Polycarbonate sheets, renowned for their versatility and durability, come in two primary types, each tailored to specific applications, offering a wide range of benefits to builders, DIY enthusiasts, and beyond.
Structured polycarbonate sheets (most common type), often referred to as multiwall, twinwall, or triplewall sheets, are the go-to choice for various roofing applications, where lightweight, resilience, and weatherproofing are paramount. These sheets are ideal for projects such as carports, conservatories, canopies, and more. Here's why they're great:
Lightweight Yet Robust: These sheets are a marvel in material engineering, combining feather-light properties with robustness. This aspect significantly eases installation and reduces the structural load on buildings, a critical consideration in modern architecture. For instance, in projects like conservatories, where transparency and lightness are desired, structured polycarbonate sheets offer an optimal balance.
Unparalleled Weatherproofing: The resilience of structured polycarbonate sheets against diverse weather conditions is unmatched. They are designed to withstand harsh UV rays, torrential rains, and even snow loads, ensuring longevity. This durability is backed by research in material science, as seen in the "Durability of Building Materials" report which emphasises the sheets' resistance to weather-induced degradation.
Fire Resistance: Unlike acrylic, polycarbonate sheets are self-extinguishing. This property makes them a safer choice, especially in regions prone to wildfires or for structures with stringent fire safety requirements. The fire-resistant nature of polycarbonate is well-documented in fire safety journals, underscoring its importance in modern building codes.
Sustainability: In the era of environmental consciousness, the sustainability of building materials is paramount. Polycarbonate sheets excel in this regard. Not only do they have an extended lifespan, but they are also fully recyclable at the end of their use. This circular approach to material use aligns with the principles of sustainable construction, as discussed in the "Green Building Materials" report.
Versatility in Design: The adaptability of structured polycarbonate sheets to various architectural designs is a testament to their versatility. Whether it's curving them for avant-garde architectural designs or employing them in standard residential projects, these sheets offer architects and builders a creative canvas. This versatility is celebrated in architectural digests and design forums, often cited as a key material in innovative building designs.
Solid polycarbonate sheets, often chosen for their clarity and strength, provide a different set of advantages:
Optical Clarity: These sheets offer exceptional clarity, making them an ideal choice for applications where glass-like transparency is desired, such as in skylights or protective barriers. Their clarity is often compared to that of glass in industry analyses, yet they offer higher impact resistance.
Impact Resistance: The strength of solid polycarbonate sheets is noteworthy. They are virtually unbreakable, which is why they are often used in security applications, such as riot shields and bank teller windows. This high impact resistance is a focal point in safety material studies, particularly in the context of urban construction safety standards.
Cost-Effectiveness: While slightly cheaper than their structured counterparts, solid polycarbonate sheets do not compromise on quality. This cost-effectiveness makes them a popular choice for budget-conscious projects without sacrificing performance or aesthetics.
The most popular thickness of multiwall polycarbonate is 16mm.
Solid polycarbonate sheets, often referred to as flat sheets, are often the preferred choice for glazing and display applications that demand both strength and clarity.
Whether you're considering shed windows, greenhouse panels, or security glazing, solid polycarbonate sheets deliver the following advantages:
Exceptional Strength: Solid polycarbonate sheets boast remarkable strength, rivaling traditional glass while offering enhanced impact resistance, making them a reliable choice for security applications. It is up to 200 times stronger than glass but only weighs around half the weight.
Crystal-Clear Transparency: These sheets are optically clear, providing excellent light transmission without distortion, ensuring your glazing applications maintain clarity and visual appeal.
Versatile Glazing: With their glass-like clarity and durability, solid polycarbonate sheets are the perfect solution for a wide range of glazing projects, enhancing aesthetics and performance alike.
Both types of polycarbonate sheeting as equally as durable and easy to install meaning the choice between them is more about looks, budget and strength
Which sheet should I choose?
Choosing between solid/flat sheets and multiwall/structured polycarbonate depends on several factors:
Personal preferences regarding visual appeal.
It is worth noting that 4mm and 6mm polycarbonate sheets are not recommended for roofing projects but rather as cost-effective plastic sheeting for smaller garden applications like cloches and cold frames.
Solid/flat sheets can typically serve in the same applications as multiwall/structured polycarbonate, but there may be a difference in cost between the two options.
In general, when your project involves roofing applications such as conservatories, lean-tos, canopies, or carports, it's advisable to consider twinwall/triplewall sheets as a first choice. These sheets offer an economically sound solution for glazing, combining exceptional strength with extremely lightweight properties. Additionally, multiwall polycarbonate is available in various thicknesses, ranging from 4mm to a substantial 35mm, and we'll delve into choosing the appropriate thickness later in this Q&A.
