Skylight Glazing Options
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If you’ve decided to add a skylight to your home, as well as thinking about the type of skylight you like best and where you’re going to install it, you’ll need to consider your glazing options will have. More specifically, will your skylight have plastic glazing or would you prefer glass?
Your choice of skylight glazing will come down to the features you want your skylight to have, how large of a role it plays in your overall vision for your renovation project, and how much of a budget you’re working with. Well, to help make your decision easier, this post looks into skylight glazing and the pros and cons of the different options available to you.
What Is Skylight Glazing?
Let’s kick things off by delving into what skylight glazing actually is and the types of glazing on offer.
What Is Skylight Glazing?
When you hear the term ‘glazing’, it probably brings windows to mind. This is down to the fact that the word is used to describe the process of installing a window. By the same vein, when it comes to skylights, glazing describes how a skylight is constructed: the type of glass or plastic installed within it.
Different glazing options have different properties, such as solar heat control (UV and infrared rays) and how much light they let into the space below. Your glazing options will differ depending on where you plan to install the skylight, what you need from it, and the benefits you’re looking for from your skylight.
What Are the Types of Glazing and When Is It Best to Use Them?
Skylight glazing options fall into two categories: plastic and glass, with each one having its own benefits and drawbacks.
Generally speaking, the best time to opt for plastic glazing is when you’re on a tighter budget. This could be, for instance, if your skylight is part of a larger attic conversion project and you need your budget to stretch as far as possible. Similarly, if you just want a skylight and aren’t too concerned with the specifics, like its style, shape, and how much solar heat it allows in, then plastic is a good choice.
On the other hand, you should opt for glass if the aesthetics of the skylight are important and you want more choice in its appearance and how it contributes to the look and feel of the space over which it’s being installed. Glass skylights are also a better choice if you want greater control over how much solar heat is let into the space. We’ll look at both glass and plastic glazing options in greater depth in the next two sections.
Let’s start our more detailed look at skylight glazing options by exploring the pros and cons of plastic glazing.
What Are the Advantages of Plastic Glazing?
- Price: Perhaps the most notable advantage to plastic skylight glazing, is that it costs less than glass.
- Lightweight: Plastic is easier to transport and manoeuvre. This is could be an important consideration if you’re planning to install your skylight yourself.
What Are the Disadvantages of Plastic Glazing?
- More Prone to Superficial Damage: Although plastic is stronger than glass, it’s easier for it to be become scratched and marked. Similarly, the skylight can discolour over time.
- Less Clear View: Plastic skylights, in general, don’t offer as clear a view of the outside as their glass counterparts. Plus, the previously mentioned scratching and discolouration further diminish a plastic skylight’s clarity.
- Allows More UV Light to Pass Through: Unless coated in a special film, plastic glazing lets most of the ultraviolet (UV) rays into the space, which can damage your skin and cause furniture to fade.
What Are Plastic Glazing Options?
When it comes to plastic glazing, the most common options are a type of acrylic or polycarbonate. Acrylics (sometimes called plexiglass) are usually less expensive than polycarbonates but are also weaker. However, acrylics offer more resistance to UV rays and are less likely to discolour than polycarbonates, which can start to yellow with age.
Now, when it comes to strength, while acrylic is around 8 times stronger than plate glass, polycarbonate is about 200 times stronger. Skylights made from polycarbonates also offer more fire resistance than those made from acrylic.
Is Plastic Glazing Better Than Glass?
Whether plastic glazing is better than glass for your skylight is down to your personal preferences and situation. If your main priority for installing a skylight is to illuminate a space for as low a price as possible, then plastic glazing could be a better option.
On a similar note, if you’re not too concerned about UV rays and solar heat, plastic glazing could be the way to go. An example of this could be if you’re looking to add more natural light to a hallway: you’re not going to spend large amounts of time there, like, say a living room, and it won’t have furniture that will be damaged.
Now that we’ve taken a look at plastic, let’s turn our attention to the pros and cons of glass glazing.
What Are the Advantages of Glass Glazing?
- Clearer View: Glass has a higher transparency rating than plastic, which means it provides a clearer view of the outside.
