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How To Choose Between Laminated or Tempered Glass

By Lyle Hill


Dear Glass Detective:

I am confused about what type of glass to use to replace the broken glass in the window in my front door. I have been told that it needs to be safety glass and that there are two basic kinds. Can you tell me the difference between laminated glass and tempered glass? Are both of them safe to use?

Debbie O,

Elmhurst, IL

Dear Debbie:

When selecting safety glass for an application, whether decorative or functional, two choices often arise: tempered or laminated glass. Both qualify as “safety glazing materials” meaning they comply with the current safety glazing codes, so they can be used indoors, in sidelites, railings and other locations which may be deemed hazardous. But tempered glass and laminated glass each have distinct and different advantages.

The Pros and Cons of Tempered (Toughened) Glass

Tempered glass is made by heating and cooling a piece of standard glass in a tempering furnace. The glass, which must be pre-cut and edged before being put into the tempering furnace, is heated to approximately 1200°F and then cooled rapidly.

This process is also known as quenching. The quenching process leaves the glass hardened so that it is now approximately 4 to 5 times stronger, and therefore more resistant to breakage, then it was before the tempering process. If it does break, tempered glass shatters in small pieces that are less likely to cause injury or damage than non-tempered glass.

The Pros and Cons of Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is basically a glass sandwich. It is made of two or more plies of glass with a vinyl interlayer between (sandwiched, if you will, as in a car’s windshield). The glass will tend to stay together and case one in is broken – thus qualifying as a safety glazing material.

The other key advantage to laminated glass is that it blocks 99 percent of the UV-light transmission, has sound reduction properties, it can be cut and its edges can be polished after laminating, and lead times are generally faster because most glass shops stock laminated glass. Certain thicker, multilayered forms of laminated glass can even qualify as burglar- and bullet-resistant glass.

Because laminated glass holds up to impact better than other types of glass, this is what is used in modern windshields. The sandwiched interlayer gives the glass structural integrity and keeps it from shattering apart like tempered glass might. This is key for effective airbag deployment and helping to keep occupants inside the vehicle in the event of a crash.

This intact breakage illustrates how tempered glass forms tiny, countless pieces. However, most tempered glass shatters to the ground upon impact.

Note that even though there was a powerful impact, this tempered glass has remained structurally intact.

Tempered vs Laminated: How To Choose The Right One For Your Job

So for strength and breakage-resistance, temper glasses often is the first consideration. For flexibility, UV-resistance, security and sound considerations, laminated glass is often the product of choice. Both are considered safety glazing materials and can be obtained in a variety of thicknesses and colors or tints. Both are easy to clean and maintain when installed properly.

Typically, laminated glass products are a slightly higher price than chamfered products of the same type and thickness. The optical clarity for both laminated and tempered glass are excellent in either product will provide many years of satisfactory service in your front door.

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45 responses to “How To Choose Between Laminated or Tempered Glass”

  1. Hi,
    I am building a house n it has a courtyard of 12 ft width x 40 ft length. Which type of glass should b used on top of it and v propose to lay the glass without any inbetween support.

    • Hi Santhosh,

      Thank you for the question! We received the request that you submitted to the Glass Detective and will be reaching out to you directly with an answer.

    • Hi Fran,

      Thanks for the question! A combination of both tempered and laminated glass would be necessary when you want the advantages of both increased strength (breakage resistance) and the ability of the glass to stay in place (temporarily, due to the polycarbonate interlayer of laminated glass) if it breaks. Also, at any time the building code would require it the use of both would be necessary.

      I hope this helps!

  2. How much $ is square foot 1/4″tempered glass and same question for 1/4″ laminated glass.
    Thank you
    Ylli

    • Hi Ylli,

      Thanks for the question! The cost could vary depending on the location of the project, and how much you need in total. Please submit a request on Glass.com and we will be happy to provide you with an accurate quote!

  3. Colour laminated glass is very similar to clear laminated glass but with the addition of a coloured interlayer. These allow for a rich palette of colour permutation, ranging from subtle transparent and translucent colours to opaqu

  4. If I want to use laminated glass in my balcony windows to cut UV coming in, do I have to order extra clear glass for keeping the clarity of views? Or two 6mm glass +PVB is fine ?

    • Hi Josephine,

      This is a great question! But it will require an answer from our resident expert, the Glass Detective. We will be in touch with you shortly.

      Thanks!

      • Here is what our Glass Detective had to say:

        Josephine,
        Regular laminated glass will give you a regular view. No need to order extra clear (aka low iron) glass unless you want an above ordinary clear view. I suggest you stop in at your local glass shop where you intend to purchase the glass and ask to see a sample of each. The PVB should not have any real effect on overall clarity.

  5. Hi.
    Which glass will be useful for a building court yard area(2.1 x 1.8m2),which means we need to walk above the glass.i will cut the glass by 4 pieces.laminated or toughened?

