Tempered or Laminated: Which Glass is Right for You?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Shower Doors

When selecting glass for an application, whether decorative or functional, two choices often arise: tempered or laminated? Both are unique and valuable glass products but each offers very distinct and different advantages.

Both products qualify as “safety glass materials”—meaning that they comply with current safety glazing codes, so they can be used in doors, sidelights, railings, and other locations which might be deemed as hazardous.

Tempered Glass   Tempered Glass


Tempered glass is made by heating and then 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 degrees and then rapidly cooled—also known as quenching.

This quenching process rapidly cools the glass surface and in the process, leaves the glass hardened (tempered) so that it is now approximately 4 to 5 times stronger (and therefore more resistant to breakage) than it was before the tempering process. If it does break, tempered glass shatters into small pieces that are much less likely to cause injury or damage.

Glass Replacement

Laminated glass, which is made of two or more plies of glass with a vinyl inner layer (sandwiched if you will as in a car’s windshield), does not necessarily get stronger in the laminating process, but it will tend to stay together in place when it is broken—thus qualifying as a safety glazing material.

The other key advantages to laminated glass are that it blocks 99% of UV transmission, has sound reducing properties, can be cut and edge polished (tempered cannot after it has gone through the oven), and lead times are generally faster because most glass shops stock laminated glass. Certain thicker, multi-layered forms of laminated glass can even qualify as burglary and bullet resistant.

So for strength and breakage resistance, tempered glass is often the first consideration. For flexibility, UV resistance, security and sound considerations, laminated glass is often the product of choice. Both are considered safety glazing compliant and can be obtained in a variety of thicknesses and colors/tints.

Both are easy to clean and maintain when properly installed. Typically, laminated glass products are slightly higher priced than tempered products of the same type and thickness. Optical clarity for both laminated and tempered glass are excellent and either product will provide many years of satisfactory service.


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