How to Choose the Right Type of Glass for a Home Greenhouse?

March 19, 2024

A home greenhouse is a gem that every gardening enthusiast cherishes. Perfect for nurturing your plants, it provides quick access to your fresh, organic produce. However, a key question that arises when setting up your greenhouse is the type of glazing to choose. Glazing, in simple terms, is the covering material used for your greenhouse’s walls and roof. This material significantly influences light transmission, which in turn impacts the growth and productivity of your plants. But with so many choices – from traditional glass to polycarbonate and plastic sheets – how will you determine the best material for your greenhouse?

Glass Glazing in Greenhouses

Traditional glass glazing is an option many of you will consider, being a familiar and aesthetic choice. Glass greenhouses offer excellent light transmission, a key factor for plant growth. However, not all types of glass are suitable for greenhouse use.

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Single-Pane Glass

A single-pane glass greenhouse is the simplest and least expensive option. But this type of glass loses heat quickly, making it unsuitable for cold climates or heat-loving plants. Single-pane glass also lacks the strength and safety features found in more advanced glass types. Thus, it might not be the best choice if your greenhouse is exposed to harsh weather conditions or physical impacts.

Double-Pane Glass

Double-pane glass consists of two glass layers separated by a space filled with air or gas. This design provides better insulation, helping to retain heat in your greenhouse during cold weather. It also reduces the risk of condensation, which can trigger plant diseases. However, double-pane glass is more expensive than single-pane, and it transmits slightly less light.

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Tempered Glass

For a superior combination of strength, safety, and aesthetics, consider tempered glass for your greenhouse. Tempered glass is four to five times stronger than ordinary glass, reduces the risk of injury from broken glass, and provides excellent light transmission. The downside? It’s more expensive than other types of glass.

Polycarbonate Greenhouse Glazing

Polycarbonate is a type of plastic that offers several advantages over glass. Polycarbonate greenhouses are light, durable, and resistant to impact. They also offer excellent insulation and UV protection.

Single-Wall Polycarbonate

Single-wall polycarbonate is a cost-effective option for a greenhouse. It’s light, easy to install, and provides better insulation than single-pane glass. However, it transmits less light and tends to yellow over time, reducing its light transmission efficiency.

Multi-Wall Polycarbonate

Multi-wall polycarbonate sheets have two or more layers, creating air spaces between them. These air spaces provide excellent insulation, making multi-wall polycarbonate a great choice for cold climates. The material also diffuses light, minimizing plant burn and promoting uniform growth. But like single-wall polycarbonate, it yellows over time and transmits less light than glass.

Plastic Film Greenhouse Glazing

Plastic film is the least expensive glazing option for a greenhouse. It’s light, easy to install, and can be replaced periodically. However, it’s not as durable or long-lasting as glass or polycarbonate.

Standard Plastic

Standard plastic, like polyethylene, is affordable and easy to install. It transmits a good amount of light, but it’s not as durable or insulating as other materials. If you live in a mild climate and don’t mind replacing your greenhouse covering every few years, standard plastic might be a good choice.

UV-Treated Plastic

UV-treated plastic is more durable than standard plastic. It resists yellowing and degradation from sunlight, providing better long-term light transmission. It’s also more expensive than standard plastic but could be worth the extra cost if you want a longer-lasting covering.

Choosing the Best Glazing for Your Greenhouse

Ultimately, the best glazing for your greenhouse will depend on various factors, including your location, the types of plants you want to grow, your budget, and personal preferences.

Remember that while light transmission is essential, other aspects also matter. Consider the strength and durability of the material, especially if your area experiences harsh weather. The material’s insulating properties will also be crucial if you live in a cold climate or want to grow heat-loving plants.

Horticultural Glass and Float Glass Greenhouses

In the realm of greenhouse glass, there are two other specialized glass types to consider: horticultural glass and float glass.

Horticultural Glass

Horticultural glass, as the name suggests, is designed for growing plants. This type of glass is typically 3mm thick, and when used in greenhouses, it offers excellent light transmission. For this reason, horticultural glass is a popular choice amongst professional gardeners and plant growers.

However, horticultural glass is not as strong as tempered glass. It can break easily and pose a safety risk, especially in a greenhouse environment where slip-and-fall accidents can occur. Another potential drawback is that horticultural glass is more prone to condensation, which can lead to increased humidity and potential plant diseases.

Float Glass

Float glass is a type of clear glass that is made by floating molten glass on a bed of molten metal. This process gives the glass a uniform thickness and a flat surface, making it an aesthetically pleasing option for greenhouses.

Float glass greenhouses offer a high degree of light transmission, similar to that of single-pane glass. However, like single-pane glass, float glass is not very insulating and loses heat quickly. It’s also more fragile than tempered or double-pane glass, making it less suitable for areas exposed to harsh weather or risk of impact.

How to Choose Between Glass, Polycarbonate, and Plastic Glazing

With so many types of greenhouse glazing to choose from, making a decision can seem daunting. However, it helps to remember that each material has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

For instance, if you live in a cold climate, you might prefer double-pane or multi-wall polycarbonate for their superior insulation. If you’re on a tight budget, single-wall polycarbonate or standard plastic could be a cost-effective solution. If light transmission is your top priority, consider tempered glass or horticultural glass. Finally, if durability and safety are concerns, tempered glass or multi-wall polycarbonate would be the best greenhouse material.


Choosing the right type of glazing for your greenhouse is a critical decision that can significantly impact the growth and productivity of your plants. Whether you opt for single-pane, double-pane, tempered glass, horticultural glass, float glass, single-wall polycarbonate, multi-wall polycarbonate, or plastic film, each option has its unique benefits and drawbacks.

Remember, the best greenhouse for you will be the one that fits your specific needs, including your budget, location, the type of plants you grow, and your personal aesthetic preferences. By understanding the different types of greenhouse glazing available, you can make an informed decision and create an optimal environment for your plants to thrive. Happy gardening!