The 13 Types of Window Glass and How to Choose

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 04/08/24 •  6 min read

Even if you’ve learned all about the many types of home windows and chosen a few styles, you’re not done with your decision-making! Still left to consider is the type of glass and/or glazing you’ll have installed in those windows.

Modern manufacturing techniques have produced a wide variety of glass types and coatings to meet a number of specific needs.

Below I’ll review the 10 main types of window glass you can choose from, broken up by use, but it’s important to note that some types of glass are required by law in certain situations.

Some Windows May Have Building Code Requirements for Glass Type

For example, wired or fireproof glass often needs to be used in fire exits, and laminated or tempered glass often must be used in floor-to-ceiling windows where the extra strength is needed for safety.

If you’re installing a window that may have special consideration, always check your local building codes.

The 13 Types of Glass for Home Windows

Standard Glass

1. Clear Float Glass

This “normal” glass is the smooth, distortion-free glass that’s used in many window applications. It’s the material for many other forms of glass, including tinted glass and laminated glass.

The perfectly flat finish is created by floating the hot, liquid glass on top of molten tin.

Heat-Efficient Glass

2. Double and Triple Glazed Glass (or Insulated Glass)

Double-glazed units, often referred to as i nsulated glass, is actually a collection (or “unit”) of two or three sheets of glass inside a door or window frame. Between the layers, inert gas is sealed in to provide heat and sound insulation.

This gas is most often argon, but can also be krypton or xenon, is both colorless and odorless.

3. Low-Emissivity Glass 

Low-Emissivity, more often called Low-E glass, has a special coating lets heat from the sun in, but prevents warmth from escaping back through the glass. Many double-glazed units are also sold with low-e coatings, though not all.

4. Solar Control Glass 

Solar control glass has a special coating designed to block excessive heat from the sun from passing through the glass. This reduces heat build-up in buildings with large expanses of glass.

Safety Glass (Strong Glass)

5. Impact-Resistant Glass

Impact-resistant glass is designed to reduce hurricane damage. This glass has a rigid laminate layer heat-sealed between two layers of glass, one of which provides greatly increased rigidity and “tear” resistance.

6. Laminated Glass 

In laminated glass, clear plastic is bonded between the layers of glass, which produces a very strong product. If it does break, the plastic prevents shards from flying.

7. Tempered Glass 

Tempered glass is strengthened against impact, and shatters into granules rather than shards. It is commonly used in glazed doors.

8. Wired Glass 

The wire in wired glass stops glass from shattering in high temperatures. Because of thisit is used in fire doors and windows near fire escapes.

9. Fire-Resistant Glass 

Newer fire-resistant glass is not strengthened by wire but is just as strong. This type of glass however, is pretty expensive.

Speciality Glass

10. Mirror Glass

Mirriored glass, also called bronze, silver, or gold reflective glass since it comes in a variety of metalic colors, has metal coating on one side of glass that’s then sealed with a protective sealant. Mirrored glass is great at keeping the sun and heat out of your home.

Unlike Low E coatings, however, which just look like regular windows, reflective glass alters the look of your home or building as well as your view out the window. 

11. Self-Cleaning Glass 

This magical sounding glass has a special coating on its exterior surface that makes sunlight break down dirt. Rainwater washes any debris away so it’s best used in an area where rain can reach the surface (i.e. not under a covered porch).

Reduced Visibility Glass

12. Privacy Glass

Proivacy glass, also called obscured glass, allows light in but distorts the view through the glass. Commonly used in bathroom windows and front doors.

13. Decorative Glass

Decorative glass can describe many types of patterned or privacy glass as well as art glass, including:

These types of decorative glass are similar to privacy glass in that they obscure the view but they do so with decorative elements that change the look of the window greatly.

How to Decide on a Window Glass or Glazing

Selecting the type of glass in your windows is an important decision but it’s not always an easy one. Two factors to consider are:

  1. Your window’s direction. Often you can select windows with lower U-values for north-facing windows and low e-coatings for the other sides of the house. The U-value lets you know the window’s ability to insulate.
  2. Your location. Depending on what part of the country you live, your windows may need to protect you from hurricane-force winds or from excessive heat.

There are two organizations that can help you choose windows and decide what type of glass is best in your region and for your needs:

  1. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is a nonprofit collaboration of window manufacturers, government agencies, and building trade associations founded to establish a fair, accurate, and credible energy rating system for windows, doors, and skylights. If a window has the NFRC label, it has been rated by NFRC-approved testing laboratories and certified by independent inspection agencies. The label includes window U-factor and SHGC and additional performance ratings that include air leakage.
  2. ENERGY STAR provides help for specific climate zones. Windows, doors, and skylights that have the Energy Star label have met requirements for the country’s four broad climate regions: northern, north/central, south/central, and southern. In addition, each Energy Star window must have the NFRC label, allowing comparisons of qualified products on specific performance characteristics such as infiltration.

Once you choose a glass, the next step is to choose what type of window frame to install your preferred window glass in. To install glass in wooden frames, you can choose between putty or glazing beads. Metal and vinyl frames often have special systems built into them. Follow the link for help with making that choice.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.