Choosing the Correct Glass for Your Project

Residential and commercial glass are made differently and designed to stand up to different environments. Some residential customers might choose commercial glass, while others might choose residential glass. Choosing the correct glass for the right project can be tricky and with so many choices out there, it can be difficult to know which type of glass to use for which application.

The installation of commercial and residential glass windows varies depending on: 

  • Building materials
  • Building codes
  • Cost
  • Construction equipment
  • Construction time

Typically, modern residential glass is made with vinyl framing and crafted with thinner glass. Commercial glass is made with durable aluminum frames with much stronger glass.

5 Key Differences Between Commercial and Residential Glass

1. Strength and Longevity  

Generally speaking, commercial glass needs to be much stronger than residential glass. 

This is because many commercial buildings are built so high they need to withstand the strong force of winds. Commercial glass also needs to withstand structural loads with heavy-duty framing and reinforced glazing. 

Residential buildings don’t need to worry about high winds, or pressure from structural loads. That’s why residential glass is usually thinner with less reinforcement. 

Commercial glass is much harder to replace than residential glass, so it needs to last longer. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be viable to use. 

But why do they need different materials?

2. What’s the Difference Between Glass Materials?

The difference between residential glass and commercial glass materials depends on the building’s needs. The composition of the glass and the materials used in framing will differ. 

Commercial glass is typically made of tougher materials like laminated or tempered glass. The frames tend to be made of aluminum for increased strength and durability. 

Although modern home windows are usually made with thinner glass and vinyl frames, it is still strong enough to keep the elements out. 

Both types of glass are designed to excel better in specific areas for their intended purposes. They both reach certain structural requirements that need to be up to code. 

Another big difference is purely an aesthetic one. For modern homes with many windows, with wall to wall windows or for a home exposed to coastal elements, commercial glass is worth considering for its additional strength.

3. Glass Designs and Uses


Have you ever noticed how commercial glass tends to have simpler designs? That’s because they’re designed for basic function over intricate aesthetics. Commercial storefront glass needs to let in more light for larger business spaces. 

This is especially true with storefront windows in places like retail stores where you want your customers to be able to window shop and be enticed to come inside. Also, because there’s a need to let more light into larger spaces, you typically won’t see as much paneling on commercial windows that you would on residential windows. 

At Budget Glass, we can design and install automated glass features for your business, from windows and doors to office partitions and curtain walls.


Residential buildings have smaller spaces designated for windows so you’ll usually see less glass and more framing. Residential glass may have other effects such as frosting, tints and various textures or geometric designs. 

This is possible for commercial glass as well, since plate glass items like dividing walls or glass doors can be designed with textures and frosting to enhance privacy. Residential glass can also be used for railings, sunrooms, patio covers, mirrors, showers, backsplashes and more.

4. Cost of Residential Glass vs. Commercial Glass

Commercial glass needs heavy-duty machinery like scissor lifts and even cranes for installation in high areas. This increased difficulty in installation is a big difference between commercial and residential glass. Due to the time it takes to install commercial glass, this can bring the cost up as well. Residential glass is easier to replace, and the overall materials and installation cost is much lower.

Another factor in the higher cost of commercial glass is the time and energy it takes to craft the specialized glaze and stronger materials needed. 

Residential glass is typically made of thinner glass material, but what is commercial glass made from? The choice is usually between laminated or tempered glass. 

What’s the Difference Between Laminated Glass and Tempered Glass?

Laminated glass:

  • Made of compact glass that won’t shatter
  • Strength comes from layers of glass and resin
  • Best for preventing forced entry

Tempered glass:

  • Process includes heating, high pressure, and chemical treatment
  • Strength comes from stages of heat and pressure
  • Better for interior safety applications

Tempered glass is stronger than laminated glass, but with enough extreme force, it can potentially shatter from impact. Laminated glass is designed to never shatter and to stay in place. The cost of laminated glass is much higher than tempered glass. As with most construction projects, your windows should suit the needs of your building. 

Replacing residential glass requires more interaction between homeowners and contractors. In contrast, replacing commercial glass involves a general contractor managing the entire project. This is another reason why commercial glass is a higher budget item than residential glass.

5. Safety and Energy Efficiency

For safety reasons, commercial windows are designed to be shatterproof in the event of an accident or possible forced entry. This helps avoid potential injury or danger to anyone inside the building. Residential glass will shatter, but it is also designed to be as safe as possible for your family.

Another big difference is how both types of glass can handle energy. Commercial buildings tend to be larger, and accumulate heat quicker with sunlight and body heat. Without the right materials and glazing, commercial buildings would heat up too much and cause a major spike in the cooling systems. This would cause energy bills to become too costly. Residential buildings are typically smaller, with a much smaller footprint. This makes them (generally) easier to heat and cool. This is especially true with our Thermoproof sealed double-glazed windows.

Both commercial glass windows and residential glass windows are specially crafted to work in their respective placements.  At Budget Glass, our commercial and residential glass is made from quality materials and both excel in their specific areas. 

Whether you’re installing or replacing glass, the success depends on the quality of the products, and experience of those installing them. Here at Budget Glass, we love everything glass! Our team of professionals are dedicated to serving your needs to ensure a perfect fit for your home or business (or both!). For more information please call our Nanaimo office at (250) 758 – 3374 or email us today.