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Acrylic Sheet, Polycarbonate or Glass: What Method is Best for Building a Greenhouse? 

Written by MS
30/08/2021 10:00:23


When it comes to building a greenhouse or cold frame glazing in your garden, glass has been the go-to material for hundreds of years. This is, of course, due to the environment it creates, which allows plant life to prosper. But, is there an alternative?
 
Yes, there is! Plastics such as acrylic (aka. Perspex and Plexiglas) and polycarbonate are now more commonly used in the construction of greenhouses, as they offer many of the same characteristics: high levels of light transmission, insulation, and so on. 
 
That leaves one question: what material or method is best to use when building a greenhouse? In today’s blog from The Plastic People, we are going to tackle this predicament head-on and compare the benefits of each material to determine whether glass or plastic comes out on top. 
 
If you decide to take the plastic sheeting route for your next DIY project or greenhouse, make sure to check out our range of cut to size materials. You can get an instant quote on greenhouse glazing today - just click here! 
 
Should you use Acrylic, Polycarbonate or Glass for a Greenhouse?
 
In order to answer our central question of which material is best for building a greenhouse, we’re going to compare acrylic sheets, polycarbonate panels, and traditional glass glazing on several key points: 
 
  • Light Transmission: For plants and flowers to grow successfully, they need a lot of light. The visible light transmission rate for glass is typically around 90%. Acrylic actually lets more light through than glass as its rate is 92%. Polycarbonate comes in third place as its rate of transmission is around 88% - but that is still more than high enough to encourage growth! Polycarbonate does have the added benefit of being UV-resistant. 
     
  • Durability: One of the major drawbacks of glass is its fragility. You will often find yourself having to replace at least one glass pane on your greenhouse every year as it shatters due to poor weather. Acrylic and polycarbonate are more durable materials. On average, acrylic sheets are more than ten times stronger than glass, while polycarbonate is some 250 times stronger (you can even walk on it!). What’s more, these two plastics are safer to use than glass as they do not shatter into lots of sharp pieces but snap into large, dull pieces instead. 
 
  • Lifespan: Out of our three materials, a glass greenhouse will last the longest, but this is only if you can prevent any breakages. On average, a glass greenhouse will last 40 years, while an acrylic one can last up to 30 years before the panels begin to yellow in places. Polycarbonate glazing for a greenhouse will usually last for 20 years but are the least likely to break. 
     
  • Weight: Glass is a notoriously heavy material, which makes it difficult (and expensive) to work with and ship. Both acrylic and polycarbonate, on the other hand, weigh about half as much as glass, and so shipping costs are minimal! 
 
  • Price: Due to continual research and production, the prices of plastic are continually decreasing. While a few years ago, glass would have been the cheapest material for greenhouse construction, this is no longer the case. Acrylic will be your most cost-effective choice for a greenhouse, followed by polycarbonate, which leaves glass in the last place! 
 
  • Installation: When it comes to installation, the two plastics beat glass due to their durability and lightweight. Though all three materials are accessible for DIY enthusiasts! 
 
  • Insulation: Unless you opt for pricey double or triple glazing, glass is not the best insulator. Both acrylic and polycarbonate have greater levels of insulation than glass, creating an optimal environment for plant growth all year round! Polycarbonate is also available as cold-form and frame glazing. 
     
  • Customizability: As plastics are easier to work with, they can readily be cut into complex shapes and designs to fit awkward spaces - this is harder to do with glass. Plastics are also easier to bend for round roofs.
 
Summary
 
Though glass may be the traditional material for greenhouse glazing, it seems a bit outdated when compared with both polycarbonate and acrylic! These two plastic sheets offer a range of benefits over glass, including their price, weight, and durability. 
 
You can get an instant quote on our website today for both polycarbonate and acrylic greenhouse glazing. At The Plastic People, we cut plastic sheets to any size or shape and deliver them all across the UK! To find out more, click here. 
 
If you want to help build your own DIY greenhouse, then we have a guide just for you! Our team has put together both a written guide and a video, all about how to make your greenhouse indestructible - click here to check them out! 
 
Further Help 
 
Our customer services team are always on-hand to help with your plastic-related queries and questions. Feel free to contact them via email at service@theplasticpeople.co.uk or on our website here. 
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