Mirrors aren't only a feature in a bath or dressing room anymore. They are often used as an interior design feature to add depth and an open feel to family homes. Installing a mirror can be a great way to cover up bare walls and make small corridors or rooms feel more spacious
Glass mirrors are the most known type of mirror, but plastic mirror sheets are an excellent alternative to consider. Often chosen for installations in public areas for their safety, plastic mirrors have become more popular in DIY home improvement projects as well. The question is, what type of mirror will be the best for you? Do glass or plastic mirrors offer better durability and ease of installation, without compromising on quality? Are plastic mirrors the best choice, or is mirrored glass still the better option?
To help you decide we will compare glass versus plastic mirrors based on the below questions:
- Are glass mirrors or plastic mirrors stronger?
- Are plastic or glass mirrors heavier?
- Are plastic mirrors easier to install than glass mirrors?
- How to cut mirror – is glass or plastic easier?
- Do glass mirrors or plastic offer a better reflection?
- Conclusion – Are plastic or glass mirrors better?
Are glass mirrors or plastic mirrors stronger?
Plastic mirrors are over 200 times stronger than glass mirrors, depending on the type of glass, so are an inherently safer choice. With glass there is always a shatter risk, so mirrored plastic offers a shatterproof option. Not only are safer but they will save installation time and money due to the reduced risk of damage.
Public areas like hospitals, prisons and gyms almost exclusively use plastic mirrors for installations. Due to their proven track record, these mirror types are the preferred option when your are installing in any high-traffic environment, where there is a risk of them getting knocked. Plastic mirrors are shatterproof and impact resistant, in fact, they are the strongest mirror type available on the market. Used in hallways of busy family homes, added to kids' bedrooms, or installed in anti-ligature projects, there are no limits on where you can place a plastic mirror.
Customers often get in touch to ask how to fix a cracked glass mirror and the answer it is very hard to do! Unless you are needing to fix an antique glass mirror then the effort, time and cost to repair a glass mirror is not worth it. Save yourself any potential replacement costs by choosing a stronger option in the first place.
Are plastic or glass mirrors heavier?
Glass mirrors are unquestionably heavier than mirror plastic of the same thickness. Glass sheets are over double the weight of plastic so a big difference. For example, 6mm glass is approximately 15kg/mm, and a shatterproof 6mm polycarbonate mirror is less than half the weight at 7.2kg/m2. Because of this, using a lighter mirrored plastic is always easier to handle and fix up. They also offer flexibility for mirrors that need to be frequently moved and are easier to install in areas with restricted access or anti ligature requirements, like hospital wards.
Are plastic mirrors easier to install than glass mirrors?
Yes, plastic mirrors are easier to install than glass mirrors for a few reasons; mainly weight, ease of securing and cutting. Being half the weight, it goes without saying, they are much easier to handle and transport, a considerable advantage for larger projects. The extra weight of glass means you need a more secure fixing and stronger back wall to firmly hold them in place, especially for large mirrors. Mirrored plastic offers an easy-to-install alternative to fragile, heavy glass.
When installing glass mirrors, multiple factors that need to be considered beforehand:
- How will the glass be transported? Is it safe to carry the mirror? If it’s a full-length mirror are suction pads or lifting equipment needed? Is enough space available to store the sheet on a flat, level surface?
- Will the glass be set in a frame?
- What is the best fixing to hold the heavy pane in place securely?
- Can a standard size be used? Does the mirror need to be custom cut at extra cost?
In comparison, plastic mirrors are much less hassle:
- Large plastic mirrors are much lighter. As long as the plastic mirror is in protective packaging, there is a low risk of damage. The sheet can be easily stored upright, leaning against a wall.
- With the correct technique, plastic mirror sheets are cut to size easily. To remove sharp edges, sand down along any cuts.
- Mirrored plastic sheets can get drilled, making them easy to fix into place securely.
TOP TIP: Guarantee a long-lasting plastic mirror installation by using a backing board. The backing board offers extra support and prevents bending or flexing which can distort the reflected image.
