Glass door just magically shattered.

molson31February 26, 2008

So I'm sitting here in my room, everyone else is in bed. Out of nowhere, I hear a HUGE smash, like someone just dropped a TV. Everyone storms out of their rooms, wondering what happened. I hear noise in the bathroom, so I go in there. Our shower has a big glass door, and somehow, the whole thing just magically shattered. Well, check it out for yourself in the link.

We JUST had the bathroom redone. This glass door is very new, as in ~3 weeks. No idea how this happened. Hopefully this will be a free replacement. Maybe someone knows how glass spontaneously shatters.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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It probably happened because it wasn't installed properly to begin with.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 6:29AM
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I'd say it had better be a free replacement! Insist on it, and if you didn't cause the damage, then don't accept any "hints" by them that it could be your responsibility.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 8:10AM
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are you SURE no one was in there? no kids around? tempered glass shatters easily when struck onthe edge. you can hit it with any solid object, or hit it against something solid, and it shatters quickly. you can pound on the face of it all day with no problems, but tap the edge and it is over.

hopefully this is a fault of install though.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 10:10AM
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That's Laminated Glass in the photo......Not tempered

Laminated usually indicates the location of the shock/impact with a radiating pattern.....

Can the room door knob hit the shower door ?...I see a suggestion of an impact in the photo.....but photographing glass is sometimes deceiving

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 2:45PM
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The door has a stopper so there's no possible way to hit it. No one was awake but myself.

There is a huge crack at the bottom of the glass, and yes, what appears to be an impact at the leve of a door knob, but I assure it cannot hit the glass. The workers knocked it down today, said they never seen it happen

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 4:02PM
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That "impact" line looks like it goes to the top of the handle. my thought is that if someone overtightened the handle and maybe didn't include a gasket then you could have a stress raiser right at the hole cut for the handle. Add some sort of inclusion or imperfection there and it might be a fracture origin. Tempered (safety) glass is designed to fragment that way. The lamination keeps the pieces from falling all over the place.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 7:30PM
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What a coincidence - I just had the same thing happen to a bathroom window I installed a few months ago. It was the opaque glass that I blamed (it appears yours only became "opaque" AFTER the incident). I think I would've remembered hitting it, and the outside pane was fine, plus the sash slides easy as pie, so I think mine was "magical", too.

Well, looks like you have it worse than me with that expensive looking unit. Hope the mfg. steps up to at least help you out on it. I'm expecting to eat mine.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 1:26PM
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Do you happen to have any other pictures that you wouldn't mind posting? Especially any close-ups of the "impact" area.

Also, when the workers removed the broken glass did they take it off in one large piece - even to rolling it up when they removed it - or did it collapse into a pile of loose rubble?

Your door looks like it could be a tempered laminate in the picture - which would be a very odd configuration - and in the picture that you posted it certainly does appear that there is an impact point in the glass - again, this sort of pattern is not consistent with spontaneous glass breakage.

As part of my normal job, I do occasionally perform post analysis on broken glass of all sorts. Your door looks interesting from an analytical standpoint - of course I understand that you would see it a bit differently!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 7:43AM
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quick follow up...

I downloaded the picture of the shattered door and using photo software I was able to get a slightly better view of the damage.

First, despite first impressions, the door was not laminated glass - it was simply tempered glass that held together following the break.

Second, what looks like an indented impact in the original picture - isn't. It is definitely the break-point, but close-up it does not appear to be from an impact. And, it takes one heck of a blunt object impact to break a thick tempered shower door. I don't believe that this one broke because of that sort of impact.

Third, I would suggest that the door broke due to spontaneous breakage of the tempered glass - just as you described.

Spontaneous breakage of tempered glass can result from improper installation, or from edge damage that occured during the tempering process, or during door manufacture. But in this case I think it is much more likely to be an inclusion (possibly nickel sulfide) that caused the door to shatter as it did.

A nickel sulfide (or other) inclusion is a not-uncommon manufacturing defect that can occur in float glass that can cause tempered glass to burst - suddenly and without apparent cause. It is more often seen in oven doors and shower doors, but is can and does occur in car windows (other than windshields which are laminated) and patio doors.

Inclusions are simply tiny pieces of metal that didn't melt completely during the float process and that leave a weak spot in the glass. Although rarely a problem in untempered glass, tempering glass with an inclusion can cause problems. Typically, glass with such flaws don't survive the tempering process, but enough do so that this sort of breakage is certainly not unheard of.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 8:25PM
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If tempered glass gets hit, it does not always shatter immediately. I had a piece of tempered glass that got whacked by a wooden chair back smacking against it; when I inspected, there was no damage. However, in the middle of the night, it cracked. Sometimes a blow can set up microscopic stresses, and the breakage only occurs when there is a change of temperature at night.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 2:20AM
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When you say that it cracked is that a euphemistic way of saying that you ended up with a pile of tiny glass pieces all over the floor? ;-)

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 8:04AM
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It was localized to the vicinity of the initial blow, but there was more than one piece!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 3:26AM
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I thought that your comment about "cracking" was meant to be funny - again, "a euphemistic way of saying that you ended up with a pile of tiny glass pieces all over the floor". My comment was intended to convey that I truly appreciated the humor (been there!)...

However, on seeing your follow up reply (and if I read it correctly), I realized that the glass sheet didn't break into tiny pieces, it broke into several larger pieces; because of that, it could not have been tempered glass. By nature-of-the-beast, tempered glass must break into those little pieces when broken. It is unavoidable, the physics involved in making the stuff.

Without going overly in depth, tempered glass is heated until the center of the piece reaches about 940F. This is the annealing point of glass. The glass is then rapidly cooled (called quenching) until the outer surface is cooler than the inner portion of the lite.

