Tempered glass keeps us safe in our shower and we may owe it all to an ancient novelty. The first toughened or tempered glass was said to have been created, perhaps inadvertently, when glass still in the molten stage was dropped into icy water, the instant chilling effect of the water on the heated glass made for a very tough droplet of glass. These teardrop-shaped glass pieces known as Prince Rupert’s Drops were a sort of party favor in the seventeenth century. The bulbous end of the drop would be practically invulnerable compared to the tip or tail-end. The bulb end could take a beating and still survive, but if the tail chipped or cracked the entire drop would shatter.
Tempered Glass in the Modern Age
Shower doors and panels are toughened in much the same way as Prince Rupert’s Drops. The glass goes through a soft molten stage followed by a chilled stage. Undergoing these extreme temperatures creates a glass which, when broken, will crumble into pebbles of glass instead of sharp shards. If you’ve ever broken a tempered glass bowl while mixing in the kitchen you will have seen how the glass shatters in a whole different way from regular glass. Instead of dealing with dangerous slivers there are only glass nuggets to sweep up.
Though tempered glass is more durable and has a higher heat resistance because of the manufacturing process it endures, it is not indestructible. Tempered glass has points of vulnerability as demonstrated by Prince Rupert’s Drops and their delicate tails. The edges of a glass sheet are particularly susceptible when struck. Also, for the do-it-yourself enthusiast a word of caution–trying to drill holes into tempered glass will likely result in a pile of glass pebbles.
The tempering is the final stage in the manufacturing process when creating sheets of shower glass. Tempering does not alter the look of the glass. A brilliantly clear glass will keep it’s crystalline look after the process. This process is used on shower glass even if it has been etched, tinted, or frosted.
When Choosing Shower Glass Consider the Thickness
A frameless shower enclosure is only as good as the glass it is made from. A tempered, safety glass is of course a necessity, but there is still the thickness of the glass to consider. A couple of common thicknesses are ⅜ of an inch and a half an inch. Some builders believe that the thinner, thus lighter glass, puts less strain on the hinges. And since hinges are the components holding up the frameless shower door they are certainly an important consideration. Others feel that the thicker glass has the potential of being more durable.
The thickness of the glass plays a part in the look of the shower as much as the tint or the frosted or sandblasted embellishments. The thicker glass has a decidedly richer, more modern look.
It is best to consult with an expert when choosing the glass for your frameless shower. Visit our Dallas showroom and see the different thicknesses available.