Tom Shafer

Obscure glass: windows with mystique

September 12, 2012

You don't need to be Superman to see through walls and doors. That's what windows are for. But if you're the one inside, you may not want just anyone sneaking a peak. Sure, if you've got a great view, clear glass might be a no-brainer. But if the only view is the one your neighbors have of your master bath, obscure, textured or patterned glass can provide light while allowing you your privacy.

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From frosted to patterned glass

Frosted glass was once the only option for obscuring glass. Made by literally sand blasting clear glass and etching it, frosted glass was thin and weak. Then the float process for making modern glass came along. It provides a way to obscure glass during manufacturing without compromising its strength.

In the float process the raw materials for glass -- silica, soda ash, lime and broken glass -- are melted in a 3000-degree oven containing a pool of molten tin. The melted glass floats on the tin and overflows. As the glass mixture hits the cool air and hardens into a ribbon of glass, it's rolled out, during which time the rollers can emboss the glass with a pattern before it's cut into sheets.

Patterned glass allows light to pass through with little loss of intensity; however, you see shadows instead of details. Different patterns vary the amount of light and visibility. Popular designs include rain glass, glue chip and reed glass.

obscure glass

Rain glass

patterned obscure glass obscure glass

Reed glass                                             Glue chip glass

Other obscure glass options

Glass block is enjoying renewed popularity, including its modern version, acrylic glass block. Typically wavy and not totally obscure, acrylic glass block diffuses images enough to obscure their details.

If you want a quick way to obscure your windows or door lites, you can make your own faux frosted glass with an obscuring spray sold in many retail home improvement stores. Valspar's frosting spray is easy to apply. Simply tape off your window frame to prevent overspray from hitting the window frame, and spray the glass evenly. You can even "etch" a glass door with the name of the room or cupboard it hides, such as "Laundry" or "Pantry," for a trendy decorative touch.

When doing a replacement window project, do not be afraid to add an additional window or door because of privacy concerns. Doors and windows with obscure glass are the solution to more light, less sight.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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