Articles / Glazing

Glass 101 – Types of Glass & How It Breaks

23 May 2022

Glass 101 – Types of Glass & How It Breaks

Glass is everywhere today.

We see glass in the walls of high-rise commercial buildings, in the windows of houses, in the windscreens of vehicles, around pools and as a part of doors. Then there are tumblers, fine crystal, cookware, bottles, jars, glassware, mirrors – and the list goes on.

There are so many types of glass, and while ‘it’s an aesthetically pleasing and useful material when enough force is applied, glass can break and shatter. With so much glass around us all, ‘it’s wise to be aware of the type of glass around your home and workplace.

So, here’s a short guide on the three most common glass types that are used and where, as well as how they break.

The classifications of glass and its features

There are many different types of glass for many different glass applications. Certain applications require that you use toughened safety glass, while others require double glazed or standard glass.

Here are the three most common glass types and their unique characteristics:

1. Float or Annealed (Standard) Glass

Float or annealed glass is a basic glass product formed from the heating and cooling stages of the “float” manufacturing process. This is the base glass that is used in the value-added production of other glass products such as laminated, various coated environmental glasses and the manufacturing of mirrors by using a reflective adhesive as a backing.

How it’s used: This glass is predominantly used for windows, decorative tabletops and mirrors.

How it breaks: Float/annealed glass breaks easily with only moderate force, shattering to produce long, sharp splinters which can pose a severe safety risk.

2. Laminated Safety Glass

Laminated glass is classified as a safety glass type, and is made up of two or more sheets of glass. These glass sheets are held together permanently by an interlayer such as polyvinyl butyral (PVB). Laminated glass is about two times stronger than standard float glass of the same thickness, with the advantage that in case of breakage, it generally holds together by breaking into a spider-web pattern.

How it’s used: Laminated glass is a cost-effective alternative to toughened glass and can be used for most of the same purposes as it can be cut to size after manufacture. This type of glass is most commonly used in motor vehicle windscreens.

How it breaks: Laminated glass may crack under high pressure, but all of the shard pieces tend to hold together, adhering to the plastic vinyl interlayer. This interlayer helps keep the broken glass together, which helps with security and weatherproofing (until it can be replaced).

3. Toughened Safety Glass

Toughened safety glass (also known as tempered glass) is up to five times stronger than standard float glass of the same thickness and has a much higher breakage and load resistance. It also has a lesser risk of thermal breakage compared to other types of glass.

How it’s used: You can see tempered or toughened glass throughout the home, from shower screens and front doors to windows and pool fences. It’s also used in furniture such as coffee tables and dining tables.

How it breaks: To break tempered glass, you have to target its weak points which are more towards the edges. When broken, the glass breaks into small square pieces that tend to be more blunt than sharp, reducing the risk of injury.

For more information, see What to do when glass breaks at home or the office.

Check out our O'Brien® glass experts smashing some glass below!

Safety around glass: what to look for when selecting glass and who can replace it

While glass is a fundamental element in any home or business, there are three main things to consider when thinking about using glass:

  • Natural light
  • Solar heat gain
  • Thermal conductivity

By choosing the right glass type, you can enjoy the view and natural light while helping to control UV and glare. You can also experience the benefits of the natural warming effect of solar heat during winter and reduce its direct temperature impact during summer, somewhat insulating your home against excessive heat loss or gain.

It’s strongly recommended to have all glass installed and replaced by a professional glazier. This is to ensure that the installation is carried out correctly and that you won’t have any issues later down the track.

Have your glass fixed and replaced by your local glazing experts

At O'Brien®, our local glazing experts can provide you with quality glass products and glazing services – from emergency replacement and new glass installation to glass shower screens, window tinting, pet doors in windows and glass doors and more.

Contact us today and we’ll help you prepare, protect and improve your home or office with quality glazing services – with the right type of glass for every application.

For more information about our services, call us on 1800 059 829 or send us a message to speak with one of our friendly staff.


Do you have broken glass?
Call us now on 1800 059 829

For emergency glass repair or replacement in your home or business, speak to one of our experts. We'll discuss options, costs and appointment times.

We'd love to help you, but unfortunately cannot assist with:

  • Cook tops or oven doors
  • Refrigerator glass
  • Light and lamp shades
  • Spectacle repairs
  • Phone or tablet screens
  • Curved glass or tanks
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