Float Glass or Sheet Glass- what’s the difference?

float glass vs sheet glass

When it comes to selecting the right type glass for your windows, you’ll want to understand the differences between the available options.

The difference between two of the most popular – Float glass and Sheet glass – often causes confusion.

These two types of glass are both widely used in residential and commercial applications, but they have very distinct properties and manufacturing processes that you will want to consider before deciding which is best for your purpose.

So let’s find out more about Float glass and Sheet glass…

Float Glass – Can we make it clearer?

Float glass is the most common type of glass used for windows and other household designs.  It is a high-quality, distortion-free glass, making it a perfect choice for window design.  It also serves as the base material for various other forms of glass.

The process for Float glass manufacturing was developed in 1952 by Sir Alastair Pilkington and is still the most commonly used glass production today.

Here’s the science bit…

Float glass is produced by melting the raw materials in a furnace at high temperatures, then allowing the molten glass to flow onto a bed of molten tin. The main components of float glass include sea sand, quartz sandstone powder, soda, and dolomite. These are combined with raw materials and in certain proportions to produce this uniformed, flat-surface glass.

As the glass ‘floats’ on top of the tin and spreads out, cooling and solidifying occurs which forms a continuous ribbon of glass. The result is an exceptionally smooth, flat surface with a constant, even thickness and an almost perfect clarity.

Float glass is extremely versatile and can be found in a range of thicknesses.  It is often used as a base for other glass treatments and enhancements.  In particular, Float glass is often used for:

  • Windows in residential and commercial buildings
  • Furniture, such as tabletops and shelves
  • Windscreen glass for cars
  • Base material for other types of glass, such as tempered or laminated glass.

What about Sheet Glass?

Traditionally, sheet glass has been used for windows and glazing applications due to its lower cost and ease of production. Often associated with the old methods of glass-making, it does have its merits but new-technology is beginning to overtake it.

Sheet glass has some disadvantages, such as visible distortions and decreased clarity when compared to Float glass. For this reason, it may not be suitable for applications where a high degree of transparency and minimal distortion is required.

The process…

Sheet glass, also known as Window glass or Rolled glass, is a type of glass that is manufactured by the process of drawing and rolling molten glass on a table or between rollers.

The glass is then cut into pieces, annealed and usually polished. This method was more common before the invention of Float glass, and it tends to produce glass with a slightly wavy or textured surface that can have visual distortions.

Sheet glass is slightly thicker at the edges with a less uniform surface compared to Float glass.

In general, Sheet glass can be found in a variety of thicknesses and applications, including:

Sheet glass can also be further processed to create other glass products, such as laminated, tempered, or patterned glass.

The versatility of Sheet glass makes it a popular choice for many applications where cost and ease of production are more important than optical clarity and uniformity.

Comparing Float Glass and Sheet Glass

In terms of window design, Float glass is the preferred choice because of the clarity and evenness it provides.

This high quality and minimal distortion make it suitable for various forms of glazing and tempering treatments, including heat strengthening, laminating, and insulating.

Sheet glass is more often used in decorative applications or when a specific texture is desired, rather than to achieve optical clarity.

Generally, Sheet glass is more affordable, making it a popular option for budget-conscious consumers. However, as technology advances and the production of Float glass becomes more cost-effective, it is clear that Sheet glass will start to decline.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Float glass and sheet glass both have unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to your home’s window and glass needs. It is essential to consider these factors when selecting the right type of glass for your specific application.

Float glass, which makes up about 95% of flat glass,  is known for its uniform thickness, high quality, and excellent optical clarity. This glass is more versatile as it can be laminated, insulated, or transformed into other types of glass products.

However, it’s worth remembering that Float glass can be more expensive than sheet glass due to the manufacturing process involved.

Sheet glass, on the other hand, is generally more affordable and has a textured surface, making it suitable for decorative purposes or applications where privacy is a priority.

Sheet glass may possess bubbles, imperfections, and less optical clarity so make sure you choose carefully and think about the suitability of this glass for your projects.

Applications in Home Design

Float glass and Sheet glass have distinct usage when it comes to home design. Understanding their applications can help determine the right choice for your needs.

Float Glass

This type of glass is widely used for high-quality windows, mirrors, and glass doors in residential and architectural spaces due to its smooth and undistorted surface.

Float glass can be produced in different thicknesses and can be clear, tinted, low-iron, reflective, or patterned. Float glass is suitable for applications such as:

  • Windows and glass doors
  • Mirrors
  • Shower enclosures
  • Tabletops
  • Glass shelves
  • Skylights

Sheet Glass

Sheet glass is an affordable alternative to Float glass with applications in less demanding areas of home design due to its slightly textured surface and potential subtle distortions. Common uses of Sheet glass include:

  • Picture frames
  • Greenhouses
  • Single pane windows
  • Cabinet doors
  • Simple, decorative projects

Incorporating the appropriate type of glass in your home design projects can greatly impact aesthetics, functionality, and overall cost.

Whether it’s high-quality Float glass for mirrors and windows or more economical Sheet glass for simpler applications, knowing each type’s strengths and limitations will help to create your optimal living environment.

Choosing the right glass for your home

When selecting the appropriate type of glass for your home, it’s important to understand the differences between Float glass and Sheet glass, as well as their various applications.

To choose the right glass for your home, consider the following factors:

  • Location and purpose: Float glass is usually the best choice for large windows, as it provides a better level of clarity and durability. However, if you need glass for a picture frame or a small window, Sheet glass may be more cost-effective.
  • Energy efficiency: Double-glazed or triple-glazed float glass windows can significantly improve the energy efficiency of your home, as they offer better insulation than single-pane Sheet glass windows.
  • Safety and security: For areas where safety and security are a concern, consider using tempered or laminated Float glass, which is stronger and less prone to breakage than Sheet glass.
  • Aesthetics: The clarity and uniformity of Float glass make it an excellent choice for achieving a clean, modern look in your home, whilst Sheet glass may suit more traditional or rustic styles due to its slight imperfections.

By taking these factors into account, you can make an informed decision about which type of glass best suits your needs and enhances the comfort, functionality, and appearance of your home.


In summary, the choice between Float glass and Sheet glass for your home depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Float glass is a more modern type of glass, offering a high quality and smooth, distortion-free surface. Because of its manufacturing process it provides a glass with uniform thickness and a nearly perfect surface.

On the other hand, Sheet glass is produced using the older, traditional process.  It shouldn’t be overlooked when making a choice between the two types of glass that Sheet glass can result in minor imperfections and variations in thickness.

Consider what factors are important for your specific needs; clarity? Versatility? And high quality?  In which case, you will probably find Float glass is the perfect choice.

However, if you can accept minor imperfections and want to make your project a more economical one then Sheet glass may suit you well.

Either way, this beautiful material is the backbone of the building industry; architects and designers crave its elegance and versatility.  Never to be overlooked when it comes to key home design features, glass is at the foreground of our future. 

And that… is quite clear.

Matt James
Matt James

Hi, Matt here! I started out almost 20 years ago as a teenager working in the family business fitting doors, windows and conservatories. I now run this website to share the best tips and advice for anyone looking to get a good deal on double glazing.

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