Glass Backboards vs. Acrylic Backboards
If you are thinking about buying a new basketball goal, you might find yourself stumped over the difference between glass and acrylic backboards. It is common for people to use these terms interchangeably, however, there are significant differences. Both types have their pros and cons and a clear understanding of the differences will help you make an informed decision about which type of backboard is right for your basketball court.
Tempered glass backboards are considered the official material for indoor basketball competition. Contrary to what you may read on other websites, tempered glass is not what the windshield in your vehicle is made of (that is laminated glass). However, the side windows of passenger vehicles are made from tempered glass. All backboards used in high school, college and NBA competition are made from tempered glass. Tempered glass backboards are made from actual glass, while acrylic is a clear plastic material. Tempered glass is a type of safety glass that is hardened in the production process to make it approximately 5 to 10 times stronger than standard glass. This process also changes the glass property so if it does break, it will shatter into small crumbs about the size of a small marble. This is why tempered glass is considered a safety glass which protects people from large pieces of glass in the event of breakage.
The hardness and stiffness of tempered glass is what makes it such a good material for use as a basketball backboard. The stiffness of the material provides exceptional ball bounce off the backboard. Additionally, the hardness of the surface prevents scratching and allows the tempered glass backboard to retain its like-new look over time. The down side to tempered glass backboards is their susceptibility to vandalism. Any hard object that impacts the surface of the glass at a high velocity can potentially cause tempered glass to shatter. Rock throwing, BB guns or a stray baseball are examples of items that can cause a tempered glass backboard to be broken. This is why tempered glass is generally not chosen for parks or playgrounds where the general public has unsupervised access to the basketball court.
Acrylic is another clear option for basketball backboards. This material is more commonly known by the brand name Plexiglass. Acrylic is essentially a clear plastic material. Unlike glass, acrylic backboards are much more forgiving when it comes to vandalism such as rock throwing, etc. Because acrylic is a softer material than tempered glass, a rock or other hard object thrown at an acrylic backboard will more than likely just bounce off with little to no damage. However, due to its softness acrylic does not provide the same lively ball response of the backboard as tempered glass and is also more susceptible to scratching. Look for acrylic backboards made from 1/2 inch thick acrylic for the best ball response which will provide approximately 85% of the ball response of tempered glass. Due to its more vandal resistant properties, when a clear backboard is desired acrylic is the material of choice of unsupervised parks and playgrounds.