Frameless glass shower enclosures is a hot design subject these days. HOME ARCHITECTS ® is providing them in their projects; the latest in a spectacular house for a Client in Tennessee.
The clean lines, clear views, more open light distribution and overall visual simplicity are key components of frameless glass shower enclosures. What makes this all possible (and legal) is tempered glass, special hardware and clear sealant.
Frameless, first and foremost, means just that: there are none of the previous aluminum frames that used to hold the glass into position. Framed glass shower enclosures are still available. The frameLESS glass latest style is just sort of like the upper crust of design firms, like Architects who want their Clients to have the best of everything. The main advantage: it looks better! The ugly old shower enclosure has been transformed into a stunning, contemporary sight. It almost looks like a “force field” enclosing the shower area, rather than walls. Very cool. Second: mold has a harder time growing, because there are no pockets around aluminum framing in which that can grow (at least, not as much as with framed glass panels). Third, it is easier to clean the glass, especially if you squeegee the glass after showering, because there are no frames (at least not as much) projecting from the surface of the glass to get in the way of your squeegee blade.
The process of glass tempering is critical to this effort. You see, you can’t drill or cut glass that is already tempered. It will shatter into thousands of pieces. You have to perform the cutting, shaping, edging and drilling of the glass BEFORE it is tempered. Then you have your prefabricated glass pieces, ready for assembly. It is vitally important that the glass fabrication company come to the jobsite in person, while the house is under construction and take detailed, precise measurements. Because, there is no way to trim the glass in the field, once it is prefabricated and tempered. Once tempered, that’s it. You can’t do anything else to the glass but assemble it and use it.
Tempering ordinary glass to become tempered glass makes it safe to use in a shower environment. Tempered glass is about 4x stronger than “ordinary” or annealed glass. Annealed glass can break into long, sharp jagged slivers which can cut people.
Therefore, ordinary glass is Not acceptable or legal to use in a shower (or in a bathroom for windows or other glass locations where it could be hazardous). Tempered glass, while much more difficult to break, shatters into relatively harmless small, oval pieces, therefore, tempered glass is ideal for a bathroom and shower enclosure (and also for side and rear windows in vehicles, glass in doors, skylights and even microwave ovens).
Before tempering, the glass must first be cut to the desired size, along with any drilled holes. To then become tempered, the glass is heated to 620* Celsius.
For those of us not having a calculator in our brains, that would = 1,148* F. (that’s about twice the temperature on the planet Mercury, during the day at the equator, which is only about 1/3 of the distance to our Sun than Earth). Then, a unique high-pressure air cooling process ensues, which is called :quenching.” During only a few seconds, high-pressure air blasts the glass. The outer portions of the glass will cool more quickly than the center area of the glass. As the glass in the center cools, it naturally shrinks, which puts the middle area of the glass in permanent tension and the outer surfaces in compression, which is what provides the strength in tempered glass.
HOME ARCHITECTS ®, is an architectural firm that designs custom houses across the USA. They stay on the cutting edge of quality, durability, technology, style and evolving design issues, such as framless glass shower enclosures. They have waited several years for this latest improvement in bathroom aesthetics to prove itself, before implementing it.
Often, the firm will specify a marble or granite sill on top of an adjacent curb or half-high tiled wall, then place the frameless glass panels onto these. There’s a special element about doing this that not many designers of houses know: Coefficient of Friction. You have to be very careful to specify the proper amount of friction on the surfaces where people with wet, slippery feet may step. This architectural firm has remained knowledgeable of the latest in the COF issues and publishes an informative paragraph about this in their specifications, to insure proper friction, even when wet.
It’s best to have a licensed Architect designing something like this for you. That way, the overall look, individual components, safety and other aspects will be specified and indicated so that you receive a professional installation.
Contact: Rand@HomeArchitects.com 828-269-9046
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