Polycarbonate Sheets, Not Just for Greenhouses Anymore
Want an easy to use building material with superior qualities? Time to try polycarbonate for your next building project.
What is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is a plastic material. It is used in many different formulas for many different applications. It is used for eyeglasses, auto parts, bulletproof windows and even for CD’s (compact discs).
We are going to be discussing multiwall polycarbonate. That is a polycarbonate sheet that is made up of multiple layers.
One of the more popular configurations is an 8mm twinwall. That means there are 8mm’s (3/16”) between the two outside sheets. It is kind of like looking at the edge of a cardboard box. There is a sheet on each side with a rib running between the two sheets. The rib is straight between the two sheets, not wavy like it is in a cardboard box.
You can get sheets anywhere from 4mm to 25mm and sometimes even thicker in the multiwall configuration. Many sheets are also available with a third wall, such as 8mm, 10mm, 16mm and sometimes 25mm. There are also sheets that have an X between the sheets going anywhere up to a 7 wall material.
The sheets are readily available in clear, opal (or ice), bronze, with specialty coatings such as Polycoolite or Softlite. A clear sheet of 8mm will have crystal clear sheets on both sides. But, you will not get a clear view through the 8mm panel. That is because the rib will distort your view.
Benefits of Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate is a lightweight material, which makes it easy to work with. For example, a 4’ x 8’ sheet of 8mm twinwall weighs only about 13 pounds.
It cuts easily with a skill saw, table saw, jig saw, etc.
It can be bent within certain limitations.
It has a high light transmission with a higher insulation factor than glass.
Polycarbonate sheets will last a long time. They will have anywhere from a 10 year to 20 year warranty depending on the material and the manufacturer.
It is great for areas with high traffic where breakage may be a concern. The manufacturers typically offer a 10 year warranty against hail damage, as it is so tough to break.
Polycarbonate for Greenhouses
Of the top 3 most popular glazing options for greenhouses, polycarbonate is my favorite. These options are 6 mil, 4 year greenhouse polyfilm, polycarbonate sheets and tempered glass. These are listed in the order from lowest priced to highest priced.
The polyfilm will not last as long as the other 2 options. The 4 year refers to the length of the UV protection. If you get the full 4 years you will definitely not get much more. The polycarbonate sheets will have a 15 – 25 year lifetime depending on the manufacturer and the sheet. Tempered glass will last pretty much forever unless it is broken.
Softlite or Polymatte both offer 100% light diffusion. This means that the light is scattered all through out the greenhouse so that all parts of the plant, even under the plant canopy, get good light.
Bronze and opal are not recommended for greenhouses as they have low light transmission. You would only use them for plants with low light requirements.
A conservatory is much like a greenhouse, but it is typically meant for more of a living space rather than a space for plants. These may or may not be attached to your home.
Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for a patio cover. You can choose between clear, opal, bronze, or specialty sheets designed to keep out heat. The main benefit of polycarbonate over solid materials is that it lets light into your home and does not darken it like solid materials can.
Polycarbonate can be used for skylights in homes, or even commercial skylights. There is even a polycarbonate panel that is made with a standing seam for commercial skylight applications. This totally eliminates the possibility of leaking around the seams. You would have to have several inches of rain standing on your roof for it to get to the seams.
Polycarbonate is an excellent material for fencing. It gives you privacy, but you can still get your sunlight in. You must be certain to use 2UV polycarbonate for fencing. This is a sheet that has UV protection on both sides of the sheet. This is because both sides of the sheet are exposed to sunlight. The UV protection is what gives this product its longevity.
Who wants to spend the day in a dark, closed in cubicle? No need to do that anymore. Polycarbonate will give the needed privacy while lightening things up.
Having spent more than 15 years in a hurricane area, I can tell you that hurricane panels are a great invention.
Plywood is heavy and it will darken your house. Chances are that if a storm hit you may be without electricity. This means you can’t even see to make your way around in your house. Sometimes there are back to back storms and you don’t want to remove the covers and have to reinstall them.
Polycarbonate hurricane panels are lightweight and easy to handle. Plus they will let the light in. If there is an active hurricane season you can even leave these on for an extended period of time.
Polycarbonate sheets can also be used to cover a portico to a commercial building such as a hotel. The guests will be protected from the weather, and still have plenty of light. This is just more inviting than a dark, solid cover.
In conclusion, polycarbonate is a versatile, easy to use material. What can you think of to build that I did not mention? Let us know in the comments below.