Are Glass Shower Doors Dangerous?

If your bathroom is feeling small, dingy, or dated, one upgrade that is sure to have a big impact is to implement a glass shower door or enclosure. Glass shower doors let in more light, make the bathroom feel larger, and in general, appear more updated than traditional plastic shower curtains. In addition, they may be cleaner as plastic shower curtains can be mold magnets.

However, glass shower doors and enclosures aren’t perfect; in fact, they may be dangerous….

Glass shower doors and enclosures can shatter, seemingly without warning. Sometimes they do so when no one is even in the room (which is known as a spontaneous blow).

Fortunately, federal codes require that glass shower doors be made of tempered safety glass. This means that when shattering happens, the glass breaks into many small pieces rather than large jagged pieces. While these smaller pieces are definitely less dangerous than non-tempered glass, lacerations can still occur. In addition, injury may be caused by falling shower hardware.

It’s some comfort knowing that if a shower door does shatter, you probably will not be seriously injured but the question remains, what causes shower doors to all but explode without warning? According to a NBC News article, “It turns out that their greatest strength – safety — is also their greatest weakness. When glass is heated in the tempering process, its tensile strength is altered. While it becomes much stronger and resistant to direct impact, it becomes much more susceptible to a side impact. As a result, tempered glass dropped on its edge will readily shatter.”

This shatter-inducing side impact may be the result of a variety of things including the door being incorrectly installed, stoppers or fasteners being damaged, improper cleaning, or misuse by the owner. In addition, small imperfections in the glass can cause the shower door to shatter hours or days later without warning and without anyone even being around.

But how big of a problem is this really? How often do shower doors spontaneously combust, so to speak?

On the topic, Kohler spokeswoman Kristine Cristina said, “Glass doors do shatter. We really can’t give you an answer to how often because many people don’t call to tell us;” she said she believed the incidence was very low, however — in the past two years, she said she knew of fewer than 10 incidents (Sullivan, 2010).

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission reports more than 60 complains over the last 8 years of shower doors shattering for no apparent reason (ABC News, 2012). However, to put that number in perspective, Consumer Reports reported that glass coffee tables, which are often not made with tempered glass, cause roughly 20,000 injuries per year (Sullivan, 2010).

This means that shattering shower doors are not overly commonplace. Although, that probably won’t make you feel better if you’re one of the unlucky few subjected to the experience. As mentioned above, a glass shower door that suddenly shatters can cause injury. In addition, it can cost you time and money and be quite unnerving. Imagine going to step out of the shower and suddenly being covered in shards of glass. That’s definitely not the way you want to start your day.

Does this mean you should skip on glass shower doors? Not at all. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Go with a Pro
Having your glass shower door or enclosure professionally installed will probably cost more than a DIY job. However, a professional installation will give you piece of mind (and potentially a warranty) that the work has been done to the highest possible standard.

Conduct Regular Inspections
While a shattering glass shower door can appear to happen for no reason at all, regular inspections can help you uncover any potential issues before disaster strikes. For example ensure:

  • Any moving panels are securely attached.
  • Any hardware is secure and tight.
  • Rubber stoppers or bumpers are in place and not worn down.
  • Glass is not chipped or cracked.

Use Properly
Always use your glass shower door for its intended purpose. For example, do not use the towel bar on the door as a safety bar for getting up and down. In addition, do not slam the door or use it roughly.

If you have a glass shower door in your home that you’re concerned about or are thinking about installing a glass shower door or enclosure, contact the pros at Jack’s Glass for a consultation.


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