Conversely, if your project revolves around glazing applications other than roofing, solid/flat sheets are typically the preferred choice. These sheets, like their multiwall counterparts, are lightweight but distinguish themselves by their smooth, flute-free surface, resembling traditional glass when installed. This makes them an ideal selection for those seeking the clarity of glass with the inherent strength of polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is renowned for its virtually unbreakable nature, making it a perfect choice for enhancing security in shed windows or ensuring safety in greenhouses.
When it comes to greenhouses specifically, twinwall sheets are more commonly chosen over solid sheets. This preference primarily arises from cost considerations and the additional insulation benefits offered by twinwall sheets. Their design provides superior thermal insulation, making them a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for greenhouse applications.
Ultimately, the choice between solid/flat and multiwall/structured polycarbonate sheets hinges on your specific project requirements, budget constraints, and desired visual aesthetics. Carefully weighing these factors will lead to the optimal selection for your unique needs.
Which sheet thickness should I purchase?
The ideal thickness of your polycarbonate sheet hinges on the intended use of the space it will cover. If you're constructing a canopy, carport, pergola, or any shelter primarily for protection from the elements, insulation value isn't a primary concern. In such cases, a 10mm thick sheet may suffice as it primarily serves as a protective barrier.
However, when your project involves building a conservatory or habitable room where heat retention is a priority, opting for a thicker sheet is advisable. For applications like these, polycarbonate roofing sheets with thicknesses of 16mm, 25mm, or 35mm are recommended. These thicker sheets offer enhanced thermal efficiency and insulation properties, resulting in reduced heating costs. In simple terms, the thicker the sheet, the better it insulates, allowing the space to retain more warmth.
The range that we supply includes structured polycarbonate sheets in various thicknesses, including 4mm, 6mm, and 10mm twinwall, 16mm triplewall, 25mm multiwall (typically available in fivewall or sevenwall configurations), and 35mm in sevenwall. Selecting the appropriate thickness from this range ensures that you achieve the desired level of insulation and functionality for your specific project, whether it's a basic shelter or a fully habitable space with optimal heat retention.
4mm: Ideal for cloches and temporary glazing; not suitable for roofing applications.
6mm: Well-suited for cold frames and greenhouses; not recommended for roofing.
10mm: Suitable for potting sheets and pergolas.
16mm: Ideal for lean-tos, gazeboes, canopies, and carports.
25mm: Perfect for lean-to extensions and garden buildings.
35mm: Recommended for conservatory roofs, orangeries, and extensions.
Could you explain the differences between Clear, Bronze, and Opal sheets, and which one would be the most suitable for my roofing project?
The decision on which roofing sheet best suits your application ultimately rests with you, the end-user. To make an informed choice, it's crucial to understand the concept of light transmission and the distinctions between the available options.
"Light transmission" is a measure of the visible light that can pass through a material, expressed as a percentage.
Clear Sheets: If your priority is maximising natural light within your space, clear sheets are the go-to option. They typically boast a light transmission rate of around 70%, depending on the sheet's thickness. However, it's worth noting that clear sheets are more susceptible to dirt and moss buildup on their outer surface, requiring regular maintenance to maintain their clarity. Ideal for areas where natural light is a priority, such as greenhouses, skylights, and sunrooms. They provide an unobstructed view while still offering the strength and durability of polycarbonate.
Bronze Sheets: Bronze sheets closely resemble clear sheets but feature a subtle brown tint. Think of it as wearing sunglasses on a bright, sunny day. While this tint helps reduce glare, it can darken the space beneath in overcast conditions or in already dimly lit areas. Bronze sheets typically have a light transmission rate of around 35%, varying with sheet thickness. These sheets are ideal for roofing in areas where you need to balance light transmission with shade and temperature control, such as patios, decks, and outdoor sitting areas. The tinted nature means less natural light penetration, which could be a drawback in areas where full daylight is desired.
Opal Sheets: Opal sheets prioritise privacy, making them an excellent choice for roofing applications in semi-detached properties where maintaining privacy from adjacent neighbors is crucial. While they offer excellent diffusion and thermal efficiency, they may not be suitable for areas where clear, direct light is needed. These sheets are opaque and white in color, allowing minimal light transmission, which can be as low as 20%. However, the opaque nature doesn't tell the whole story. The white color diffuses light effectively from within the space beneath, creating a light and airy atmosphere. Unlike clear sheets, opal sheets are low-maintenance, as dirt accumulation is not visible from the interior.
