A lot of projects are using decorative acrylic in the place of decorative glass and for some very good reasons. But, is acrylic always the better choice? Acrylic does have its place along with a wealth of pros. But it does come with its cons.
First, there’s cost. This is a moot point because while acrylic has a small upfront cost, in the long run, it could cost just as much or more than glass.
Why? For one, acrylic can only be cleaned with warm water and soap. If any other cleaner is used, you will crack the acrylic and it must be replaced. If this is a laminated decorative piece, the whole thing will have to be reproduced.
Also, acrylic scratches very easily. Even if you accidentally clean it with paper towels, that can permanently damage acrylic. Glass on the other hand, is relatively scratch resistant.
Glass is Naturally UVB Resistant
Over time, acrylic will yellow. With a film or coating, acrylic can be UVB protectant, at a cost. Glass is naturally UVB protectant making it a great product to protect furniture as a glass tabletop, art work in frames, or when used as architectural decorative glass, perfect for protecting entire spaces. Note that glass is NOT UVA resistant without a film or coating, so you can still get skin damage.
Acrylic is porous whereas glass is anti-microbial. A lot of healthcare providers and hospitals choose glass over anything simply for this reason. It can be sterilized very easily and because of its tempered design, holds up in very demanding spaces.
In the world of decorative glass, you really want your designs to stand out. Be it etched, laminated, back-painted, or printed, you don’t want your glass to get in the way or limit you. Acrylic can have some visual distortions that can affect your project. Thicker pieces of acrylic and museum quality acrylic will avoid this issue. But those options come with a cost.
Shapes and Patterns
Glass and acrylic can both be bent and molded into pretty much any shape. Same for embedded patterns. The difference is that bent glass is much more expensive than acrylic.
Lastly, acrylic has the win for durability. Every piece of glass can crack and/or break. Acrylic can really stand up to any punishment…except window cleaner and paper towels.
A win for acrylic is weight. So, if you have the choice of shipping a lot of acrylic or a lot of glass, I’d chose the acrylic. But, thanks to glass hardware and adhesives, glass weight isn’t really an issue when it comes to cladding and installation.
When to Use Acrylic
- If you really need to save money
- If your cleaning crews know how to maintain the panels
- If you’re okay with some visual abnormalities
- If you need to reduce the risk of breakage
- If you’re often replacing the panels due to remodels or updates
- Much lighter
When to Use Glass
- High traffic areas when you need durability
- Scratch resistant
- Daylighting an environment
- When you need UV protection on the cheap
- When you can’t worry about maintenance
- When a clean environment is a must
- When longevity is necessary
- When visual perfection is a must