Choosing the right glass for your home improvement project

When installing new glass, whether it be a window, shower door or mirror, using glass that is designed for that purpose is important. There are a variety of glass types, uses and benefits.

Traditional Glass

Clear Glass: Clear glass provides an unobstructed view through the panel. It is used in our exterior wall windows and doors to bring the view of our outdoors indoors. Clear glass invites natural light indoors, as well. It has also been the most commonly used glass type. It can be used in our homes to separate spaces without sacrificing natural light and can work to make smaller spaces seem larger through a visual connection between areas of our homes.

“Glass has two properties; to let light in and to be clear to see through,” says Dennis Rusk, owner of ABC Glass & Screen Company, a Rosie on the House certified partner.

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Frosted Glass: Frosted glass is made by taking a clear glass panel and lightly etching the surface with an abrasive product like fine silica sand or applying a film over one or both sides of a clear glass pane. This process creates a visual barrier while letting plenty of natural light pass through. This technique creates a modest sense of privacy and can be commonly found in bathroom windows and shower surrounds. Frosted glass can help create a soft aesthetic when diffusing natural or man-made light. The latest craze is putting LED lights behind it. Some people hang frosted glass on a wall for effective backlighting or use it in the panel portion of kitchen cabinet doors.

“We try not to put frosted glass as cabinet doors in the kitchen because it doesn’t look nice,” Rusk says. “Dust, steam and humidity leaves a film, and it looks horrible.”

Q: What is the difference between tinted and smoke glass?

A: Tinted glass is basically used for countertops, room dividers and some windows. It comes in light gray, bronze and green. However, green is hard to find.

“Bronze glass does not help at all with sunlight because the UV still comes through,” says Rusk. “Use low-e glass, which is part of every new glass made in the U.S.”

Over the past few decades, the glazing industry has experimented with and applied tinting to glass to control how light passes through. Exterior applications have been around for a while that reduce heat gain from direct sunlight. Rusk clarifies that the window has to be in an insulated unit because it has a shelf life.

In most glass blocks, some of the infrared waves band naturally. Tinted glass can also be used to accentuate lighting effects from artificial and natural sources.

Smoked glass is the same thing as tinted glass. Popular in the 1970s and 1980s, this glass was a translucent and somewhat transparent blocking of a glass pane used for room dividers and in bathrooms.

Q: What are some types of safety glass I can use in my home?

A: The four types explained below are not only installed for safety, but they also have additional benefits.

Tempered glass is typically strengthened with heat. The process makes the glass harder and gives the pane more tensile strength than regular glass. It also has the added benefit that it shatters into tiny roundish pieces, not sharp shards, when broken. This glass is standard in older homes’ windows that are closer to 18 inches off the floor. However, Rusk points out that new codes require anything 24 inches or less off the ground to be tempered. This applies to new construction and glass replacement. Tempered glass is also used over countertops, window seats or shower surrounds. In the bathroom, the window glass — per code — must be installed and be 60 inches from the drain up to the top of the window opening and be tempered.

Laminated glass, or safety glass, is like a glass sandwich. Two panes of glass have a piece of plastic (polyvinyl butyral) between them. This plastic can be clear or tinted. The advantage of this glass is that when broken, the shards stick to the plastic. Common uses for this type of glass are vehicle windshields, skylight glass and large commercial applications.

Mirrored glass. Mirrors have been around for quite some time and are used in many ways. Better technology in creating mirrored glass has increased its use in buildings as an exterior cladding, creating interesting effects. While cladding our homes in mirrors probably won’t go well with your HOA, they are common in bathrooms, dressing areas, and by the coat closet at our front door. One-way mirrored glass is often used for privacy windows and reflecting away the sun’s damaging rays. Mirrored glass can also create the illusion of a larger space by installing it on a wall, floor to ceiling. This trick is used to make model homes look larger.

Textured glass. Glass can be textured with patterns and designs to add to the aesthetics of any space. With textured or patterned glass, the surface is molded when the glass is still molten. Steel rollers pass over the glass panel to create patterns. Each pattern diffuses light differently. Patterns can mimic everything from rain streaks and geometric patterns to natural patterns like leaves or grass. Textured glass as a shower surround, room divider, or backlighting creates attractive patterns.

Q: Is stained glass still used in homes?

A: It can be. Popular in churches for centuries, stained glass is an art form that transforms light into storytelling. Many colors are used in this art form to liven up a space with different light patterns. The sun is the traditional light source, but artificial light can also be used. Artificial light will often be used at night and can create dramatic effects. Stained glass artisans also create art pieces that can be hung in our homes, creating playful light patterns in our spaces.

Q: I just heard about smart glass. What is that?

A: Smart glass is relatively new on the scene. Smart glass uses electricity to make a glass pane go from clear to opaque in less than a second. There are basically two ways this happens; one is liquid crystals suspended in the glass as particles, or an electrocromatic film is laminated to the glass pane where molecular patterns are affected by the introduction of electrical current. The crystals, or molecules, when respectively in alignment, create a clear glass panel. When they are scrambled by electrical current, they render the glass panel opaque. You might have seen this where privacy is needed to conduct a meeting. While this option is expensive, it can be used to create openness when you want light pouring through, and visual privacy when required. It is all done with the flick of a switch, press of a button, or signal from your cell phone. Move over Star Trek, and hello Glass Trick.

It’s the time of year when we begin to add more layers before going out and start preparing for the holiday season. However, just before winter hits, you should use this opportunity to spruce up your home and deep clean. The first thing that you should deep clean is your windows to get rid of any dirt or dust, and then vacuum your carpets for good measure. The next thing that will need cleaning is your closet to see if you need any new clothes or can make room by getting rid of damaged clothes. It’s crucial to clear and organize underneath sinks, especially in colder weather, to allow heat to circulate and prevent freezing. Next is your chimney, as Santa can’t get his suit dirty, and clearing soot will reduce fire risk and improve ventilation. The holidays are a time when we’re constantly cooking and baking, so you should clean out those expired ingredients from your pantry.

An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for more than 40 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio broadcast, heard locally from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.

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