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Riot Glass® retrofit systems consist of custom-made security glass and framing designs that provide maximum protection against forced entry and ballistic threats.

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Riot Glass® can be used to secure any building. Virtually invisible yet nearly indestructible, it blends seamlessly in almost any existing window, door, or

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Why Is Shattered Tempered Glass Safe? Is It Also Secure? The Facts

Written By: Brad CampbellFebruary 16, 2023

When researching different types of safety and security glass, tempered glass is something you’re bound to come across. 

But, there is often some confusion about exactly what tempered glass is and why it is safer than normal glass, as well as whether or not you can use it for security purposes. 

This article aims to give you all the facts you need to know to understand tempered glass and its use cases.

facts-and-myths puzzle pieces

What Is Tempered Glass?

Tempered glass, also commonly referred to as tempered glass, is a special type of glazing that undergoes a unique thermal treatment process. This heat treatment changes the glass’s physical properties, including the way it shatters.

shattered glass with hole

The main purpose of this is to make tempered glass safer for humans when it breaks apart. Tempered safety glass is primarily used for applications where the risk of human injury due to broken glass is higher than usual.

Common applications for tempered safety glass:

  • Car/vehicle windows
  • Architectural glass (railings, partitions, staircases, etc.)
  • Glass furniture
  • Storefront windows
  • Other types of commercial glazing
business man standing in front of window

What does shattered tempered glass look like?

When tempered glass shatters due to some kind of impact, it breaks apart into thousands of tiny, relatively harmless cubes of glass. These cubes are far less likely to cause injury to a person if they fly towards them or when handled.

On the other hand, traditional window glass (annealed glass) breaks apart into large, sharp, jagged shards when it receives a strong enough impact. These shards can easily cause major injuries when they fly dangerously inwards at someone or if someone tries to pick them up.

shattered glass on window

A prime example of how shattered tempered safety glass helps mitigate the risks of human injury is in vehicles.

When you’re seated in a car or another vehicle, you’re surrounded by glass windows — usually at face and eye level. So, you can imagine how dangerous it would be to use traditional window glass in vehicles. 

If you were to get into an accident, even a minor one that only causes a window or two to break, the sharp, jagged pieces of glass could easily take an eye out or cause a serious laceration to your face or head.

Tempered safety glass mitigates these risks in the event of an accident because it crumbles apart into the small, relatively safe cubes of glass that we’ve mentioned.

Is tempered glass stronger than regular glass?

Tempered glass is tougher than standard annealed glass, but this doesn’t mean that it should be considered impact-resistant glass. 

Though it can be up to five times stronger than traditional glass, tempered window glass can still be easily shattered by impacts. This is why we always stress that this type of commercial glass should only be used for safety purposes instead of for security applications.

Tempered safety glass does nothing to protect your property against common security threats, such as forced entry, burglary, smash-and-grab theft, rioting and looting, vandalism, or storm damage from flying storm debris.

How easy is it to shatter tempered glass?

It’s unlikely that an accidental bump from something or someone is going to shatter a tempered window or a piece of tempered glass furniture, which is what the intent behind using such glass is.

But, a high-force impact, whether intentional using a heavy tool or accidental from a piece of debris hurled by strong winds, will have no trouble shattering a tempered window.

For example, a burglar looking to gain entry to a high-end retail store can easily smash through a tempered glass door or storefront window with a sledgehammer and step or reach right in.

forced entry

Common causes of impacts that shatter tempered glass:

  • Forced entry (e.g., burglary)
  • Vandalism
  • Rioting
  • Hurricanes/strong windstorms
  • Earthquakes
  • Accidents

How To Reinforce Tempered Window Glass for Commercial Security Applications

In an ideal world, human safety due to accidental breakage would be the only concern when it comes to the commercial window glass. However, businesses and commercial facilities have to deal with the reality that there are many real-life security threats out there.

While tempered windows certainly have their place in many commercial applications, it’s important to understand their vulnerabilities and use other types of glazing to reinforce critical points, like storefront windows and doors.

Fortunately, there are ways to reinforce your commercial glass without needing to replace any existing tempered glass. We’re talking about security glazing retrofits, or solutions designed to work with your existing glazing and framing systems.

What is a security glazing retrofit?

In a security glazing retrofit, we typically use one of the following glazing materials to reinforce your existing commercial glass:

  1. Laminated security glass
  2. Polycarbonate
  3. Glass-clad polycarbonate

All of the above options can provide very effective glass protection against impacts and protect your existing glass against threats like forced entry.

Depending on what your other security concerns and goals are, these types of glass reinforcement can also provide higher levels of protection. 

For example, we often recommend polycarbonate or glass-clad polycarbonate glazing shields to clients looking for ballistic-grade security windows to protect against active threats and other major security threats.

Once you’ve decided on the right material for your security needs, we use your existing framing systems to anchor the new security glazing over your existing glass, protecting it from impacts and preventing it from shattering.

Benefits of security glazing retrofit solutions

Because a retrofit solution doesn’t require us to remove any of the existing glass or replace the existing framing, it is an extremely efficient and cost-effective method of hardening your building’s security.

glass doors looking out into balcony

Other benefits of protecting the tempered glass from shattering with a security glazing retrofit include:

  • Does not significantly change the appearance of your building
  • Maintains visibility and continues to let natural light in
  • Protects against a full range of security threats
  • Can be combined with other glazing solutions to improve window performance (e.g., energy efficiency)

For more information about reinforcing your commercial glass doors and windows with our state-of-the-art security glazing retrofits, contact Riot Glass LLC today.

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Looking for residential protection? At Riot Glass, we specialize in protecting your property with our patented bullet-resistant system, designed specifically for aluminium framed windows. Not sure if Riot Glass is right for your home? Explore our FAQs.
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