Since there are so many types of shelves and bookcases available on the market today, a lot of people are unsure which is better, and why. Here we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of wood shelves and glass shelves, and also when one is better than the other.
Almost all wood shelves sold today aren’t actually real wood. Wood shelves today are usually made of a solid core of pressed cheaper wood or plywood (sometimes called “engineered” wood), and then covered with a finish, paint or veneer. These shelves are significantly cheaper than real wood, and often they are lighter and stronger than real wood too. The best of these shelves are covered with a veneer, which is a thin sheet of real wood. The veneer, if applied professionally, will give you the feel of a real wood shelf even though the core is not real wood. Not only are these shelves less expensive, but they are made more and more with recycled materials, so they save trees and protect the environment at the same time.
As good as veneered wood is, it isn’t the same as real wood shelves. If you really want the most beautiful and rich wood colors, then real wood shelves are the only way to go, but be prepared to pay for it!
Glass shelves are not all the same. Just like with wood, you need to know which type of glass the shelves are made from in order to know what you’re buying. When looking for glass shelves, you should be concerned with getting shelves that won’t shatter or chip easily. Most glass will break if dropped, but tempered glass is designed not to shatter into a million little shards. Also, it’s less likely to crack or chip if knocked. If the glass is heat strengthened, then it is about twice as strong as regular (annealed) glass.
Thickness also is an important element in determining shelf strength. A thick standard glass shelf could easily be stronger than a thinner tempered glass shelf. Glass shelving units should come with a rating regarding allowable weight on the shelves. Ask about it carefully before you buy.
When one is better than the other
Okay, now that we know a little more about glass vs. wood, when is one better than the other. When deciding between the two ask yourself a few questions:
1. What am I putting on these shelves?
If you are putting heavy or large items on the shelf, or big books, then wood might be the better choice. While there are strong glass shelves available, you don’t want to take a risk, or start to weigh every item that you want on the shelf. With wood, you simply fill up the shelf and sleep well at night knowing that it’ll hold.
If, however, you are displaying a collection of baseballs, vases, golf balls or anything else that’s small, glass shelves highlight the collection, and draw the eye to what’s on the shelf, instead of to the shelf itself.
2. Where are these shelves going to be in my home?
If you want a shelving unit for your kitchen, for example, it’s easier to clean grease off of glass than off of wood. Toxic cleansers won’t affect glass, but they can chew up wood pretty badly. The same with humidity and residue that are in a bathroom.
If you want these shelves in your living room, you might prefer the warmth and inviting feeling that wood gives you over the cold, modern look of glass.
3. Who will have access to these shelves?
Kids are great, but accidents do happen. Not only will a knock damage or even shatter a glass shelf, but it might very well cut the person who knocked into the shelf.
4. What kind of lighting is available for this shelf?
Lighting is important for highlighting the contents of the shelves. If you are putting books on the shelves, then it’s only really important to see the spines. If you have smaller items that you want to display, then with glass shelves you gain a lot more visibility, especially of the things towards the back of the lower shelves.
Glass or wood, you have a lot of options and decisions to make. If you are interested in more info and lots of advice, take a look at The Home Shelving Guide for answers to all of your shelving and storage needs.