As a thriving business owner or a real estate developer, you may have heard the terms “glass storefront” or “curtain walls.” So what are the differences?

The Differences Between Glass Storefronts and Curtain Walls

Both types of commercial glass refer to a building or its facade while talking with architects and project managers. Both of these terms are architectural and connect to the exterior part of the building.

Storefronts and curtain walls have similar functionality. They function to protect the interior features of the building and its occupants from harsh weather conditions. They also serve to ensure maximum sunshine and insulation from the outside.

However, at this point, the similarities between the two terms end. Let’s delve into the differences between these types of commercial glass.

1) Application

A glass storefront is a non-residential and non-load bearing that serves as a business entrance framework with commercial windows. The typical range of a storefront is 10 feet high or less.

Architects usually utilize storefronts for ground floor structures. While designing a building, they may even employ storefronts for the second or third floor. The storefronts are focus-coated and not self-depleting.

On the other hand, curtain wall systems are non-load-bearing at the exterior wall that hangs like curtains from all the floor sections. According to the plan of the building structure, these walls may rise higher than 25 feet. Usually, the walls range from different floors and are typically front coated. It also comprises a self-depleting framework. 

Therefore, curtain walls are taller than storefronts. They are applicable in high-rise building structures, while storefronts are applicable on ground floors or low-rise buildings. 

2) Performance

Another contrasting factor between storefronts and curtain walls include performance. Both the architectural systems work in different performances at different heights in different ways. For example, storefronts will function well on ground levels. Structural silicones or glazing gaskets may only perform well in high-rise buildings when protected from weather elements. 

These walls will also have higher air, water, and structural performance. Gaskets form the seal of the walls to keep air and moisture out. Moreover, on the higher floors, curtain walls function better. They come with unitized systems. These systems are fabricated and pre-assembled into units in the shop. Fabrication and pre-arrangement of curtain walls ensure that performance requirements are not subject to uncontrolled circumstances in the field.  

In addition to this, the thermal performance of curtain walls is also much better than storefronts. It is significantly higher than the storefronts due to the attachment of a thermal break. The thermal break separates the pressure plate from the back members. Other features that enhance and improve the function of curtain walls include polyamide pressure plates, P&D parts, and polyamide struts.

Hence, both the architectural systems are different in terms of performance and features, with curtain walls performing better in many ways.

3) Water Management

Another critical difference between curtain walls and storefronts involves managing water in these systems. In a curtain wall, the weeping of each glass sill occurs separately.

Meanwhile, in a storefront system, the weeping of the whole storefront occurs at the sill. The system directs any amount of water entering the system towards the vertical mullion of the sill. Through the vertical mullion, weeping occurs through the outer part of the building. As a result, it can lead to the system becoming overloaded when the exposure to weather becomes excessive. For this reason, storefronts are typically lower in height. 

As a result of its water management system, the system becomes overloaded as the exposure to weather increases. Due to this reason, the storefront has a limitation in height. For ideal application, business owners should locate their storefronts below the fourth floor in areas. In this way, weather elements may not disrupt the functionality of storefronts.

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4) Cost

Costs linked with storefront and curtain wall systems differ with various variations in the region due to the labor market. Typically, the storefront is less expensive and budget-friendly. These cheaper costs of storefronts are due to the different products and materials of preference for entrance and elevations on the first and second floors.

Curtain walls tend to be more expensive in material and labor. However, it enables architects and designers to enjoy higher flexibility in both design and performance. Various other common aspects that affect the cost of both architectural structures may include the type of glass storefronts, aluminum storefronts, or curtain walls. Your other material selections might include thermal break methods and finishing choices.

5) Longevity

Storefronts and curtain walls also differ from each other in terms of duration. Since the curtain wall is not vulnerable to harsh climatic conditions, it has better thermal efficiency. Hence, it is a much better choice when it comes to durability as compared to storefronts, even on higher floors.

Best of all, curtain wall systems have higher durability and will generally require fewer commercial glass repairs.

Key Takeaways

Curtain walls and storefronts vary from each other in terms of performance, costs, duration, and water management. Some other internal factors also differentiate the curtain wall systems and storefront walls. 

All in all, these are the critical differences between storefront and curtain walls. Analyzing these differences may help the business owners and real estate developers choose between the better choice among various storefronts and curtain walls.

Choosing the better option may also differ according to the distinct requirements of the business owner and their businesses, including architectural needs, budget, and aesthetics.

In these cases, a glass installer service may come to your service to help you and ease the installation with efficiency and professionalism. At Modern Glazing, our glass installers ensure that the appearance of your business stands out and looks unique.

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At Modern Glazing, we offer an extensive portfolio of commercial glass to transform your business. As MA’s leading commercial glass company, we provide versatile, durable, and functional designs for homes of all sizes. Since 1952, we’ve built custom architectural glass installations all over New England. View our commercial glass portfolio today to see how Modern Glazing can renovate your storefront.

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