    • Hi Bob, here is the response from our Glass Detective:

      Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective with your recent request for advice on what kind of glass might be best for a courtyard project. My answer will be short but probably not what you were hoping for. Here it is:

      There are a number of things to take into consideration when determining what type of glass to use for any project. The first is safety … What type of glass will give you a safe installation while also complying with all applicable safety codes? You need to start with an understanding of the code requirements in your area. Then you can consider what type of performance you want (sound reducing, heat reducing, glare reducing, UV blocking and aesthetics – color and so forth). So, from the information you provided, I cannot give any recommendations. I strongly suggest you spend a few minutes with a reputable glass shop in your area and maybe even a few minutes with an architect who is familiar with your area’s code requirements. I hope this is of some help to you. Glass Detective

  6. Hi,
    I was advised to put in my bathroom sliding shower doors which will go on top of the tub. The company that gave an estimate offered me to put laminated glass,I’m a lil confused wouldn’t it be better to have tempered glass,instead of laminated for sliding shower doors in the bathroom. Thank you so much !

    • I would strongly recommend you stay with the tempered glass for a tub enclosure. Laminated is certainly an option but tempered glass is much stronger and I have some concerns about the glass edges if you use a laminated glass because the constant exposure to moisture can cause a problem over time with delamination. Maybe there is some reason why the contractor in question is offering or suggesting laminated glass that I am not aware of, but there are good reasons why 95% or more of tub and shower enclosures use tempered glass.
      The Glass Detective

  7. We want vertical partition on a long wall of Research Laboratory ( 70′) long. The height has to be between 8′-6″ to 9′. Whereas at bottom about 3′ height laminated particle board is thought of so that being Mezzanine floor the SS railing is not visible from the Lab. Which glass toughened or laminated is recommended. if laminated one thickness and cost thereof may kindly be shared.
    Regards.

    • From the Glass Detective:

      Thank you for reaching out to the Glass Detective regarding your upcoming project. I will try to be helpful. To begin with, based on the information you have provided, I believe you are most likely going to want to go with tempered glass. Because you have introduced the prospect of a railing system near the glass, you will need to check in with a local architect/engineer in your area to verify all code requirements for an installation of this type. There is a slight possibility that you will end up using a tempered/laminated combination for your final glass selection. Obviously, you will need to divide the glass wall area up into multiple lights of glass due to its size (70′ long) and you do not reference any type of framing concept (lites of glass framed individually or butt jointed vertically). If you butt joint the glass you will need to accommodate the top and bottom edges of the glass with an adequate frame component. Given the size of this project and the questions you have asked, I think it best for you to select an architect to work with who is familiar with these types of glass installations as well as code requirements to help guide you through this process. Lastly, we do not provide pricing for projects. Once you have developed a formal concept/plan, we encourage you to reach out to local glass shops that can provide you with competitive bids. Thank you again for contacting us.

  8. Hi,

    I would like to install a glass whiteboard, for writing on. I was originally looking at retail products which were made from tempered glass and a process called Ceramic Fritting to apply a coloured finish to one side. When I started looking around locally, a glass shop mentioned something they called “Lami” glass, which I am assuming is what is being compared here. They said I could achieve a similar result for a lot cheaper with that product. This glass will not be installed in a location where impact is probable, so it really makes no difference to me as long as the finish is smooth enough to write on in the end. I will however need some holes to be drilled for standoffs and the edges and corners rounded off. Are you able to recommend my best option?

    Thank you.

    • From the Glass Detective:
      Aarif, In response to your request for some guidance regarding “glass marker boards”, I am going to give you my opinion … what I would do if I were buying glass marker boards for my own use. With this in mind, I need to point out that there is a reason that probably 90% or more of the glass marker boards being sold today are made with tempered glass. Stronger, less expensive and easier to produce nice clean polished edges are the primary reasons. Even if you want to go with a custom color or shape, I still would recommend tempered glass. Laminated glass will work but it would not be my first choice. I hope this helps you in some way and thank you for reaching out to the Glass Detective!

  9. I am going to use glass shelving in a niche.
    Which type of glass should I use and what thickness.
    Shelf will be for decoration only.
    Thank you

    • Thanks for the question Connie! Tempered glass will be fine for this application and can feature a variety of finished edges, depending on your aesthetic preferences. Since the shelf is for decorative purposes only, relatively thin glass can probably be used, but will depend on the overall size of the shelves. Don’t forget to use Glass.com to find a local glass shop to supply the shelves.

  10. recently a painter got stain blocker on my frosted glass bathroom window and nothing would remove the white marks, the company have agreed to replace the glass and the glazier has recommended laminate as its easy to clean as shiny on both sides and this wont happen. do you agree? thank you

    • Hi Gillian, I would default to your local expert who will be able to visually evaluate your specific situation. But yes, laminated glass could be the appropriate selection here.

  11. My brother was talking about using toughened glass and its benefits. He too described tempered glass as being strong and durable and its easy cleanliness. This is so interesting to me since I did not know about these different types of glass.

  12. I had fixed toughened ( tempered glass) on my roof top – Approximate length 12 feet – width 5 feet – two years back. Because of the length, the glass was made in three pieces and attached. I faced two major problems

    1. Leaks were there post summer due to the glue used for joining the three glasses were giving way, flooding my ground floor room exposed to the roof. Periodically, workers have to climb up and fix the leaks.

    2. This summer the glass has developed cracks and the glass vendor says he has to replace the glass.

    Since I fixed the glass at high cost, is there any other alternative and whether I have to go in again for the tempered glass.

    If so which is the right quality and what should be the thickness? Approximate cost likely.
    I am at Bangalore in India.

    • Hi Ram,

      Thanks for the question! Our Glass Detective is currently out solving other glass mysteries, but I’ll do my best to provide you with insights.
      1. Leaks in skylights are fairly common. An old adage goes “There are 2 kinds of skylights- those that leak, and those that will leak.” Leaks are usually caused in 2 places- the seal around the lite itself, and the flashing around the frame. Sealing these 2 areas is paramount. There could even be a flaw in the frame itself. These would need to be evaluated by a professional.

      2. 12 ft. x 5 ft. lites are very large- a good portion of their structural integrity simply goes towards supporting their own weight. Proper framing plays an essential role in this as well so this may be the first place to start. A local, reputable glazing contractor should be able to evaluate your particular situation and make recommendations on the thickness. Safety glass (laminated) is most likely the proper glass for your application though.

  13. My wife runs a small shop in town and just last night she had her front window break and while it’s just cracked right now, we don’t know how long it will hold up. I liked that you had mentioned that because of the way that the tempered glass is made, that makes it stronger and more resistant to breaking. Since we’ve had this glass crack, we might have to look into someone who can install tempered glass for her front window, this way we can feel more comfortable knowing that it’s a strong front window.

  14. Hi – for a verandah glass roof I’ve been told by the glass company they will use toughened glass and will be 25ml double glazed. Would this roof be strong enough to uphold heavy rain, snow etc without breakages. Just need to be convinced as the company I want to use often waffle on just so that they get the business. The roof will will be approximately 20 foot wide with suitable supports.
    Thank you

    • Proper support and framing is critical in ensuring structural integrity in these types of installs. Rain should not be an issue, and snow would depend on the amount that your area receives. It is hard to say without knowing the full details of the project. The company you are working with is likely making their best educated recommendation, while also trying to minimize liability by not making any guarantees.

  15. Hi,
    We had a situation in our store where the sliding glass door basically blew up and shattered into a billion little shards while a team member was locking up shop. The doors are tempered glass. What could be the reason for this and how can we avoid this from happening in future installs?

    • Hi Maria,

      I’m sorry to hear of the misfortune! I have personally seen this happen with a tempered glass table, and some vehicle owners have even experienced it with their sunroofs. Sometimes it can be attributed to temperature changes, or extreme temperatures. Glass doors should be handled delicately, especially in these conditions. Another reason could be impurities in the glass. Because of this, it is important to choose a door from a quality manufacturer.

  16. Hi there,
    I am constructing a skylight at my home. I would like to make use of 6mm laminated glass is this advisable?
    The dimensions will be 2400 x 1200 at 22deg. pitch.
    Thanks

  17. Hi Daniel,
    I would like to repurpose a 1/4″ (6mm) tempered glass shower door as a sloped awning over an entry. The dimensions of the glass are 30″x60″. My question is whether there is a chart available that can tell you what thickness of glass is needed for what loads? There would be a 40″ span, 30″wide of unsupported glass. We are in Vancouver, BC so do not get much snow, but we do get some. Would doubling the glass doors up (two are available) make any difference or would they have to be laminated for the doubling to make them stronger?
    Thanks for sharing your expertise!
    Brenda

  18. Hi, would 6.4 mm laminated glass be suitable for windows of a metre square? They are to be fixed vertically in timber frames.
    Or should I go thicker?

    • From our Glass Detective – A very slight and insignificant difference. However, It does give 99% UV resistance/blockage, a little bit of sound resistance and is a safety rated glass so it(laminated) is the better product.

  19. My brother enjoyed this article because he’s planning to have tempered glass on his phone. He’s now looking up some services who can provide him with tempered glass. He likes it that this article mentioned that tempered glass is four to five times stronger than laminated glass.es it that this article mentioned that tempered glass is four to five times stronger than laminated glass.

  20. laminated glass with transparent (no color) vs light green will have different light reflectance?
    say light green reflect 10% more than transparent? Please advise

    • There are multiple options when it comes to tinting laminated glass. Also, surface applied films can offer an array of green tint options. I am not sure what you are trying to achieve here … whether it is a reflectance issue or a light/color transmittance issue but tinted laminated glass can align itself very well with non-laminated tinted glass of the same color/tint and thickness. Reflectance and transmission percentages are very, very close. Check out http://www.SunGuardGlass.com for comparison purposes but remember, the options are virtually limitless. Hope this helps!

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