Glass or Plexiglass?

The word Plexiglas® is actually a brand name, but it has become synonymous with the product in the same way that Kleenex has with facial tissue. Plexiglass is a solid, transparent plastic made of polymethyl methacrylate, or a transparent acrylic plastic often used in place of glass. Lucite is another trade name that this type of acrylic resin is sold under, as is also Perspex, Acrylite, and Lexan. Regardless of the brand name, these types of acrylic products come in a variety of grades in quality and strength. You’ll hear these products referred to as plastic sheeting and/or acrylic sheeting as well.

Let’s look at this product’s place in history. Glass for quite some time had been the standard bearer for clear home fixtures. With the development and advent of Plexi home and business fixtures, and acrylic furniture, particularly after WWII, where it had been used exhaustively for military purposes, glass became somewhat less prevalent. Today, plexiglass continues to see many uses in home furnishing, mainly due to the strength of the material and its break resistant nature; making it safer to use as furniture and functional pieces. While strength is a key factor in using plexiglass, the material is also incredibly flexible and lighter than glass. All of these factors, especially the safety, weight, and malleability of plexiglass makes it a good option for creating pull handles, knobs, curtain rods, and other hardware.

Glass tends to cost less than plexiglass, and can be more scratch resistant and more easily recycled. Though the benefits of plexiglass are that it is stronger, more shatter-resistant, and resistant to the elements and erosion than glass. However, prices will depend not just on size and thickness, but also on added features such as UV-cut and glare-reduction coatings. In general, long-term maintenance and replacement costs can be significantly cheaper with plexiglass.

Glass surfaces are more light reflective than plexiglass, and this can sometimes create unwanted glare or reflections. That is one of the reasons that many aquarium makers use plexiglass, in addition to its greater relative strength. Glass has about twice the density of plexiglass; a sheet of plexiglass weighs less than a sheet of glass of the same dimensions, so another benefit is easier handling and lower shipping costs. However, glass can be recycled cheaply numerous times. Plexiglass (since it involves the use of petrochemicals) is more difficult, and therefore more expensive, to recycle.

Binswanger often installs plexiglass stair rails, desk and tabletop covers, and pergola/sun room additions.