Nothing sets a bathroom apart like a custom glass shower enclosure.
Sleek and modern, a glass enclosure is an upgrade to the traditional shower.
As the bathroom is one of the last places you’d want to worry about safety, integrating glass into a shower enclosure’s design must be done carefully -- using the wrong glass type is dangerous.
While there are many shower safety glasses on the market, there’s one type that meets safety concerns without making you sacrifice aesthetic choices.
The Optimal Type of Shower Safety Glass
When it comes to walk-in glass aesthetic showers that give peace of mind, there’s only one choice: tempered glass.
Among the strongest glasses available, tempered glass is made for enhanced safety performance -- an essential consideration for showers where users are particularly vulnerable.
During manufacturing, tempered glass sheets are heated to temperatures around 1000℉ and then quickly cooled under pressure. The rapid change in temperature causes compression and tension within a glass sheet, making it up to 5x stronger than traditional glass. The tempering process also makes a glass surface more scratch resistant.
Of note, shaping must occur before tempering. Heat-strengthened glass is extremely difficult to cut or prepare for hardware after processing.
Building codes require tempered glass for shower enclosures and doors. Most glass manufacturers only sell tempered glass for these applications.
In addition to its strength, tempered glass is much safer than traditional glass when broken. Upon shattering, tempered glass breaks into small, rounded pieces that aren’t as dangerous as jagged shards.
A Word on Laminated Glass
Yes, laminated glass is a safety glass that can also take a hit and not pose an immediate danger with broken pieces. Still, laminated glass is not recommended for shower enclosures.
Laminated glass units aren’t a single piece of glass. Rather, they’re made by bonding at least two glass plies to a middle interlayer that’s typically vinyl. If not properly sealed or the right material, the interlayer begins to deteriorate from exposure to moisture, compromising laminated glass unless a special interlayer is used to inhibit moisture penetration.
Types of Shower Glass for Tempering
Using tempered shower glass isn’t a limit to your glass shower ideas. A glass treatment that applies to many glass products, tempering helps you get the most from your shower enclosure.
The most common types of glass used for a glass shower door and walls include:
- Clear glass
- Low-iron glass
- Patterned glass
- Coated glass
Clear (standard) glass simply gets the job done by meeting your expectations for opacity and boosted by improved strength. Made for functionality, clear glass keeps water from making its way outside a shower enclosure.
Color is an important design consideration when using this material in safety glass shower panels/doors. Clear glass does have a slight greenish tint that becomes more pronounced in thicker pieces -- you’ll especially notice it when looking at a pane’s edges.
Before tempering, your manufacturer can upgrade the appearance of clear glass via other glass fabrication techniques, such as:
Look no further than low-iron glass for those wanting to eliminate color from shower enclosure glass.
Unlike clear glass, low-iron glass is virtually colorless. The only colors you’ll notice in this glass are those it picks up along its edges from the surrounding environment, e.g. the hues of wall tiles. In other words, because of its proximity to other elements of a bathroom with color, you will notice some color along a low-iron glass piece’s periphery.
Made from materials containing trace amounts of ferric oxide (iron), low-iron glass is also about 8% more transparent than standard glass. When integrated into bathroom design, low-iron glass doesn’t interfere with an overall aesthetic. Rather, it acts as an almost invisible barrier for shower and tub enclosures.
Taking appearances in a different direction, patterned glass creates a unique focal point in a bathroom or obscures the view into a shower with its design. Some patterned glasses offer a textured appearance, while others bend light to distort transparency.
Not all patterned glasses are temperable -- talk to your glass manufacturer about the available options.
Some of the most common patterned glass options used in shower enclosures include:
At New Angle Beveling, we stock a wide variety of patterned glasses. Check out our available selection:
Coated glasses, such as ShowerGuard® products, are designed to take the performance of shower glass to the next level.
An invisible coating bonded onto the inward-facing side of the panel protects from:
- Soap scum
- Hard water
- Cleaning products
The coating, which doesn’t degrade, keeps shower glass panels looking as they did the day they were installed.
Maintaining Shower Safety Glass
Just as a glass shower enclosure makes a bathroom stand out, a lack of upkeep does the opposite.
Water spots, stains, and mineral buildup can take a glass shower enclosure from appearing transparent and sanitary to dirty, dingy, and unappealing.
Glass is one of the easiest materials to clean, as any build-up is only surface-level.
By using standard glass-cleaning products, such as sprays with ammonia or bleach, and a wet sponge or microfiber cloth, anyone can quickly restore shower glass to its original appearance. Before applying a cleaning product to your custom shower enclosure, double-check to make sure it’s approved for glass. Using the wrong type of cleaner can be a costly mistake.
For those looking for a chemical-free alternative, a mixture of vinegar and water can do the trick.
To avoid scratching or damaging shower enclosure glass -- or even a shower’s hardware -- steer clear of:
- Abrasive cleaning products, such as bleach powders
- Hydrofluoric and phosphoric acids
- Scouring pads
ShowerGuard glass is as easy to clean as other shower enclosure glasses. Download our guide about how to maintain ShowerGuard glass:
Walk-in Glass Shower Design Without Compromise
As a major investment for any bathroom, a custom glass shower enclosure shouldn’t be a cause for worry or a source of frustration because of frequent upkeep.
Because tempering applies to many commercial glass types, creating a glass shower enclosure that’s safe, easily maintained, and meets the desired aesthetic doesn’t require making sacrifices.
Order tempered glass for your custom shower enclosure
Contact us to discuss your project and how we can help!
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in July 2021 and was recently updated).