The Mega Guide to Polycarbonate

Whether you’re looking to expand your home by building a conservatory, carport, or greenhouse, it’s likely that you’re looking for a tough, lightweight, and cost-effective glazing solution. Whilst we’re all familiar with the many benefits of glass, polycarbonate is a fantastic alternative that boasts increased durability at a lower cost.

We’re often asked, “What is Polycarbonate?” by our customers, and that’s exactly the question we’re going to answer here in this blog. We’re going to explore the key benefits of polycarbonate roofing sheets to help you make the right decision for your project. We’ll also outline which applications are best suited for polycarbonate of glazing and which thickness of polycarbonate you’ll need.

Table of Contents

What is Polycarbonate and Where can It be Used?

Put simply, polycarbonate is a tough thermoplastic that is used in a myriad of ways. Unlike most other plastics, it has the ability to absorb heat, which makes it incredibly energy efficient and a fantastic insulator. Polycarbonate is also lightweight, making it easy to work with on-site. A highly sustainable material, polycarbonate can even be melted down, cooled, and reused – limiting unnecessary waste in landfills. Plus, it is highly resistant to high temperatures and UV light, preventing warping or discoloration in the sun. Thanks to these superb advantages, this material has almost unlimited applications, but polycarbonate roofing can be installed on:

  • Conservatories
  • Carports
  • Greenhouses
  • Sheds
  • Lean-tos
  • Cloches
  • Canopies

Polycarbonate sheets can also be used for many other glazing applications, including sports shelters, bike racks, security barriers and more. There really are few materials more versatile.

Polycarbonate vs Glass

Polycarbonate and glass have both established themselves as reliable glazing solutions. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages, which are summarised here:

 

Polycarbonate

Glass

Impact Resistant (200x stronger than glass)

Fragile

Lightweight and easy to work with

Must be handled with great care

Low maintenance

Needs regular cleaning

Significantly cheaper than glass

More expensive than polycarbonate

Vulnerable to scratches

Scratch-resistant

Allows in up to 70% of light (clear finish)

100% light transmission

 

As you can see, from a roofing and utility-based perspective, glass just can’t come close to polycarbonate. It’s stronger, lighter, cheaper, and much simpler to maintain. The only reason to opt for glass would be aesthetics and increased light transmission. While polycarbonate does not offer the same clean, crisp finish of glass, you still have a wide range of finishes to choose from to create a beautiful roof in its own right. Find out how to install polycarbonate roofing sheets here.

Benefits of Polycarbonate

All polycarbonate roofing sheets will provide homeowners with a variety of benefits. These include their light weight, durability, insulative properties and safety. When combined, these benefits make polycarbonate a fantastic glazing option and a brilliant solution for many projects.

Lightweight

Weight will always be a key consideration when choosing a roofing system. Whilst the weight of polycarbonate per square metre will depend on your chosen thickness, it’s significantly lighter than glass and most other roofing systems. For example, 10mm polycarbonate weighs around 4.5kg per square metre. This is less than half the weight of glass, which for the same thickness would weigh around 9.3kg. Not only does this mean polycarbonate is far easier to work with and install, but it’s also highly unlikely you’ll need to make any significant changes to your building’s structure to support it. What’s more, you can also use equally light glazing bars as part of a complete polycarbonate roofing system, including those manufactured from PVC and aluminium.

Durability

Few materials boast polycarbonate’s fantastic impact resistance. There’s no need to worry about chips or cracks caused by hailstorms or falling debris. Plus, unlike PVC, polycarbonate is highly resistant to UV light, and will not be discoloured or warped by exposure to the sun. Most polycarbonate roofing sheets also have extremely high thermal resistance, able to withstand temperatures of up to 135°C. Polycarbonate is so durable in fact, that leading suppliers such as AXIOME and Corotherm offer 10-year guarantees as standard.

Insulation

Multiwall polycarbonate sheets in particular offer exceptional levels of thermal insulation, boasting lower u-values than many alternatives. Not only will a polycarbonate roof keep heat in during the winter, it will make the space below cooler in summer. Offering a comfortable space all year-round.

 

Sheet Thickness (mm)

Corotherm

Single Glass

Double Glass

Argon Filled Cavity

6mm (Twinwall)

3.7

5.7

2.65

1.6

10mm (Twinwall)

3.2

5.6

2.65

1.6

16mm (Triplewall)

2.4

5.4

2.65

1.6

25mm (Sevenwall)

1.6

-

2.65

1.6

Safety

Millions of homeowners across Britain have chosen polycarbonate roofs due to their increased safety in comparison to glass. Polycarbonate is virtually immune to breaking or shattering, making it far safer for homes with children or where glazing is fitted at a lower height. Its light weight also makes it far safer and easier to work with, which is especially important when working at height, such as for a lean-to or conservatory roof.

Which Polycarbonate Sheet is Right for you?

There are many types of polycarbonate sheets available to purchase, including multiwall, solid, and corrugated sheets. These are each manufactured with different uses in mind and offer their own unique benefits. When used appropriately and fitted as per the manufacturer’s guidelines, they will offer fantastic strength and reliability.

Multiwall Polycarbonate

One of the most popular varieties, multiwall polycarbonate is ideal for conservatories and lean-tos. As its name suggests, multiwall is made up of numerous layers, which when combined offer excellent thermal and acoustic insulation. Perfect for creating a comfortable, peaceful living space. Available in clear, bronze and opal finishes and thicknesses from 4mm to 35mm, these sheets can be ordered cut to size or in a range of standard sizes.

Solid Polycarbonate

Made up of a single layer, solid polycarbonate sheets are very lightweight, and can nearly match the light transmission of glass – allowing up to 90% of sunlight to pass through. This makes solid polycarbonate a fantastic choice for projects where light ingress is paramount. Available in multiple colours including clear, black, opal and bronze, these sheets range from 2mm to 12mm in thickness. Although there are many standard sizes to choose from, solid polycarbonate is not available cut-to-size.

Corrugated Polycarbonate

Ideal for projects with a tight budget, corrugated sheets offer many of the benefits of solid polycarbonate at a lower cost. Thanks to their corrugated form factor, these sheets will also provide fantastic durability and resistance to impact. Unlike multiwall or solid polycarbonate, corrugated sheets are typically only available in clear. Due to their thinner profile between 0.8 and 1mm, we’d recommend corrugated polycarbonate only be used for smaller projects.

When choosing polycarbonate for your next project, do note that we do not recommend 4mm twinwall sheets be used for roofing applications.

How Can I Order Polycarbonate Sheets?

Stocking polycarbonate from three of the biggest names in the business (Corotherm, AXIOME and AXGARD) you’ll find one of the greatest ranges of polycarbonate sheets right here at Roofing Megastore.

To order simply browse our range of multiwall, solid or corrugated sheets and add to your basket as required. Remember to pick your glazing bars and fixings before checking out and your new polycarbonate could be at your doorstep in only a couple of working days thanks to our nationwide delivery network.

 

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN WRITTEN FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES AND WE THEREFORE TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY PURCHASING DECISIONS YOU MAKE OR INSTALLATION PROCESSES YOU FOLLOW AS A RESULT OF READING THIS ARTICLE. WHILST WE ACT AS A RETAILER, WE ARE NOT EXPERTS NOR QUALIFIED IN THE INSTALLATION OF POLYCARBONATE OR ANY OTHER ROOFING MATERIAL. WE THEREFORE RECOMMEND THAT YOU REFER TO YOUR MANUFACTURER'S GUIDE AND, IF APPROPRIATE, CONSULT A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL.