What's the difference between single-strength, double-strength, tempered, or laminated glass?


I never knew that buying glass for a display cabinet could be so difficult. The clerk at the glass shop asked whether I wanted single-strength, double-strength, tempered, or laminated. How do I decide?
—Frank Siorek, Saint Louis


Here's a quick comparison, Frank. Single-strength glass is 332 " thick; double-strength is 18 " thick and costs only 50 cents more per square foot from our local supplier. Tempered glass is available in a variety of standard thicknesses starting at 18 ". Tempered glass is difficult to break, but if it does, it shatters into tiny pieces, minimizing its danger. You must order it in the exact finished size you want because it can't be cut after it's tempered.

Laminated glass consists of a plastic layer bonded between two sheets of glass. Car windshields use laminated glass because the plastic holds broken pieces together instead of letting them scatter after breaking. A glass shop can cut laminated glass to any size you need. Laminated glass thickness starts at 14 ", however, so the weight may be too great for hinged cabinet doors.

For a medium-size cabinet, use double-strength glass in the sides and doors for its light weight and low cost. Tempered or laminated glass can be substituted as a safety precaution for cabinets used in bathrooms or where the cabinet is likely to be damaged by young children.