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Tempered Glass vs. Laminated Glass: A Comparison

Tempered and laminated glass have safety applications across various industries. Choosing the right solution depends upon its characteristics, purpose, and your budget.
Published April 18, 2020

Tempered-Glass-vs.-Laminated-Glass--A-Comparison---Text-GraphicWhen it comes to glass for safety and protection, either tempered or laminated glass are appropriate. Both are strong, durable, shatter resistant, and undergo specialized fabrication.

But how do you decide which is best for your project? Considerations include where the glass will be used, application type, specific benefits, and what you want to achieve.

Safety measures aside, both types provide decorative elements with high-level protection, while maintaining feature-rich designs. 

With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changing human behavior and economies on a global scale, these two glass types are finding new applications in nontraditional environments. Glass dividers, or sneeze guards, are an example. Previously used in hospitality, they’re now commonly deployed in retail to protect consumers and employees. 

Here’s an explainer about each glass type’s safety and design elements, pros and cons, current and new applications, and more:

Safety Requirements

Regulations dictate whether laminated or tempered glass can be utilized. According to International Building Code (IBC) regulations, safety glass is required in the following scenarios: 

  • “The size of the glazed opening exceeds 9 square feet.
  • The bottom of the glazing occurs within 18 inches of the floor or horizontal surface below.
  • The top of the glazing occurs at least 36 inches above the floor or horizontal surface below.
  • There is a walking surface within 36 inches of the glazing.”

Tempered Glass

Also known as toughened glass, this is clear prior to undergoing a specialized tempering process. Fabricators, such as Dillmeier Glass Company, conduct this to qualify for safety designations. 

Tempering is a five-step procedure comprising heating and a quick-cooling the glass. The ensuing rapid hardening strengthens the glass, and makes it more durable. 

A fabricator performs an air-quenching process, whereby pre-cut and -edged glass undergoes rapid heating and cooling through air jets in a tempering furnace. This is followed by chemical treatment. 

According to trends and techniques research platform Glass Academy, following the aforementioned steps: “the mechanical strength of tempered glass is four to five times higher than that of annealed glass.”

While safety glass lowers the chance of breakage, accidents and other elements will occur. Should tempered glass shatter, it results in small, pebble-like shards, rather than sharp edges. 

Tempering reduces the chance of serious injury, but it must be done by an experienced fabricator. Skipping this step could result in spontaneous breakage, stress damage, and other imperfections. If glass isn’t properly edged and packed by a glass fabricator, damage could occur, even prior to shipment and delivery. 

Tempered glass boasts a higher bend threshold, and thus is used to construct large commercial buildings in areas experiencing severe weather. 

It also costs slightly less than laminated glass.


Tempering reduces the chance of serious injury, but it must be done by an experienced fabricator.

Tempered glass is best  suited for commercial interior applications, such as hotel shower enclosures and doors, retail display cases, sports arenas, office partitions and doors, windows, railings, conference rooms, and furniture, such as glass tabletops. 

It additionally has significant specialized applications, as noted below. 

Sneeze Guards

Also known as glass dividers, these were traditionally used in self-service restaurants. They’re now necessary for limiting person-to-person interactions against COVID-19 in retail settings, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and post offices. 

Display Cases

Tempered glass withstands smash-and-grab attacks prevalent in high-end retail. Dillmeier Glass combats this with a specialized UV-bonded tempered glass process


  • Shatter & Scratch Resistant
  • Durable
  • Withstands Temperatures Up to 470 Degrees F
  • Won’t Bend Under Pressure
  • Can Be Specially Fabricated 
  • Cost-Effective 


  • Lower-Quality Glass Will Scratch
  • Can’t Be Repaired 
  • Alterations Can’t Be Made After Tempering


Laminated Glass 

This is produced with two pieces of regular or tempered glass sandwiched between clear plastic resin. Should breakage occur, all layers are held together, instead of shattering into pieces or pebbles. 

Comparable to tempering, laminated glass involves a five-step process:

  • Step 1: A fabricator customizes the glass per client specifications. This includes design, cutting and shaping.
  • Step 2: Glass is moved to washing machines designed to lessen large pane gaps.
  • Step 3: Machine-washing occurs during clean room preparation. 
  • Step 4: Panes are transferred to the fabricator’s temperature-controlled, debris-free clean room. Glass is heated and constricted to remove between-layer air pockets.
  • Step 5: Glass undergoes a controlled heat and pressurized process for transparency.

Laminated glass also provides wellness and productivity benefits. It can block damaging UV rays while still facilitating natural light for less stress and increased creativity.


Laminated glass is often used in office or hotel settings because of natural light and soundproofing elements. Other applications include frameless glass doors and railings, skylights and balconies. It’s also ideal for glass flooring, windows, and windshields. 

Digital Design

This material’s aforementioned sandwiched interlayer gives designers creative freedom to incorporate digital tools for visual glass imaging and photography. Its clear plastic elements can facilitate this component for decorative interior or exterior glass.

Public Safety

Laminated glass' bullet-proof strength is a popular choice with many police departments, public safety entities, and other areas where security is paramount. 

Laminated glass is often used in office or hotel settings because of natural light and soundproofing elements.


  • Holds Together if Shattered
  • Sound Reduction Properties
  • UV Ray Protection
  • Improved Energy Efficiency
  • Withstands Severe Weather
  • Easy Installation


  • Can Be More Expensive Than Tempered Glass
  • Lack of Manufacturers Offers Less Choices
  • Requires Longer Lead Times

Making the Perfect Choice

Whether you decide on tempered or laminated glass, it’s critical to work with an expert fabricator who has the necessary equipment and production processes for your application.

Contact us to learn whether tempered or laminated glass is best for your project.

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Create Stunning Glass Retail Displays  PDF Guide

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