What Is Fiberglass? | Fiberglass Types & How They’re Used in Construction

Producing of fiberglass reinforcement - the wire passes through the engine oil - top view shot

Impressed with a fiberglass wall covering that you recently came across at a friend’s place? 

Then you might already be wondering whether this visually appealing material can be used for your home. But to understand this clearly, you’ll need to know what fiberglass actually is and various other essential facets of this construction material. 

That’s why we’ve curated this extensive guide to all the essentials. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in. 

What Is Fiberglass, Fiberglass Types & Uses

Hand holding a fiberglass batt. Image of home insulation.

Defining Fiberglass

Fiberglass basically refers to the fine glass fibers created by spinning molten glass. These fibers may be flattened into a sheet known as chopped strand mat, woven into a glass cloth, or combined randomly to yield different valuable varieties of fiberglass. 

The exceptional versatility of glass fiber reinforced plastic puts it ahead of other fiber reinforcements. It finds use in the production of boats, aircrafts, bath enclosures and tubs, automobiles, septic tanks, hot tubs, swimming pools, pipes, roofing, and many more structures. 

Notably, the raw material used for fiberglass is no different from that applied in making kitchen glasses and window panes. It’s the manufacturing procedure that lends this substance the form you’re acquainted with. 

The glass undergoes melting, after which it’s forced through superfine holes to create tiny, thin glass filaments. As a result, it becomes perfect for making puffy substances applied for insulation and soundproofing or weaving into fiberglass sheets. 

Properties Of Fiberglass

The popularity of fiberglass as a reinforcement polymer stems from its range of properties. So, let’s take a quick look at each of them: 

1. Dimensional Stability

The dimensional stability of any material is defined as the extent to which it maintains its previous dimensions on being subjected to temperature and humidity changes. Fiberglass surpasses many other materials in terms of this characteristic, so it will retain its dimensions despite variations in temperature or hygrometry. 

2. Electrical Characteristics

Even though fiberglass is a pretty thin material, it provides commendable electrical insulation. That’s why you’ll find fiberglass being used in many electrical repairs and installation jobs. 

3. Mechanical Strength

Another significant property distinguishing fiberglass from other materials is its exceptional ability to tolerate the impact of physical forces. In fact, it offers greater resistance than steel, which is why it’s one of the most effective reinforcement materials. 

4. Incombustibility

The mineral composition of fiberglass is also a feature worth mentioning, as this makes it incombustible or incapable of supporting or propagating flame. Note that it doesn’t smoke or emit toxic substances on being exposed to heat. 

5. Thermal Conductivity

Its low thermal conductivity is also an advantage, making it highly useful for construction purposes. 

6. Durability

You’ll be glad to know that fiberglass doesn’t rot, so it won’t be affected by rodents or insects. This helps retain its structural integrity and extend the lifespan of structures built using the material. 

7. Usability With Organic Substances 

Last but not least, fiberglass is equally compatible with mineral matrices such as cement and several synthetic resins. This makes it useful for construction projects that require enhancing the strength of the base materials used. 

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Types of Fiberglass

Interestingly, fiberglass is available in several variants, with each manufactured to suit specific needs. These types come with varying compositions, thereby giving rise to a distinct set of features. 

A. Based On Their Properties 

Note that the difference mostly lies in the raw materials used in making each type. However, the basic chemical composition of the material remains intact with just a few exceptions. 

Speaking of the primary raw materials applied in making the glass fibers, these include soda ash, limestone, and silica sand. The ingredient profile also includes traces of borax, magnesite, alumina, feldspar, kaolin clay, etc. It’s the inclusion of the other ingredients which imparts different properties to the varieties available. 

So, it’s time to look at the various types of fiberglass categorized based on their properties: 

  1. C-Glass Fiber 

Chemical glass or C-Glass offers maximum resistance to chemicals, providing structural balance in a corrosive environment. What imparts this property to the fiberglass is the use of Calcium Borosilicate in high amounts. 

Additionally, the other components of this variety of fiberglass possess a pH value that provides the ultimate resistance, irrespective of the environment in which they’re being used. Such properties make it suitable for use as a surface tissue for tanks and pipes meant for holding chemicals and water. 

  1. A-Glass Fiber

Also referred to as soda-lime glass, alkali glass is the most abundant variety of fiberglass. It has a wide range of applications, including the production of glass containers, bakeware, and window panes. 