The choice between Clear, Bronze, and Opal polycarbonate sheets should be based on the specific requirements of your project:
For Maximum Daylight: Choose Clear sheets.
For Balanced Light with Heat and Glare Reduction: Opt for Bronze sheets.
For Diffused Light and Thermal Efficiency: Select Opal sheets.
Consider factors like the geographical location of the project, the desired aesthetic, the amount of natural light needed, and any thermal insulation requirements. Each type of sheet offers unique benefits, and the right choice will depend on the specific needs and goals of your roofing project.
How long do polycarbonate sheets last?
A properly cared-for polycarbonate roof boasts a lifespan ranging from 10 to 20 years! Prioritising the acquisition of the appropriate fixtures and fastenings is a wise investment, well worth the additional time and cost before embarking on your project
What other items do I need?
Your initial consideration should revolve around the choice between having your roof supported by timber rafters or opting for a self-supporting structure. The decision you make will determine the type of glazing bars and accessories you need for your roofing project.
For Timber Rafter Support:
If you intend for your roof to rest on a series of timber rafters, you'll require our range of "rafter-supported glazing bars."
Typically, the installation process for rafter-supported glazing bars involves placing one joining bar between each sheet of polycarbonate roofing. When reaching either side of the roof, a glazing bar should be used alongside a PVC F-Section to seal the edge.
To prevent dirt and insects from entering, it's recommended to close the sheets at the gutter end using a polycarbonate end closure.
Additionally, to secure the panels and prevent wind lift, consider using a series of polycarbonate fixing buttons.
For Self-Supported Bars:
An alternative method involves using our "self-supported" glazing bars. These bars are designed exclusively for use with 16mm polycarbonate roofing sheets and above. They are best suited for installation by experienced DIY enthusiasts or professionals.
Self-supported glazing bars don't require a timber support structure underneath them and are capable of self-supporting up to four meters.
However, it's crucial to adhere to the loading chart meticulously to prevent sheet sagging or potential failures of the supporting bars.
Our range of self-support glazing bars includes intermediate glazing bars for joining two sheets together, edge glazing bars for either end of the roof, eaves beam for the lower (gutter end) of the roof, and wall plates for connecting the roof to the wall.
Similar to rafter-supported glazing bars, it's essential to use a polycarbonate end closure at the lower gutter edge of the roof for comprehensive sealing.
All our glazing bars and accessories are available in both white and brown finishes, providing flexibility to match your roofing project's aesthetics and requirements.
I've obtained my sheet, but how can I cut it to fit my needs?
Cutting polycarbonate sheets is a straightforward process. You have a few options for cutting, depending on the thickness of the sheet:
For most polycarbonate sheets: You can use a fine-toothed hand saw, a jigsaw, or a circular saw. These tools will easily and accurately cut through the material.
For 4mm twinwall sheets: These are even simpler to cut and can be easily trimmed with a sharp Stanley knife for precision and ease.
Does polycarbonate bend?
Nope! Polycarbonate stands as an exceptionally durable plastic, rendering it virtually impervious to breakage. In fact, solid polycarbonate is frequently employed in high-impact settings like vandal-resistant shelters, riot shields, and correctional facilities. Rest assured, there's no need to worry about your roof panels shattering during the installation of polycarbonate on your roof!
Polycarbonate vs Glass
Twinwall and Multiwall vs Solid Polycarbonate Sheets
Differences between Twinwall and Multiwall
Both are types of polycarbonate sheets with varying internal walls.
Internal walls enhance strength and insulation.
Twinwall has two external layers and internal connectors.
Multiwall has two external layers and multiple internal layers (3 layers or more).
Thicker sheets have more internal walls.
Thicknesses: 4mm, 6mm, and 10mm are Twinwall; 16mm, 25mm, and 35mm are Multiwall.
Thicker Multiwall sheets offer better thermal insulation (lower U Value).
Thicker Multiwall sheets tend to have greater sound reduction compared to thinner 6mm and 10mm sheets.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Trade Circle Holdings Ltd operates as an online retailer of polycarbonate sheets. It's important to clarify that we do not provide services as roof designers, structural engineers, or builders. While we can certainly offer guidance and information on the products available through our website, the ultimate decision regarding the products you require rests with you, the customer. If you find yourself uncertain about your specific needs or requirements, we strongly recommend consulting with a qualified professional who can provide expert advice tailored to your project. Please be aware that Trade Circle Holdings Ltd cannot assume responsibility for any issues or failures related to roofing sheets that may arise due to inadequate roof design or improper installation. Your project's success hinges on sound design and quality installation, and we encourage you to seek professional assistance when in doubt.