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What Is Tempered Glass? A Complete Guide

Written By: Brad CampbellJuly 10, 2024

Tempered glass is one of the most common types of glazing used for commercial windows and doors.

However, many commercial property and business owners don’t truly have a full understanding of what tempered glass is and how it really works — people often make the mistake of thinking tempered windows improve security, which is not the case.

This comprehensive guide will provide all the necessary information you need to help you decide when tempered window glass is appropriate, and when you might need something more robust to protect against security threats. 

We’ll also go over some alternatives for boosting commercial security at the end of the article.

What Is Tempered Glass?

Tempered glass starts its life out as standard annealed glass before undergoing a special heat-treating process that involves heating the annealed glass to a very high temperature (around 1150 degrees Fahrenheit) and then rapidly cooling it. 

This process, known as tempering, creates a type of safety glass that is much stronger (about 4 or 5 times) than untreated annealed glass of the same thickness.

What makes tempered glass a type of safety glass is that it is designed to break apart into small, blunt pieces when shattered, rather than breaking apart into sharp, jagged shards. 

Unlike large, irregularly-shaped pieces of shattered annealed glass, which have the potential to cause serious injury to anyone nearby when the glass is broken (or afterwards), the small, granular pieces of glass that tempered glass breaks apart into are relatively harmless. They don’t fly dangerously inwards and can be easily swept up and disposed of.

These safety-enhancing characteristics make tempered glass ideal for use in a wide range of commercial applications where human safety is a concern.

What Is Tempered Glass Used for in Commercial Buildings?

Exterior Windows and Doors

Tempered glass is often used for exterior windows and doors in many different types of commercial buildings. It provides more strength and durability than annealed glass, and in case of breakage, it shatters into small, dull pieces, reducing the risk of injury.

Glass Building Facades

Tempered glass is also frequently used in glass facades or curtain walls of glass commercial buildings. These tempered glass walls provide natural light, visibility, and a modern look to the building, while ensuring the safety of its occupants.

tempered glass 1

Glass Office Partitions

In office spaces, tempered glass is often used to create glass partitions for offices, conference rooms, and other areas. This allows natural light to flow through the space and maintains a sense of openness, without compromising on safety.

Glass Railings

Tempered glass is also regularly used for glass railings in staircases, balconies, and atriums. It provides safety without obstructing the view, and can complement many modern architectural styles and contemporary interior design preferences.

tempered glass 2

Glass Storefronts

Commercial storefronts often use tempered glass for their entryway doors and windows. It provides safety and relative durability, while allowing business owners to showcase products and attract customers.

Interior Decor

Tempered glass is also commonly used in various interior decor elements, such as decorative glass walls, partitions, tabletops, and other furnishings or sculpture-type decor. Such features can add a modern and sleek look to spaces like lobbies and reception areas, and the tempered glass mitigates risks of glass-related injuries due to their presence in high-traffic areas.

What Are the Disadvantages of Tempered Glass?

Overall, tempered glass is a versatile glazing material that is well-suited for various applications in commercial buildings due to its improved strength, safety features, and aesthetic appeal.

That being said, the increased strength of tempered safety glass does not mean that tempered windows or doors are suitable for any type of security application. 

In other words, you should never rely on tempered safety glass to protect people or property against forced entry or any other commercial security threat.

In fact, tempered safety glass windows and doors are actually designed to break — just in a safer way than traditional commercial glass. 

This means that intruders, including burglars and smash-and-grab thieves, can make short work of tempered storefront windows or display cases, quickly gaining access to valuable merchandise behind the glass. 

tempered glass 3

All it takes is a well-aimed throw of a spark plug or a couple of blows from a hammer or another heavy object to make a tempered sheet of glass crumble.

So, while tempered safety glass can certainly play a range of important roles in all types of commercial properties, increasing the security of commercial windows and doors isn’t one of them.

Are There Any Alternatives to Tempered Glass for Boosting Security?

In terms of improving commercial security, the best way to reinforce commercial windows and doors is to retrofit them with Riot Glass or ArmorPlast security glazing.

These specialized security glazing products are designed to provide superior protection against forced entry, storm damage, vandalism, ballistic threats, and more, making them ideal for high-security applications.

Riot Glass and ArmorPlast commercial security glazing solutions are formulated using specific combinations of security glass laminates, polycarbonate-based security glazing, acrylics, and other plastics.

These materials look and feel very much like standard commercial glass and tempered safety glass, but are highly resistant to breakage (virtually unbreakable in many cases). 

Riot Glass and ArmorPlast are designed to withstand a wide range of commercial security threats, including hammer, bat, and crowbar attacks, ballistic impacts, and even blasts

This impact-resistance makes the glazing suitable for use in properties and businesses where security is a top priority, such as luxury retail stores, high-risk businesses, banks, government buildings, and high-profile corporate offices. 

By retrofitting commercial windows and doors with Riot Glass or ArmorPlast security glazing products, businesses and commercial facilities can greatly enhance their overall security and protect their valuable assets, employees, and customers against a full range of threats.

Contact Riot Glass, LLC today for a free consultation.

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