The additional raw materials used in making this type include alumina, dolomite, trona, feldspar, and fining agents such as sodium sulfate and sodium chloride. What makes soda-lime glass so popular is the combination of several properties, including chemical stability, workability, hardness, and affordable cost. 

You can even re-soften and re-melt this fiberglass several times, which makes it the best type for recycling glass. 

  1. E-Glass Fiber

This composite and lightweight material is popularly called electrical glass, and is ideal for marine, industrial, and aerospace applications. 

Additionally, this fiberglass type balances cost and performance, ensuring it’s affordable to all homeowners. It possesses excellent draping characteristics, which makes it clean to use. The other raw materials applied in making E-glass fiber are the oxides of magnesium, sodium, boron, and potassium. 

The strong points of this variety include its low density, high mechanical strength, appreciable electric insulation, excellent heat resistance, negligible moisture sensitivity, and much more. Thanks to such diverse properties, it’s used in electrical applications, the production of glass panels and sheets, and their varieties combined with specialized thermosetting resins. 

  1. D-Glass Fiber

Known for its low capacity to store electricity and become polarized in any electrical field, D-glass fiber is suitable for high-power applications such as optical cables. This is due to the use of boron trioxide in the glass formulation. 

Also, it consists of borosilicate that imparts a very low coefficient of thermal expansion. That’s why this fiberglass variety is regarded as one of the safest and most efficient materials for use in cookware and electrical appliances. Notably, it’s often referred to as borosilicate glass due to its chemical composition. 

  1. ECR Glass Fiber

Alternatively called electronic fiberglass, this variety offers exceptional mechanical strength, good acid and alkali resistance, and efficient waterproofing ability. Another great advantage is that it’s manufactured using an environmentally friendly procedure, unlike many other fiberglass varieties. 

Composed of calcium aluminosilicates that provide excellent electrical conductivity and chemical corrosion resistance, ECR glass fiber is predominantly applied in making transparent GRP panels. It contains calcium aluminosilicates besides the standard ingredients, which provide electrical conductivity ideal for use in electrical goods. 

And that’s not all; you can access this superior-grade fiberglass at a more affordable cost than many other varieties. 

  1. Advantex Glass Fiber

Interestingly, this fiberglass variety offers an intriguing combination of the electrical and mechanical characteristics of E-glass and the acid resistance of ECR glass. Advantex fiberglass uses calcium oxide in high amounts, just as ECR glass fiber. 

It also has a higher melting point, which makes it suitable for production processes involving greater thermal fluctuation. Plus, the efficient acid resistance on offer makes it suitable for use in structures prone to corrosion. This variety even finds use in gas, mining, and oil industries, marine applications, and the power generation industry. 

  1. T-Glass Fiber

T-glass is also known by other trade names like S-glass or R-glass fiber and offers commendable tensile strength, which is more than even E-glass. 

The acidic strength and wetting properties of this fiberglass variety are also stronger and are derived by decreasing the diameter of its filament. Notably, it’s used in the civilian aerospace industry, and for making rigid ballistic armor. 

You should also keep in mind that the production volume of this variety is low, which naturally increases the cost involved. The low volume of production is owing to its high-performance characteristics and use in specific industries. 

  1. S2-Glass Fiber

It’s undoubtedly the highest-performing variety of fiberglass you’ll come across, thanks to a much higher silica level in its composition in comparison with other types. As such, it offers more efficient weight performance, high compressive strength, and high temperature resistance. 

An interesting property of this variety is its superior tensile strength, which is approximately 85% greater compared to conventional fiberglass. This provides great durability and helps retain its efficiency over the years. Moreover, S2-glass comes with appreciable fiber toughness and impact resistance, thereby making the structures more tolerant to long-term damage. 

This variety is mostly applied in the textile and composite industry owing to such strong physical properties. 

  1. M-Glass Fiber

This fiberglass variety is different from the others in that it comes with beryllium which adds more elasticity. As such, it can be useful for projects which require the use of more elastic materials. 

  1. AR-Glass Fiber

Alkali-resistant glass is developed specifically for being used with concrete. Its composition is formulated with an optimal amount of Zirconia, which makes it ideal for use in concrete. Speaking of the properties of this variety, it provides added flexibility and strength to concrete, thereby preventing cracks. 

Also, AR-glass can’t be dissolved in water easily and isn’t affected by pH changes. Its applications include the production of Premix GFRC and other mortar and concrete reinforcements. 

Furthermore, the rust-proof nature of this variety enhances its durability further. 