How to cut a mirror – glass versus plastic
Compared to cutting a glass mirror, mirrored plastic sheets are manufactured to be easy to cut. Use the right tools and techniques to avoid damage to the mirror backing. Glass, in comparison, is very difficult to cut as you need a special tool, and it is a hit-and-miss to know if the cut will be clean. There is a high risk of the mirror shattering and each step must be executed to perfection to avoid damage.
How to cut a glass mirror?
The easiest way to cut a glass mirror is by using a glass cutter. Firstly, score the glass in a straight line. It is quite a tricky process. Too much pressure can cause cracks or shatter the mirror. Too little pressure won't score the surface sufficiently. For the next step, snap the glass along the cutting line. Place a dowel under the whole length of the scoring line. Then apply pressure, at the same time, to either side of the mirror. It is important to push down equally to achieve a clean break. This technique is hard to master. The best option is to have the sheet cut to size by the manufacturer.
If it goes wrong and you are wondering how to fix a cracked glass mirror - the answer is it is very hard to do!
Can you cut glass mirrors to shape?
No, you can’t cut glass mirrors to shape without a professional cutting machine.
How to cut plastic mirrors – acrylic vs polycarbonate?
Any plastic mirror type offers flexibility to make last-minute adjustments. The two main options to choose from are acrylic and polycarbonate mirrored sheets. Both have characteristics you need to consider when cutting or drilling into the sheet.
Acrylic sheets are prone to chipping or cracking when cutting. Take extra care when cutting acrylic plastic mirrors. Drilling and cutting close to the edges of the sheet are best avoided completely. We always suggest having the sheet cut and drilled by the manufacturer.
Polycarbonate is much stronger and shatterproof. Despite this, it is easy to cut to size, cut shape and drill. In comparison to acrylic mirror sheets, this type of plastic sheet is hassle-free to work with.
To cut plastic mirror, firmly secure the sheet to a workbench to avoid damage to the mirror backing. Make sure to use a sharp, fine-toothed saw blade with upward-cutting teeth. View our How to cut polycarbonate for a guide on the technique. Take your time when first cutting into the polycarbonate mirror. Once the saw has caught the material properly, it is easy to cut the sheet to its preferred size and shape.
Do glass mirrors or plastic offer a better reflection?
Glass mirrors do naturally give a great reflection. However, be aware not all glass mirrors are the same! Cheap glass mirrors will often have a distorted reflection caused by the lower quality film used.
When choosing a plastic mirror, go for a reputable brand to guarantee the sheet gets manufactured with top-quality resin. The reflection image quality of a mirrored plastic sheet also relies on how well the mirror is secured. It is always recommended to use a backing board to reduce any flexing. Also using a thick 6mm plastic mirror is the best option for good rigidity.
Conclusion – Are plastic or glass mirrors better?
It depends on your project - both glass and plastic mirrors have their strengths for different applications. Plastic mirrors are best for public applications, high traffic areas and anti-ligature projects like hospital mirrors. On the other hand, glass mirrors are more optically clear so are potentially better for high spec residential applications. For many home applications, plastic can provide a safer mirror option that won’t be a shatter hazard.
The advantages of both materials are listed in the below table to assist you in finding the best option for your project:
|Reflection Quality – Glass mirrors offer the best reflections. It is the better option for medical applications or use in the beauty industry. This material is also often chosen for high-spec installations.
|Strength - Plastic mirrors is up to 200 times stronger than glass. This means a safer and stronger mirror option.
|Restoration – Glass will always be the preferred mirror used in antique furniture restoration. Even though it is harder to fit than plastic, glass mirrors will upkeep the authentic feel of these pieces.
|Installation – Mirrored plastic sheets offer many advantages for ease of installation. They are easier to work with, need less space for storage, and can get moved without heavy-duty machinery.
|Weight – Plastic mirrors weigh half as much as glass panels of the same size. That makes them easier to handle and install.
|Cutting and drilling – Mirror-backed plastic sheet are designed to be cut easily to size and shape. They are also easy to drill for a simple screw fixing.
Did you know? Ordinary glass mirrors are often manufactured using copper and lead. Non-environmentally friendly materials can be harmful at the end of the product’s lifespan. Older mirrors can contain mercury so always take care before touching them and handle them carefully.
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