Commercial and Residential Glass Installer and Manufacturer Resource

Laminated Glass vs. Polycarbonate: Which is the Better Option?

Mar 8, 2024 2:35:00 PM / by Greg Martell

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When it comes to commercial applications, laminated glass is a popular choice due to its durability and safety features. But there are times when alternatives such as polycarbonate may be more suitable. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between laminated glass and polycarbonate glass substitutes in terms of strength, cost-effectiveness, and other factors. We'll also discuss why each type of material might be preferred for different uses in commercial buildings. 

By understanding these distinctions better, you can make an informed decision about which alternative is best suited for your project's needs – laminated glass vs. polycarbonate.


Laminated Glass & Alternatives 

Both laminated glass (LG) and glass substitutes have their advantages over traditional glass. Let’s compare LG and polycarbonate (PC) in terms of their:

  • Fabrication
  • Strength 
  • Impact result
  • Commercial uses



LG is made by bonding two or more glass sheets to clear interlayers. 

In most cases, the interlayer is polyvinyl butyral (PVB) resin, but sometimes it’s ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) depending on the glass’s specified end-use. 

For example, EVA film is preferred for exterior applications since it is hydrophobic and resists water damage. It lasts longer than PVB and does not delaminate. TPU is a more flexible interlayer, increasing a piece’s impact resistance.

Fabricators cut custom laminated glass panels to size and polish their edges based on customer specifications. Since most vendors keep LG in stock, it’s a quick answer for projects needing safety glass.

Polycarbonate, a thermoplastic, is typically created using either injection molding or thermoplastic extrusion methods. 

Injection molding involves forcing molten PC into a mold at high pressure, while thermoplastic extrusion requires melting PC pellets and pushing them through an opening to form long tubes or sheets. 

PC is formable both at room temperature and when heated. Manufacturers use press brakes to re-form polycarbonate sheets and heat them to a low temperature to set the shape. It’s also recyclable.

NOTE: You’ll often hear PC referred to by one of its brand names – Lexan.



While laminated glass is durable, it’s not as strong as polycarbonate, which is 250x stronger than regular glass. 

Polycarbonate sheets are extremely impact-resistant and nearly unbreakable. They can withstand multiple hits from high-velocity projectiles, making them ideal for security applications. However, both LG and PC are considered commercial safety glass.

Impact Result

Unlike traditional glass, if hit with an impact, it shatters into sharp pieces when broken, polycarbonate is designed to absorb the energy from an impact and deform without breaking. When LG breaks, the interlayer holds the majority of glass pieces bonded to it in place, keeping the pane mostly intact.

This means that even if struck with a high force, both LG and PC will not create dangerous shards that can cause injury.

Commercial uses

Because of its strength and safety, laminated glass is the first choice in many commercial applications: 


While also strong and shatterproof, PC is preferred in applications where cost and weight are factors. Commercial polycarbonate uses include: 

  • Bulletproof windows
  • Roofing
  • Greenhouse panels
  • Outdoor equipment windshields 
  • Windows
  • Partitions
  Pros Cons
Laminated Glass Strong
UV resistant
Polycarbonate Strong
Prone to scratches
Discolors over time
Requires coating to be UV resistant


Advantages & Disadvantages: Laminated Glass vs. Polycarbonate

Both LG and PC are great choices as strong and durable commercial safety glasses. However, they each have their pros and cons. 

Weight Differences

Laminated glass is generally heavier than its polycarbonate substitutes. 

The exact weight depends on the number of layers, but typically laminated glass weighs anywhere from 3 to 4 pounds per square foot. This is around 2-3x heavier than polycarbonate, which usually weighs in at just 1.5 pounds per square foot.

Polycarbonate vs. Glass Cost

Laminated glass is more expensive than polycarbonate substitutes. On average, laminated glass will cost around 2-3x more than polycarbonate. This is due to the additional materials and manufacturing process it requires.

However, polycarbonate has its disadvantages as well. What you save in weight and cost you pay for with less clarity and fewer “uncoated” benefits. 

Durability & Surface Finish

PC is prone to scratches, diminishing its overall aesthetic. It discolors over time due to UV exposure.

Whereas LG is UV resistant thanks to the properties of its interlayers, PC requires a special coating to achieve UV resistance. Coatings are also available to increase PC’s scratch resistance – but of course, adding coatings to PC increases its overall cost as well.

Fabrication Process

The fabrication process used to create PC offers advantages over laminated glass. This flexibility allows contractors to find custom solutions that perfectly match the needs of their project. 

Shaping Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate can be easily cut with a variety of tools, making it faster and easier to install than laminated glass. It's also much simpler to work with when creating intricate designs or patterns. 

Overall, polycarbonate has numerous benefits that make it a great option for contractors looking for an affordable and versatile material that can be cut into custom shapes quickly and easily. Its lighter weight makes it easier to transport and install than laminated glass while its lower cost means contractors don't have to sacrifice quality when sticking to a tight budget.


Which is Best for Your Project?

When choosing between laminated glass and polycarbonate, you need to consider their strength, cost-effectiveness, weight, fabrication process, and uses.

Laminated glass is clearer and more aesthetically pleasing – however, it is also considerably more expensive and heavier than PC. 

Polycarbonate boasts lighter weight and can be formed into various shapes through different fabrication processes – but it’s prone to scratching and losing its clarity. 

Ultimately your choices boil down to price versus performance. Where laminate glass may be clearer and heavier, it carries a bigger price tag. Meanwhile, polycarbonate provides more flexibility with lower costs – but, you’ll have to spring for the extra cost of protective coatings to achieve scratch and UV resistance.


Need Help Deciding?

We’re here to help! Tell us more about your project and we’ll help you choose which works best for your custom application – laminated glass vs. polycarbonate. Contact us today:

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Written by Greg Martell