What are Polycarbonate Windows?

C.L. Rease

Polycarbonate windows are glass made of polycarbonate plastic. The composition of polycarbonate creates properties that make it hard to crack, break or chip. This increases the safety of building occupants from burglars, gun shots and hazardous outdoor weather phenomenon. Although polycarbonate windows are hard to break, they are not indestructible and have flaws that become apparent when installed in both residential and commercial applications. Protective coatings and material thickness reduce the flaws or allow a person to remove flaws should they happen.

Polycarbonate windows are installed in sunrooms and favored for their durability.
Polycarbonate windows are installed in sunrooms and favored for their durability.

Material hardness is a main difference between glass and polycarbonate windows. Polycarbonate is a softer material and scratches easily when left untreated, and the scuffs and scratches will rapidly cover the surface of the installed window, reducing visibility. Protective coatings eliminate direct surface scratches on the polycarbonate, but need replacement when scratches form on the coating. This reduces the costs involved with maintaining a polycarbonate window, but installing the wrong coating on the plastic can cause damage to the top layers of the window, weakening the strength of the window and decreasing visibility throughout. Matching the coating type to the polycarbonate is essential to increasing the life of the installed window.

Polycarbonate windows are very hard to break.
Polycarbonate windows are very hard to break.

The adhesive applied to the backside of the coating will determine the compatibility of the coating with polycarbonate windows. Petroleum-based adhesives will react with the polymers used in the plastic, which causes a thin layer of the plastic to melt and become hazy. Increasing visibility through the polycarbonate window requires using special tools to heat and polish the damaged layer of plastic, although heat alone will reduce light haze while at the same time distorting the view through the fixed window. Polishing plastics require sanding and polishing tools that create minimal heat during haze removal to ensure they do not breakdown during use. Removing deeper scratches requires additional labor and should only be performed on thicker polycarbonate windows.

Window thickness determines the strength and durability of an installed polycarbonate window. Thicker windows provide the greatest amount of shatter protection and allow deep scratches to be removed with the proper tools. Thinner sheets of polycarbonate do not provide the same amount of protection as thicker materials, but they can be easily installed over an installed glass window to protect it from breaking due to flying debris. All thicknesses of polycarbonate windows can provide peace of mind to a person wanting additional protection of their personal or business interests.

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