A Guide to Types of Privacy Glass

From bathrooms to office cubicles,  bespoke privacy glass has a wide and varied range of applications for domestic and commercial purposes. Also known in the trade as obscure glass, this name perhaps provides a better clue to how it functions – obscuring a view through window panels whilst still allowing the light in.

So wherever a little privacy is required without obstructing natural light, privacy glass finds itself in demand. But what are the main options, and how do they work? Here’s a brief guide to the most common types.

Types Of Privacy Glass

Ground glass

This type of privacy glass is made by grinding the surface so it is broken up into small fragments. This can then be sanded smooth, but the finished product will retain a matte texture and translucent quality. Ground glass tends to offer only a moderate amount of privacy – enough to obscure detail, but you can still generally make out shapes, movement and even colours through it. It is more commonly used on smaller surface areas than large, so in windows you would usually see ground glass in block windows, with full frames made up of multiple smaller panes.

Frosted glass

Frosted glass is arguably the type of privacy glass that most people imagine.. It is produced by sandblasting or acid etching one surface of a glass pane to create pitted indentations. As with ground glass, this has the effect of scattering light rays and therefore making the glass translucent rather than transparent.

Frosted glass is very popular for use in windows because the etching can be controlled to create decorative patterns. These can be everything from geometric lines, hatching or swirls to distinctive images such as leaves or flowers. Frosting is also more suitable for working on larger panes and can be used to achieve a range of opacity in the glass, from mild image distortion to heavily blurred.

Tinted Glass

Widely associated with cars, tinted glass is in fact extremely popular in commercial property. It is created by adding metal oxides to the glass in order to colour it. Tints can be used for purely decorative purposes and also to control the heat and UV light passing through glass, helping to make buildings more energy efficient. When darker colours are used, it also has the effect of blocking light rays of many wavelengths as they try to pass through, obscuring visibility.

One-way glass

One-way glass is based on the same principle as a mirror, using a thin metallic film in the glass to reflect light back where it has come from. However, in one-way glass the metallic film is extremely thin, so thin in fact that it only reflects some of the light back, but not all. When there is a difference in light levels either side of the glass – one light, one dark – the filmed surface acts like a mirror on the light side only.

This is because there is more light being reflected back from the light side than is passing through from the dark side. If you are looking from the dark side, however, this is reversed and you can see through to the light side. One-way glass is common on the exterior of buildings where there is a discrepancy between light on the outside during daylight hours and light inside.

Smart Glass

Smart glass is so called because it has the ability to change from transparent to translucent and vice versa. Some smart glass types respond automatically to heat and light levels, using photochromic and thermochromic chemicals added to the glass. These types are growing in popularity in commercial premises more from an energy efficiency perspective than privacy, as they can help to automate regulation of heating and lighting.

Other types of smart glass use pigments that respond to electrical charge, which means they can be controlled digitally. When used in homes or commercial premises, you therefore have a choice – turn the system on to tint or obscure your windows for privacy, or turn it off to have normal transparent windows.

If you would like to discuss which form of privacy glass is most suitable for your situation, get in touch with Glass & Stainless today.