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What type of glass should you use for your skylight?

June 3, 2020

Image by jan mesaros from Pixabay

No matter where you look, you’ll find that expectations for skylights are changing.

From the performances they offer after installation, to the safety standards they demonstrate both under immediate pressure and over long-term wear, the demand for improvement is growing across the board.

Thankfully, to meet those needs a new breed of skylight is finally emerging, and when looking at the level of performance they offer and how long it’s taken for these innovative designs to arrive, it isn’t hard to see why skylight providers and their customers are getting excited.

But before we dive into the benefits of what today’s improved solid-state models offer, it’s important we start from the beginning to appreciate why these new designs are so ground-breaking—or more accurately put—structurally-enhancing.

From Glass to Acrylic

Glass has been used as the primary material in skylight designs since the invention of glass thousands of years ago.

Though in the 1900s, with the spread of acrylics and other manmade materials, skylights began to move away from glass and toward other paneling; like acrylic-made plexiglass and plastics. These newer materials were embraced for the immediate benefits they offered, such as lighter weight construction capabilities and a more shatter resistant performance when compared to inset glass, and they dominated the skylight market for decades after.

Back to Glass Again

While acrylic and plastic skylights were prevalently used for a time, irritations unique to those specific materials eventually grew large enough for skylights to switch back to glass—though not without introducing some much needed improvements first.

While alternative skylight materials were being widely used tempering and laminating methods of glass manufacturing became more popular, and eventually proved a much more suitable paneling option in multi-piece skylights for a variety of reasons:

  • Visibility – Skylights made with glass provide almost perfect light transparency, whereas acrylic and plastic panels are prone to distortion and tinting. Not to mention glass is easy to clean, while other materials eventually stain from exposure to the elements.

  • Durability – Tempered glass is much more capable of withstanding stress than acrylic panels, making it better for enduring hail, heavy snow buildup, high winds, unexpected impacts, and the like.  As such, glass skylight providers are also able to offer significantly longer lasting warranties for their models.


On top of that, the interlayered structure of laminated and tempered glasses prevents cracks and splinters from scattering while also impeding the transmission of solar heat. That means reduced cooling loads, better insulation, and smaller energy bills.

The Closing of an Era: Tempered Glass and Acrylic panels

For a long while the only real downside that came with using tempered glass skylights were the increased costs.

Due to the more delicate construction required with multi-piece skylights, fixing a glass panel into a separate frame costs more than acrylic for manufacturers to make, and therefore, cost more for customers to purchase. Because of this price difference, acrylic and plastic panels persisted despite their lesser performance as an affordable alternative.

But to meet increasing safety standards as time went on, those acrylic and plastic models began requiring the inclusion of extra safety guards that mitigate their cost-savings, are more difficult to manufacture, and still leave users with the downsides of lesser visibility and more frequent maintenance. Even the tempered glass counterparts of these skylights began showing their own signs of antiquity, in that they still maintained dangerously easy-to-remove panels and leakage problems.

Soon it became obvious, that even this more recent standard of skylight simply wasn’t working well enough anymore.

A Higher Safety and Performance Skylight Standard

Skylights today are expected to meet certain performative specifications by organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

These combined safety standards call for things like minimum levels of resilience against high winds, hail, snow loads, hurricanes, and of course, protection against falls. But they also go beyond basic environmental hazard fortifications, requiring skylights to be constructed so that they meet specific performative standards in term of air infiltration, design pressure, water penetration, load testing, and the like.

For a detailed look at what’s required for a modern skylight to be considered both safe and effective, you can look over the AAMA standards and specifications for windows, doors, and unit skylights here.

Taking Glass Skylights to the Next Level

New breakthroughs in manufacturing technologies, like Reaction Injection Molding (RIM), is changing everything once more.


Now, solid state skylights are able to be made in one fixed-frame piece, and in custom shapes to match any space. They’re also being manufactured with stronger variants of glass that offer an even higher level of performance and actually cost less to use than acrylic models over time.

On top of all that, the single-piece construction of these glass skylights makes them even more durable than their multi-piece predecessors. Meaning they are easier to install, are completely leakage proof, and don’t require any maintenance on the users end whatsoever.

The Verdict: What Type of Glass Skylight is Right for You?

As you’ve seen from above, when it comes to the type of glass anyone should be using in their skylights today, there isn’t a better option out there in terms of cost and performance than what a solid-state model can provide.

Constructed through RIM technology, these unbelievably strong, long-lasting, and affordable models are effective and reliable enough to allow providers like us to offer full 20-year transferrable warranties across all our products.

Though if you’d like to see what solid-state skylights are available yourself, feel free to take a look at the commercial, residential, and custom options we offer here.

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