In this article, we will discuss what low iron glass is (or lo iron glass as its also known), the increased cost of low iron glass and whether it is suitable for balustrades or balustrading.
What is low iron glass?
Low Iron, or Lo Iron glass, is a glass manufactured from silica with very low amounts of iron, resulting in a very high clarity glass. The low iron level removes the greenish-blue tint that can be seen, especially on larger and thicker sizes of clear glass.
Low iron glass provides maximum brightness and clarity with a higher visible light transmittance than traditional clear glass. Hence, it is a premium product, which is reflected in the price.
Is low iron glass suitable for & worth the extra cost in balustrades?
As the difference of low iron glass is most noticeable on the edges of the glass, it makes a significant impact when used in a railing, as in many situations, the edges of the glass are visible. Obviously, in windows, the glass edges are hidden in the sealed unit; however, the difference in clarity is still noticeable if viewed side by side.
Regular glass edges always have a greenish-blue tinge, but this is especially noticeable on thicker glass panels used in balustrading.
So yes, low iron glass is especially suitable for balustrading and is arguably much more worth using in a balustrade versus windows or similar.
Low iron glass when using coloured interlayers in a balustrade (or back painted glass)
Low iron glass is often used when a coloured interlayer is incorporated into laminated balustrade glass as this negates the greenish-blue tinge on the intended colour.
Similarly, low iron glass should not be overlooked if you are looking to back-paint the glass or match an exact colour. For example, a white interlayer in normal clear toughened & laminated glass will end up being a very pale mint green. However, this is only really noticeable when it is put next to something pure white.
Is low iron balustrade glass stronger, and is it safe?
Although low iron glass is made from different silica, the structural strength of low iron glass is the same as standard clear glass for all intents and purposes. The same toughening and lamination requirements apply to low iron glass being used in a balustrade as to standard clear glass.
Providing the low iron glass has been processed to the correct standard and installed correctly, it is just as safe as normal clear glass when used in balustrading.
Is low iron balustrade glass scratch resistant?
The answer to this is debatable; some manufacturers do state that low iron glass tends to be slightly less scratch resistant. However, whether this is a fact or simply a case of scratches being much easier to spot on low iron glass (due to its increased clarity) remains a question.
All glass is hard-wearing, but, unfortunately, none is immune to scratching.
Brand names of low iron glass
Low iron glass is often marketed under the processors specific brand name, and some suppliers low iron glass does have more clarity than others. Popular low iron glass brands are Guardian UltraClear, Pilkington Optiwhite and Saint Gobain’s Diamant.
The cost of low iron balustrade glass
Low iron glass is a premium glass product. It typically costs between 20% and 40% more than ordinary glass, depending on the glass thickness and panel size. We appreciate this is quite a wide percentage range, but some thicknesses of low iron glass are produced in more significant quantities than other thicknesses, with economies of scale making them more cost-effective.
Disadvantages / problems with low iron glass in balustrades
There are some disadvantages in using Low Iron Glass in balustrading (of course, every product will have some drawbacks if honestly reviewed!). We will discuss these here to help you make an informed decision.
The first is the extra cost associated with this premium product. However, remember that it is like buying a car. The luxury edition model – which is better quality, looks better and has more features is always more expensive than the basic model. But arguably, both will get you from A to B!
Another disadvantage is that any minor imperfections on the glass, either from manufacture, installation or which happen after the glass is installed, are more noticeable. Similarly, any dirt or fingerprints do stand out more.
Lead times on low iron glass, especially on larger orders, can be slightly longer than ordinary glass as many processors don’t stock it in large quantities.
Another point to consider is that as the clarity of the low iron glass is so good and the edges a lot less visible than clear glass, it can make a balustrade scary to walk up to if someone has a fear of heights or similar. Although it is perfectly safe to do so, your mind is tricked into fearing nothing is protecting the fall. But in most instances, this clarity is appreciated because of the unobtrusiveness of the barrier.
While some may say the difference between clear glass and low-iron glass in isolation is minimal, it does add that extra wow to a balustrading project, especially when the surrounding views are exceptional.
If your budget can stretch to it, it is well worth the investment as the long term enjoyment of low iron glass can’t be measured.
Remember to look for a supplier that manufactures glass to order. You don’t have to try and make stock panels fit your project. Whilst this might not sound like much, it is the difference between a good balustrade and a great balustrade! Manufacturing to order also allows them to include any holes or notches needed for the balustrade.