If you have been in an online dance forum or discussion group for any length of time, you will already recognize this question as one of the most frequent topics of discussion. Something along the lines of this question from a bellydance discussion group:
“Studio Mirrors! Any suggestions on where to buy them? What about glass mirrors vs. the special non-glass type? Would YOU mount them yourselves or hire professionals?”
While installing mirrors in your space is one of the last steps in creating a dance space, the question of mirror installation is one of the first you need to answer. So let’s take a look at the primary options:
Glass mirrors are the traditional material favored by dance studios for centuries. Despite new materials being made available such as glassless/mylar mirrors, most professional studios continue to favor this material for their space.
- Cost-effective – less expensive than alternative materials
- Easily sourced – lots of glass and mirror manufacturers and installers in any city
- Some can be safely installed by yourself and some handy friends
- Can be shattered with strong impact
- If improperly installed, can fall and shatter
- May develop fog or ghost images under certain conditions
Mylar dance mirrors (glassless mirrors) are made of a super reflective, shatter proof material. These glassless mirror panels are made from metallized mirrored mylar plastic film. Manufacturers and retailers of glassless mirrors claim they provide a brighter, sharper reflection than plate glass, with no “ghost images”.
- Lightweight – great for moveable panels, such as may be necessary in shared studio spaces like churches or meeting rooms.
- Safety – won’t shatter
- Doesn’t “bounce sound around” like glass mirrors
- Easy to clean, without the streaking of glass mirrors.
- Requires specialized professional installation – if installed improperly, will be warped and distorted
- Easily scratched and torn – small children must be constantly supervised to prevent damage.
- More expensive than traditional glass.
- Even with proper installation, can sag and distort over time.
Buying and Installing Studio Mirrors
If you opt to hire a professional manufacturer and installer, call around to every glass/mirror shop in your area and tell them the size of area you are looking to cover with mirrors and ask for an estimate. You may need to tell them where you intend on hanging them and to what kind of surface you are going to attach them to. Get as many estimates as possible, and don’t be afraid to say “I received a quote for $X amount from this other company…can you beat that?” Give them a chance to win your business. Use online review sites, such as Yelp, to do some research on the companies you are considering. Particularly look at reviews of workmanship and whether they met their promised deadlines. Nothing is worse than having a grand opening planned and having to worry if the mirrors will be installed in time!
If installing them yourself, we won’t go into the ins and outs of installation here, but make sure you have done your homework, and have collected the proper materials for the project (gloves, drill, screws, adhesive, etc). You must ensure your wall is sturdy and, just as important, that it is FLAT. A warped wall will distort your mirrors and increase the chance of breakage. It is generally recommended that you not only attach the glass to the wall with strong adhesive, but also “track” the mirrors–basically a frame or bracket around the mirror edges which is drilled or nailed into the wall studs and allows the mirror to seat within it for additional security.
Keep in mind that if you are leasing your space, adhesives may damage the wall in a way that is in violation of your lease. In such a circumstance you may want to mount a “backer board” to the wall, then glue the mirrors to this and frame the entire thing. You could also forgo the backer board and simply frame the mirrors, but be certain the mirrors are firmly seated and do not have gaps or spaces which allow them to move within the frame. Vibration and shifting of the mirrors against one another or the frame increases the risk of breakage–just a frame without adhesive may be well suited to a small home installation, but may be inadequate for a large room with a long run.
Mirrors on the Cheap
Many studio owners, working with space large and small, have opted for a DIY solution which involves large frameless bathroom mirrors, which can be found at most big box stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. Not only is it very affordable, but fairly easily installed by yourself and an assistant. Find the largest frameless and unbeveled mirror available and carefully transport and install it–just as with professional mirrors, a strong adhesive and a track/frame will yield the best and safest results.
While some studio owners consider the smaller mirrors a downside because of the increased number of seams between each mirror, still others argue that a positive result of smaller mirrors is that if one breaks, it is much cheaper and easier to replace a smaller panel.
Consider your space and your individual needs when deciding on what type of mirrors to go with for your studio. Cost, durability, ease of installation and replacement should all be taken into account before you make such an important purchase. We hope that this article has provided you some food for thought!