  1. Z-Glass Fiber

This reinforcement fiber is among the most reliable and durable options for fiberglass. What makes this possible is its high resistance to UV, alkali, acids, salts, temperature rise, wear, scratch, and mechanical impact. Notably, it’s used to create transparent products in the industry for concrete reinforcement and make fibers for 3D printers. 

B. Based On Their Form

FIberglass is sold in four different forms, each of which has diverse applications. 

  1. Veil Mats

To impart this unique form to fiberglass, it’s made into continuous fiber strands, arranged in narrow piles, and then looped randomly. Veil mats possess a consistency very similar to tissue paper and aren’t meant for any structural applications. 

That said, they have certain significant uses, like the sanding of finished parts while ensuring they don’t penetrate the fabric within and making sandwich cores. They’re placed directly above the core to maintain the ideal thickness of the bond line. 

  1. Woven Fabrics

These are strong reinforcements consisting of fabrics oriented in two directions and bundled into yarns. Notably, this form of fiberglass is applied in making molds, reinforcing wood, and repairing regular fiberglass. 

  1. Chopped Strand Mat

Chopped strand mats come with glass fibers that are 3 to 4-inch long and don’t have a fixed orientation, unlike a woven fabric. Since the length of the fibers is quite short, they’re not as strong as the other forms. But their cost-effectiveness has made these the most widely used form of fiberglass. 

  1. Roving And Tow

Fiberglass can also be found rolled on spools that you need to cut or feed into a filament winder. Interestingly, this form possesses the maximum number of achievable properties. But keep in mind that they must stay in tension to ensure their mechanical properties are retained effectively. 

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Application In The Construction Industry 

As is evident from above, fiberglass has a range of applications in various industries. But you should note that it’s used in a composite in most cases. 

A composite material is, in effect, a combination of different materials that functions as a new substrate. It mostly comprises a reinforcement material that can be of various types and a base or matrix that might be plastic, metal, or ceramic. 

Fiberglass is among the most widely used reinforcement materials that enhance the strength of the composite compared to when each constituent is used on its own. Thus, fiberglass reinforced plastic (GRP) has several uses in the construction industry as well: 

1. Exterior Applications

Glass-reinforced plastic is widely used in wall cladding and making roof panels as it’s highly durable and has a considerable impact on the aesthetics of a building. Thus, you can use it to effectively protect walls made of steel, wood, and concrete in the long term. 

2. Indoor Use

Semi-finished products made of fiberglass are often used along with GRPs in indoor areas. Notably, the material is completely waterproof and offers the perfect combination of durability and aesthetic formability. These properties make it ideal for use in interior design and coating décor items. 

3. Mesh Fabrics

Glass wool fibers are applied for producing mesh fabrics, which possess great tensile strength, alkali resistance, and low elongation. 

That’s why these single or twisted yarns can be used to reinforce facades and prevent cracks on interior walls. Plus, mesh fabrics are highly effective as a thermal insulation material, so they’re a key constituent of fiberglass insulation systems and industrial gaskets. 

4. Laid Scrim

Scrim is basically a continuous filament formation in open mesh constructions. The manufacturing process for this reinforcing fabric bonds non-woven glass filament yarns chemically, thereby lending unique characteristics. 

5. Drywall Tapes

These are self-adhesive tapes used to enhance joint strength in any construction and repairing damaged drywall. They also offer high thermal insulation, which makes them ideal for wood-burning stoves, boilers, and industrial ovens. 

Fiberglass Frequently Asked Questions ?

Is fiberglass dust flammable?

Owing to the presence of resins or plastic in fiberglass, the dust generated from this material is combustible. As such, fiberglass collection systems should include protective measures to prevent fire or explosions. 

How should you maintain fiberglass structures?

You should wash fiberglass regularly using fresh water and a good-quality soap. Notably, some soaps can even be used on gel coatings to maintain the luster of such structures. 

Producing fiberglass rods - manufacture of composite reinforcement, industry for construction, close up

Fiberglass Final Words

There you have it — a simplified guide on fiberglass and its various uses in the construction industry. Now that you’ve understood the key aspects of this interesting construction material, it’s time to figure out how you can use it for construction projects. 

On a side note, it will be best to consult a reliable construction company or contractor if you can’t decide on the most suitable type of fiberglass for the project. And make sure you discuss any underlying issues associated with the property so that they can make adjustments in the construction procedure accordingly. 

With that, we’ll sign off for now. But watch this space as we’ll be back with more guides soon. 

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