When glass is heated it expands. When quenched, the outer surface contracts and the warmer inner portion remains expanded.

Quenching induces stress into the glass. It locks the outer 21% (top and bottom - 42% of total) of the glass into compression and the inner 58% into tension. This is what gives tempered glass its resistance to blunt force breakage and also explains the little glass bits when it does break.

In order to break tempered glass, it is necessary to breach the outer 21% "exposing" the inner tension layer. You do that and POW!!!! lots of little pellets everywhere. There is no way for properly tempered glass to break any other way.

That said, it is absolutely possible to induce damage to a tempered lite and to have it break later. Often this is the reason for spontaneous breakage of the glass. Typically, it is edge damage (crack or chip) that propagates (often VERY slowly) until it passes that magic boundary between the compression and tension layers - and then you have the middle-of-the-might - BANG!!!

In the case of this shower door, the break (based on the picture) does appear to have started in the face of the lite rather than at an edge.

It is also quite possible to bump a tempered lite and to leave a small chip in the surface that could slowly grow until it penetrates the tension layer. So that is certainly an option to consider.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 10:11AM
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Molson you are in luck tonight I just happened to be reading your post and I know what happened to your shower door. Your young son was questioning the installers about the door as they installed it they explained to junior (andrew) that the door was break proof, so after a few weeks he finally got the nerve up to smack it with his aluminum baseball bat (the one that he drew the lightning bolt on) the door did not shatter and he was amazed, however when it shattered the next night he was a bit apprehensive and still is. Best not tell anyone else about this it will be our little secret

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 8:24PM
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I strongly feel that the upper right edge of the pivot swing door made contact with the upper left edge of the fixed panel and resulted in 'spontaneous implosion' or unexplained shattered glass.The tight fit between the door and panel probably resulted in the tempered glass being tempporilary held together. Tempered glass is prone to shatter if the edges are impacted or if the shower door hinges failed and the glass slipped enough to contact the fixed panel.

The glass would also shatter if the edge of the swing door was impacted by the swinging wood door leading to the bathroom.

I am the founder of Creative Mirror & Shower and my company offers a lifetime warranty against 'spontaneous implosion' or unexplained shattered glass from our tempering supplier

Allen Pritikin 1-800SHOWERS

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 4:24PM
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It looks like tempered glass that fractures into less hazardous 'crumbs,' as opposed to safety glass (laminated) that has a plastic layer between sheets of glass to hold together if broken.

Windshields are safety (laminated) glass to keep things from entering (and keep the occupants from exiting) even if the glass is broken.

Rear windows and side windows have been tempered glass (though some side windows are now laminated) to make the remains from a broken window less harmful.

All it takes is a scratch in tempered glass that passes through the temper layer and the glass instantly fractures over the entire piece into crumbs.

Sometimes you can see a pattern in the fracturing that can lead you to the starting location, but not always.

Handles in holes through the tempered glass need to have plastic sleeves to protect the edge of the glass from scratching by fasteners.

Simple bumping the edge of a piece of tempered glass with something hard can result in it crumbling.

If it was brand new, I would suspect that the glass was scratched during installation.

Usually it crumbles immediately, but if the scratch is small enough it can take changes in temperature to trigger the final crumbling (even a minor change in temperature changes the internal stress built into the glass by tempering).

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 4:37PM
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I had a brand new shower door also shatter magically overnight. My handyman just installed it a week ago in my rental property. Then my tenant called and said that it shattered overnight just as described above.

What can I we do to avoid the same thing happening again?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 11:43AM
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"What can I we do to avoid the same thing happening again? "

Have a glass company that sells the door install it.

They should be very familiar with handling and installing tempered glass.

All it takes is a single scratch through the temper layer to reduce the glass to 'crumbs,' if not instantly in a few thermal cycles.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 4:43PM
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sometimes the shatter is because the cooking was not done right. Cooking = tempering. This means it's really not within your control, or the installer's.

When it shatters soon after being installed, they replace it free of charge.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 7:43PM
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This also happened to my glass door I was not even home when it broke . It was only a month old and glass is busted on the side away from the handle and I don't know what happened.

Here is a link that might be useful: facebook

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 7:58PM
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Hi! According to my opinion, the glass might have had a non visible defect somewhere in its structure and eventually caused it to break. The glass used for showers is safety glass to instead of splintering into shards it would more safely shatter into pieces. The defect would have made the glass weaken as you used the shower, maybe you knocked in to it or heat stress etc until eventually at some point the integrity of the glass was breached and it just went pop. When something eventually goes it just goes and not requires an observer to do so. A normal glass pane that is not safety glass would have just had a crack run down it. Safety glass would shatter into tiny and therefore safer pieces and not crack as cracks would make knife like shards of glass that could potentially kill if a person fell on them.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 12:35AM
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Hello All!

My post is perhaps a bit different, as I have been obsessively searching the web to prove or explain this "phenom" of a glass shower door suddenly shattering - and here's why: my landlord is blaming ME for this, and is insisting that I MUST have done something, and it is then "normal wear and tear" (what the hell is NORMAL about a shower door exploding??) and It is my responsibility to replace the door. WHAT??? I absolutely disagree - I live alone, don't have a dog whom perhaps could have thrown himself against the door LOL, and am not a door "slammer"! There is plenty of shoddy work throughout the apartment, and I personally believe that they got a cheap door, cheap labor and that it was installed incorrectly. I couldn't (although I will certainly try) to prove that, but they most certainly can't prove it was MY fault either! Just on principal (and cost of course) I will be fighting this so, if anyone has some helpful insight, comment or advice, I would truly appreciate it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2015 at 9:57PM
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