Shower doors and enclosures are usually built from tempered glass. While you’ve probably heard this term, you may not know how exactly tempered glass differs from “regular” glass (technically referred to as annealed glass).
During the manufacturing process, glass is heated and then rapidly cooled to make tempered glass. This procedure of heating and cooling makes the glass much stronger overall, although the corners and edged are quite fragile. Furthermore, the process changes the characteristics of the glass so that it reacts differently to breakage.
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If a sheet of tempered glass is broken, it will basically disintegrate into many small chunks that are not as sharp and hazardous as shards of annealed glass.
These two features – enhanced durability and safer fragments – make it clear that tempered glass is a better choice than annealed glass, which was actually used on shower doors in decades past. When a piece of glass operates as a swinging or sliding door, or even when it simply functions a wall in a shower enclosure, personal safety becomes a key issue since the individual who is showering will be in such close proximity to the glass.
We want shower doors that do not break easily and that are less likely to inflict serious injury in the event of an accident. If the latter issue is of special concern or if a homeowner simply wishes to take an extra safety precaution, a shower door/enclosure can be built from laminated glass.
Laminated glass is really two sheets of glass adhered to a thin central layer of clear vinyl. It looks like normal glass, but if it gets fractured the sheet of glass remains intact because every broken piece is still stuck to the vinyl.
Glass shower doors and enclosures can be built from glass of varying thicknesses, although this is somewhat determined by whether it is a frameless, semi-frameless, or framed unit. The thickest glass is also known as “heavy glass,” and this is used on all frameless and some semi-frameless units.
Thinner glass can be used when the unit is framed because the frame both adds structural support and safeguards the vulnerable edges and corners of the tempered glass. The appeal of thinner glass is that it is significantly more cost effective. However, this has not dampened many homeowners’ enthusiasm for frameless units in spite of the heftier price tag.
Within the realm of tempered shower glass, modern homeowners can also choose from among various looks and textures. Simple clear glass is actually a very hot item today, but alternatives include:
Privacy glass that obscures visibility by means of frosting or heavy texturing is popular for bathrooms shared by siblings and other high traffic restrooms.
A final variable that should be addressed when considering what types of glass are used for shower doors is glass protection. When a homeowner has a new glass shower installed, he or she does not want to have to expend a lot of time and effort to keep it clean. Not only does this contribute to the popularity of frameless units, which have fewer nooks and crevices to clean, but it pulls many consumers toward glass with a protected surface.
ShowerGuard glass is glass that has been treated with ion-beam technology during manufacturing. This leaves it with a permanently sealed surface, free of the pores where corrosive and unsightly elements so often build up. However, shower door customers who find this option too pricey can also consider a high-end sealant, such as EnduroShield, that is applied to the glass after manufacturing.
EnduroShield is a spray-on compound that bonds to the glass and makes it water and oil-repellant, thus protecting it from corrosion and staining.
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