With so many other choices to be made when deciding upon new windows and doors, the type of glass can often be overlooked.  

However, this important aspect of the design requires careful consideration as glass type can essentially alter the effect and subsequently, the overall look of your most valuable asset.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the main types of glass that you should consider for your home.

1. Float glass

The most basic of glass design is called ‘float’ glass (often referred to as ‘annealed’ glass).  This is glass that has been turned into large panels by floating and solidifying it on top of molten tin, creating a smooth sheet between 0.4 mm to 25 mm in thickness.

Float glass is usually used for smaller openings where, due to their size, strengthened glass is not required.

In its pure form, float glass is rarely used in home installations yet many other glass types derive from this basic form.  

2. Tempered (toughened) glass

Benefitting from still being able to be broken in the case of emergencies, tempered glass offers a higher level of strength than float glass.   

Known as ‘safety glass’, tempered glass takes the humble float glass and puts it through processes of thermal and chemical treatment making it four times stronger than normal glass giving it a greater degree of durability.

3. Laminated safety glass

Laminated glass is stronger in design and the most common choice amongst homeowners as it provides a greater level of security.

Laminated glass is made by combining two layers of glass together, using heat with the addition of polyvinyl butyral which creates a robust panel whilst ensuring optical clarity.

This strengthening process that goes into producing laminate glass, allows the homeowner to reduce the risk of breakage.

4. Obscured and tinted glass

Commonly reserved for using in bathrooms or areas where privacy is required, obscure glass is imprinted with patterns making it harder to see through yet allowing light to still flood a room.

Obscured glass makes it harder to see through so from the outside, only shadows should be seen.  The complexity of the patterns will alter the amount of shadow.

The levels of obscurity is measured on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the least obscure.

The choice of patterns, textures available for obscure glass is vast.  There are both traditional designs as well as contemporary options.

Leading glass manufacturers in the UK can customise to your specific requirements but the current array of designs usually cater for every taste. 

For those who are replacing windows and doors and wish to uphold their originality, many of the old glass patterns still exist today.

Decorative glass effects are also obtainable by tinting, etching, silvering or applying ceramic paints enabling you to create your own choice of obscurity or recreate traditional designs.

Tinted glass also provides a good level of privacy but is more often used for aesthetic purposes as it can be tinted in different colours. 

Many people pick tinted glass for its protection from UV rays as it can reduce the amount of sunlight that comes through.

5. Mirrored glass

By adding a metal coating to one side of a pane of glass a mirrored effect is instantly produced.  

Mirrored glass is infrequently used on domestic dwellings but can of course be considered as another privacy option.

6. Low-E glass

Low emissivity glass is insulated glass and manufactured to reflect thermal radiation.  

Reflecting heat away from the building in the summer and reflecting the heat back inwards during the winter months, makes this an option worthy of consideration for those who wish to lower their energy costs.

This type of glass is now required in most domestic windows to adhere to building regulations due to its high u-values.

Because of its insulation properties, this glass design is used for double (or triple) glazing.

Undoubtedly, important for keeping our homes warm, an insulated glass unit features two panes of glass with a space in between which is can be filled with dehydrated air or a gas.

The gap between the glass can be from 4mm to 20mm.  ‘Spacers’ are placed around the edge of the unit to keep the panes apart.  

The gap between the glass panes reduces conversion of cold and heat.  Noise reduction is also of benefit here.

Triple glazing is made up of three panes of glass instead of two providing an even greater benefits.

How can I make my glass choice personal to me?

There are a few additional choices which allow you to really personalise the style of glass you’re choosing.

Brilliant cut

Created by diamond cutting into the surface of glass this produces elegant designs with either a polished or unpolished finished.  

Most often, brilliant cut glass is used on door glass as a decorative addition which also provides a privacy aspect.

Brilliant cut designs are sealed internally into the unit and so require no specialist cleaning.

Bevelled glass

Bevelling is achieved by cutting the surface of plain glass at an angle, which creates a diffraction of light.  

This kaleidoscope-effect offers eye-catching designs in its simplicity or can be combined with colourful stained glass for instance, to enable you to invent the most personal of designs.  

Fusion glass

The practice of bonding different colours of glass with heat — known as fusion — will no doubt appeal to the artistic homeowner. 

Bespoke glass panels can be added to your doors or windows affording you endless opportunities to be a master of design and truly let your imagination run wild!

When adding or replacing windows and doors in your home, along with the many options you will doubtlessly need to consider, remember to pay some careful attention to the type of glass you choose.  

Seek as much information from your supplier as possible and don’t be afraid to ask for advice on glass types.

Understanding whats best for your needs and the aesthetics of your home and being mindful of all the alternatives, will allow you to make the right choice. 

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.