Glass Fence Guide: The Pros + Cons of Glass Fencing

by Katie Dillon

Glass Fence Guide
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If your yard has a view or perhaps you just want to enclose a swimming pool in a non-obtrusive manner, a glass fence might be your answer.

Before going to the expense of installing one—because they do cost substantially more than a nice wooden fence, for example—consider the pros and cons.

Framed Versus Frameless Glass Fencing

Once you decide to go with a glass fence, you need to decide whether or not you want it framed or frameless. Framed refers to the glass being held in place on two sides or all four sides by metal or wood railing.

Framed Versus Frameless Glass Fencing
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Contemporary Deck by Santa Cruz Media & Bloggers Shannon Malone

Frameless, more or less, means that there isn’t anything in between each panel to potentially block a view.

Framed Versus Frameless Glass Fencing
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Beach Style Pool by Brisbane Architects & Building Designers SBT Designs

Of course, a myriad of installation methods and designs of each method exist which influences cost. Usually, frameless is more expensive. However, of you choose a contemporary framed look with high-end metal poles, this can be just as expensive. Frameless requires a slightly thicker glass (in our case it’s 1/2″ versus 3/8″) but your installer should be able to advise you which thickness meets code and engineering requirements based on your design.

And, not to worry, the glass is tempered.

What About Plexiglass Fencing?

A less expensive option, plexiglass isn’t going to wear the elements as well as glass will. Over time, UV rays and salt in the air will cause the plexiglass to transform from clear to cloudy. Homeowners claim that it also scratches easily during regular cleaning.

What About Plexiglass Fencing?
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Modern Exterior by Sydney Architects & Building Designers Rudolfsson Alliker Associates Architects

The Pros of Glass Fencing

It Enlarges Your Space –

Glass fencing makes large and small yards look bigger especially if you use the Japanese technique of incorporating the look outside of your yard within your yard so that eyes can’t determine a boundary.

Doesn’t Block Views –

Most people install glass fencing to take advantage of a scenic view rather than block it out with a wooden fence. More view usually equals higher property value, too.

It Fits Potentially Any Landscaping Design –

The look of glass fencing can be changed the type of fastening system chosen to suit any garden design. Go with metal for a contemporary garden or perhaps a light, matte color if your yard has more of a Victorian look.

Glass Fences Are Durable –

Even in places with more extreme weather than Southern California has, homeowners rave about the durability of glass fences. Glass is made to last a lifetime so if you care for it properly, your entire fence should wear just as well.

One of the Best Options for Surrounding Swimming Pools –

One of the Best Options for Surrounding Swimming Pools
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Contemporary Pool by Sydney Pools & Spas Crystal Pools

Glass is resistant to chlorinated pool chemicals making glass fencing a popular choice for fencing off swimming pools. Plus, a glass fence provides more visibility into the pool which is always a good thing if kids are swimming in it.

You Can Clean it Yourself –

My husband cleans our fence about once a month using a clean window washer tool with a soft spongy head, water and a squeegee. There’s no real need to hire out for the task unless you want to.

It’s a Canvas for Kids –

This activity is best done on a clean glass fence with washable window markers and away from concrete or anything that might absorb stain but kids who are old enough to be gentle and follow directions can doodle up the fence. Of course, this is at your own risk and best if your fence borders grass in case a washable marker drops.

Potential Cons of Glass Fencing

Potential Cons of Glass Fencing
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Modern Patio by Montreal Specialty Contractors Vitrévolution inc.

Wildlife Can’t Always See It –

We live on a canyon in La Jolla. Even when the fencing is dirty, depending on how the sun shines on it some birds and bees don’t know its there. They fly into it, committing unintentional suicide. It doesn’t happen every day, but maybe once a quarter for the birds (you may want to consider removing any nearby bird baths or bird feeders). I’ve watched the bees fly into it. Most of them survive but some don’t.

You Have to Clean Both Sides –

Cleaning both sides of the glass if you have easy access isn’t a big deal, but if its tough getting to one side, then you may want to reconsider or budget hiring a professional. Plenty of window cleaning companies are experts at cleaning glass fences and often times they’ll add it on at a discount if they’re already there cleaning your home’s windows anyway.

It Scratches –

Do not ever, EVER allow someone to use razor blades even if they swear up and down it’s standard practice and fine with clean razor blades. A glass fence is more exposed to the elements than your windows are so the gunk will be harder to get off with more risk of scratching. We learned this the hard way.

The same goes for abrasive cloths and cleaners. Regular water and distilled white vinegar is a popular glass fence cleaner.

People Like to Lean on Glass Fencing –

Structurally, gentle leaning on a glass fence is probably fine but it’s an incredibly stressful event for the homeowner. For some reason, people subconsciously like to jiggle the panels (there’s no top railing) of our frameless glass fence as they look at the view. Kids, especially, will lean on it. We’re constantly asking people not to do this as our fence is bolted into concrete and movement can cause cracks.

Expense of Purchase and Repair –

Glass fencing, especially frameless and some styles with contemporary metal clips to hold the glass panels in place, is expensive. Our frameless glass panels sit in a metal channel that runs the entire length of the patio. If one panel broke, it would be a major repair to chip glass out of the channel and reset a new panel.

Powder Coated Aluminum Fades –

Even though it’s supposed to weather the elements, powder coat aluminum fades in sunlight. I regret not using stainless steel clips to install our fence. Not to mention, your installer has to be the most gentle creature ever because you can’t just patch powder coated aluminum with paint. The coating is fired onto the aluminum at massive temperatures that can’t be repeated in your backyard.

Our installed dinged the you-know-what out of our base and because it was already bolted into the concrete we had to accept their wonky fixes. Kid skateboards and the like could probably ding it, too.

Powder Coated Aluminum Fades
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Contemporary Exterior by Sydney Architects & Building Designers Slater Architects

Your Turn…

All in all, we love the way our glass fence has preserved our view and the ambiance it provides in our yard. Please also share your experience with glass fencing.

Katie Dillon

Katie writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site focused on parenting, luxury travel, cooking with kids, home management and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in the seaside community of La Jolla, CA with her 5-year-old fashionista, dog, and husband. Follow Katie on TwitterPinterest and Google +.

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