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Polycarbonate Vs. Acrylic For Greenhouses

Polycarbonate vs. Acrylic for Greenhouses

Glass has been a mainstay in greenhouse construction for centuries, but while its light transmitting properties are ideal for plant growth and natural indoor lighting, its performance as a durable construction material leaves a lot to be desired. That’s why architects, contractors, and even DIYers have turned to plastics-based materials like polycarbonate and acrylic to fill these needs. These thermoplastics provide an economical alternative to glass, and they also offer a greater degree of flexibility and design freedom. Which material is right for your greenhouse project? The answer depends on several factors, but two key determinants are impact resistance and cutting and shaping.

As you can see from the chart, both polycarbonate and acrylic are capable of delivering a high amount of light transmission (80% to 90% is considered ideal for greenhouses), but the real differentiator is impact resistance. Polycarbonate offers five times the impact resistance of acrylic, which is the primary reason polycarbonate is chosen over acrylic for construction. Material used for roofing, glazing, and cladding nearly always needs to withstand weather, potential vandalism, and incidental contact, and the greater impact resistance of polycarbonate is what makes it the material of choice for these environments.

The second important consideration when choosing between polycarbonate and acrylic for greenhouses is the ease with which the material can be cut and shaped, especially when it’s more cost-effective to perform these activities on the construction site. Acrylic requires some amount of heat to bend and shape, and special laser cutting tools and saw blades are highly recommended to avoid chipping the material during cutting. Conversely, polycarbonate can be shaped at room temperature according to the manufacturer’s cold-forming guidelines, and the material can be cut using a standard saw with a fine-toothed blade.  So, while polycarbonate tends to cost more than acrylic, that cost is often made up in time saved cutting and shaping and money saved on broken panel replacement costs.

To learn more about the features of polycarbonate, visit For assistance with selecting the right polycarbonate material for your construction project, contact UG Plast at 717-356-2448 or

Polycarbonate Acrylic
Light transmission up to 92% up to 92%
Impact resistance 5 times greater than acrylic greater than glass, less than acrylic
Weight less than half of glass less than half of glass
Cost less than glass, more than acrylic less than glass and polycarbonate
Heat Distortion Temperature 140◦C/285◦F 95◦C/203◦F
Cold-form yes not recommended
Cut, drill with standard tools yes not recommended
Requires heat to shape no yes
Recyclable yes yes


Compared to glass, both polycarbonate and acrylic are less expensive and lighter weight, but polycarbonate provides significantly greater impact resistance and can be easily cut and shaped at room temperature without special tools.

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