- Durability: Glass is more durable than plastics: it doesn’t become scratched, discoloured, or warp from constant heat exposure over time – which maintains its clearer view.
- More Choice: It’s easier to get a skylight in the exact shape, size, colour, etc., you’re after if you go for glass.
- Better UV Protection: The various types of glass on offer, as well as the coatings that can be applied, means that glass offers better UV protection than plastic glazing options.
What Are the Disadvantages of Glass Glazing?
- Price: Glass glazing is more expensive than plastic glazing options. Plus, the more features you require, the higher the final price.
- Heavier: Glass is heavier, meaning it’s harder to transport and move around. As with plastic glazing, this becomes more of a consideration if you’re going to install it yourself.
What Are Glass Glazing Options
- Tempered Glass
Tempered glass refers to glass that has been heated to high temperatures before being quickly cooled down. This process creates glass that’s several times stronger than the original plate glass. Additionally, if tempered glass breaks, it shatters into lots of small, rounded pieces instead of jagged shards, which makes it much safer. This is a form of safety glazing.
- Laminated Glass
Laminated glass is when two sheets of glass are bonded together with a sheet of vinyl between them. This creates a significantly stronger, impact-resistant piece of glass. In this case, If the glass somehow does break, the vinyl ‘catches’ most, if not all, of the pieces and they don’t rain down into the space below. As with tempered glass, this is a type of safety glazing.
Better still, laminated glass blocks 99% of UV rays, so you get all the benefits of natural light with the additional safety aspect. In addition, there’s white laminated glass: which diffuses sunlight to prevent glare and unwanted solar heat.
- Insulated Glazing
Insulated glazing is another name for double or triple glazing. It describes when two or more panes of glass are separated by a layer of air or gas (usually argon). The layer between the panes helps to insulate the skylight, creating a barrier that solar heat has to get through before it enters the space below.
As well as the glazing itself, the properties of glass skylights are determined by coatings that can be applied to the glass before it’s installed. Here are two of the most common.
Skylight tinting comes in the form of a special film that’s applied directly onto the surface of the glass. Different types of film offer varying degrees of tinting, which allow you to be more specific with the amount of light and solar heat you want your skylights to let through.
A Low-E, or low-emissivity, coating is a microscopically thin, transparent layer that’s applied to glass. It minimises the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that passes through the glass, without altering the amount of light it lets in.
Different models of glass skylights combine the features described above to achieve the best performance possible. Here are some of the most common combinations you’re likely to see in high-quality glass skylights.
- Tempered, Double-Glazed Glass: This glass is tempered for safety and two layers of glass with an air or an argon gas filling the space in between for enhanced insulation properties and increased energy efficiency.
- Tempered, Double-Glazed Glass with Low-E Coatings: This type of glass has a tempered outer pane while the inner pane has an invisible Low-E coating for blocking UV rays. Tinting could also be applied to the outer layer if you want to control the amount of light that passes through the skylight, as well as its brightness.
- Tempered-Over-Laminated Glass: This hybrid style of glass combines the properties of both tempered and laminated glass to create stronger, more resilient, skylights. In addition, this type of glass can be applied to insulated glazing, where two or more panes are separated by a layer of air or gas.
- Tempered Glass
Is Glass Glazing Better Than Plastic?
Just like with plastic glazing, whether glass glazing is ‘better’ or not comes down to your situation and preferences. If how the skylight looks is important to you, then glass glazing is better than plastic. This is especially true if you have a specific style of skylight in mind, as there’s a greater chance it’ll be available in glass.
Similarly, if one of your motivations for installing a skylight is to enhance your home’s connection with its surrounding environment and to enjoy the outside world more, then the clearer view offered by glass makes it preferable.
We hope that our overview of the various glazing options available for skylight has given you a clearer idea of what would be best for what you need or the specific plans you have in mind.
If you’d like to talk over your skylight glazing options, or anything else related to skylights or attic conversions, contact us and we’ll be happy to help. We can even arrange for you to have a free, no-obligation site inspection so we can get the best idea of how to make your renovation visions a reality.