  • Their common applications

The major types of safety glass are:

  1. Tempered glass
  2. Laminated glass
  3. Tempered-laminated glass
  4. Polycarbonate sheet

In the next sections, we’ll talk about the above types of safety glass in detail.  

Replacement windows with safety glass

Tempered Glass

Tempered Glass 
Main benefits:
  • A safer pattern of breakage
  • Added heat resistance
  • Added strength
How this glass breaks:Breaks into much smaller pieces 
Applications
  • House windows
  • Car windows
  • Shower enclosures
  • Glass for tables

Tempered glass is a type of safety glass that has been put through a series of chemical and thermal treatments to increase the strength of the glass. Tempered glass is around four times stronger than annealed glass. Tempered glass is also stronger against impact than laminated glass. For this reason, tempered glass is also known as “toughened glass.” 

Another benefit that this safety glass offers is a relatively safer pattern of breaking. Instead of breaking into large cutting jagged pieces, tempered glass breaks into smaller pieces. These small glass pieces, however, can still produce small cuts when handled directly but they are not equivalent to the injuries that ordinary glass shards can cause.

The final and often overlooked benefit of tempered glass is its heat resistance. Tempered glass is up to five times more resistant to heat than ordinary glass. This means that tempered glass is relatively safer in case of fire.  

Laminated Glass

Laminated Glass
Main benefits:
  • A relatively safer pattern of breakage
  • Added strength
  • Added resistance to break-ins
How this glass breaks:The glass pieces will stick together, forming a web-like crack pattern
Applications
  • Skylights
  • House windows
  • Glass floors
  • Room dividers
  • Car windshields

Laminated glass is a type of safety glass that’s produced by heating and bonding together glass sheets and PVB (polyvinyl butyral). Laminated glass can have two or more layers of glass. The design of laminated glass gives it added strength, as well as a safer pattern of breakage. 

Laminated glass is stronger than annealed glass, and although tempered glass is arguably stronger than laminated glass when it comes to resisting impact, the unique way that laminated glass breaks can buy time when intruders are trying to get in.

When broken, laminated glass does not readily fall to pieces. Instead, the PVB layer will hold together the pieces of glass. Both the glass and the PVB layer are tough, meaning that though the glass is already broken, it will still stay in place until the PVB layer holding the glass is also broken through or ripped. 

Tempered-Laminated Glass

Tempered-Laminated Glass
Main benefits:
  • Has the benefits of both tempered and laminated glass
How this glass breaks:Small glass pieces will stick together once broken
Applications
  • Skylights
  • Staircase glass
  • Car windows or windshields

Tempered-laminated glass, as the name suggests, is a combination of tempered glass and laminated glass. This kind of glass offers the best of both worlds. The only downside is that this kind of glass is more expensive to manufacture. So far, the most common application for this type of glass is for the railings of staircases and skylights in buildings and luxury homes. Some car manufacturers are also switching to this kind of safety glass

Polycarbonate Sheet

Polycarbonate Sheet
Main benefits:
  • Stronger than glass
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Can be made to be bullet resistant
How this “glass” breaks:Considered virtually unbreakable
Applications
  • Windows
  • Roofs
  • Greenhouses
  • Lenses in eyewear
  • Protective gear

Technically speaking, polycarbonate sheets are not “glass.” However, they can be used as an alternative to safety glass for certain applications. Polycarbonate sheets are up to 250 times stronger than glass. They also have flame retardant properties. 

The main downside, however, when looking for windows with polycarbonate sheets, is that they are less clear than safety glass. They can also be dissolved by certain chemicals

The Best Safety Glass for Homes

When considering which safety glass to choose for your home windows, it’s important to take a close look at the benefits of each safety glass and align these with your needs as a homeowner. 

If considering the cost, polycarbonate is generally less expensive than glass. However, polycarbonate comes with its own set of weaknesses

Therefore, the most common choices for home windows and doors are tempered glass and laminated glass. Laminated glass is more costly than tempered glass. But the protection from break-ins that laminated glass offers is a benefit that most homeowners are drawn to – even with the higher price point. 

Get Reliable Home Windows That Are Made From Safety Glass

If you’re ready to get more secure windows for your home, the first step is to find a window company that you can trust. 

By choosing from our list of customer-vetted and trusted window companies, you can quickly find the best windows for your home. Some companies offer windows with tempered glass while some also offer the option to switch to laminated glass.  

Take the next step today with Ontario Window Reviews.

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