Glass Shower Door Explodes All Over Consumer Journalist

Skreekaboosploosh! A large cut and 20 small cuts blossomed on consumer journalist Bob Sullivan’s body as his tempered glass shower door exploded all around him.

As he dug into the issue, it turned out that its not that uncommon for tempered glass door to shatter, whether on impact, or spontaneously. The heating process that turn glass into safety glass makes it resistant to direct impact, but also more susceptible to side impact. Here are some important maintenance tips to make sure your tempered glass doors don’t blow up:

  1. Make sure all the panels are tightly affixed to the door system.
  2. Every so often make sure the fasteners on the shower door hardware are tight and snug.
  3. Check the bumpers and seals to make sure the glass panel doesn’t touch the wall or metal when you move it.
  4. Check the door for chips or cracks, especially edges, notches and holes. If you see any chips or cracks, replace the door pronto.
  5. Do not put any weight on the shower door grab bar.

Shattered! The danger hanging in your bathroom [The Red Tape Chronicles]

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  1. Samuel Kadolph says:

    6: ???
    7: Profit!

  2. failurate says:

    6. ???
    7. Profit!!!

  3. m1k3g says:

    6. ?

    Is this the one he ignored?

  4. Cicadymn says:

    6. ???
    7. Profit

    That being said, I don’t know what goes into tempered glass, but I guess it’s not one of those layers of plastic that makes broken glass spiderweb instead of shatter and explode.

    Is there a reason they can’t? Like I said, don’t know much about it.

    • keepher says:

      My question too. Wonder what the answer is, someone should ask Kohler since they were mentioned.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      Just a guess, but plastic is easier to scratch during cleaning.

      • Cicadymn says:

        Right, but the plastic is on the inside, like with windshields and windows now, whenever glass breaks it doesn’t shatter and explode, it simply spiderwebs because they have the layer of plastic or whatever it is, between the layers of glass on the outside.

        • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

          That “Whatever it is” is glue. And that is for the front window only, as that kind of safety glass is very expensive, heavy, and generally harder to make.

          Most safety glass is the kind that explodes (see, all your side windows and back window in your car) into tiny pieces.

    • Rachacha says:

      Tempered glass is heated and cooled repeatedly and as a result it becomes much stronger than standard glass, but it is also under pressure so when the glass breaks, it completely breaks (tempered glass will never just crack). When it breaks it alsi is not supposed to create sharp points that could stab someone, but it would certainly hurt if you were naked in the shower as it hit your body and lodged under your feet.

  5. Tim says:

    Why don’t the manufacturers of these doors just laminate the glass? That way, the pieces won’t explode when it shatters.

    • microcars says:

      laminated safety glass (like in your car windshield) is more expensive to produce but also not as resistant to breakage (believe it or not).
      You can bang on a sheet of tempered glass with a hammer and it won’t break whereas a sheet of laminated glass will crack.
      When broken the tempered glass also breaks into relatively small smooth pieces with few sharp edges, laminated glass is just a pair of plain sheets of glass with a plastic piece inbetween, when it breaks, some of the bits may come off and those WILL be very very sharp.

      • microcars says:

        also I think to meet building codes, shower enclosures must be tempered glass.
        however I keep finding conflicting info for this in my cursory web searchs, now I am off to work.
        you kids have fun.

    • chaesar says:

      maybe the steamy air from hot showers wears this down over time? or creates an undesired appearance in the glass?

      of course bloody, mangled feet and lacerated nipples is also undesired

    • SwoonOMatic says:

      From my experience windshield glass actually quite fragile. Just try (don’t) swatting a mosquito against the inside of your windshield some day. You’ll find out the hard way. Of course the harder way is to put your head through it.

  6. junkmail says:

    Sorry, but that’s what he gets for taking it straight from the oven to the fridge.

  7. bullymom2 says:

    This happened to us, while both my kids (2 and 4 at the time) were in the tub. Very scary. The landlords wanted us to pay for the replacement. Luckily, my husband is a lawyer and he calmly explained to them that they were lucky they did not have a law suit on their hands.

    • dancemonkey says:

      When I was a kid my mother and I were awakened one night by what sounded like a gunshot in our own house. We looked all over the house but couldn’t figure out what happened.

      We hadn’t looked in the bathroom, and the picture in this article (minus the blood) is what we found when we woke up. Real scary to think what would have happened if one of us were standing in there at the time.

      Our landlord obviously didn’t believe us that we were asleep when it happened and had no idea what was going on, but he stopped short of asking my mom to pay for it.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        The stress points on tempered glass are different depending upon its use. So even though the glass shattered while you were asleep, it could have been caused by a misalignment in the tracks, or a slight break near a corner in which the metal shims are holding the glass. It could also be from wear and tear. The point is, it is supposed to shatter and that is the safety mechanism of tempered glass.

        One of the main reasons why people died in vehicle accidents years ago is because they went through windshields and door glass which most were plain on pane glass back in the early days. And yes as you can imagine, their faces didn’t look good when they were found.

      • Karita says:

        The same thing happened to my mother when she was driving – her rear window exploded and she thought someone had shot at her. She called the police because she was totally freaked. Turned out it had to do with the read defrost coming on when temperatures were well below freezing outside.

        Not a shower door, I know, but the concept is the same. And she said it was LOUD.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Lawsuit for what? Tempered glass is supposed to shatter and that is the safety mechanism which allows it to break into minute pieces to avoid being sharred to death. Back ’03, last time I worked in the vehicle glass industry, federal reg for tempered back-glass breakage on a U.S. vehicle was mandated that each broken piece was supposed to be no bigger than 8 mm.

      Front-glass will not do this because it is designed to keep the occupants from exiting the vehicle, as this is the primary objective of front-glass.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        I’m pretty sure the primary objective of front glass is to see through – if it was just to keep people in place, it would metal like the rest of the car.

        • Clyde Barrow says:

          Actually no, it isn’t. It is to keep occupants from falling out. I wrote one of my papers for my MBA on safety / vehicle glass in 2003 while working for a subsidary of Saint-Gobain called Sekurit and that is the #1 reason. This is why safety-glass is used so that it does not break apart when it is cracked and it keeps you inside the vehicle in an accident. The back-glass, which is tempered, is made that way for occupants to escape in case or a fire or in case of driving into a lake. You can buy a small, hand device that will puncture the back-glass for escape if this every happens.

  8. lifestar says:

    Hmm, well I guess maybe that’s why Apple didn’t go for temper glass.

  9. Bativac says:

    We’re redoing a bathroom and this story has led me to decide we’re going with either Plexiglass or a shower curtain.

    This is one of my worst fears: being naked and wet, and showered with broken glass. It could only have been worse if it started raining earwigs.

    Glad the guy is okay!

    • Short_Circuit_City says:

      If you’re talking about Plexiglass, then shattering won’t be an issue. Scratches from cleaning will be, though.

      • microcars says:

        shattering won’t be an issue but Plexiglas® will crack rather easily despite being rated about 7X “stronger” than plain sheet glass.
        When it cracks you still have nice sharp edges all over the place.
        Not a good thing in the bathroom.

        You would want to put Lexan® or some other brand of Polycarbonate in for the shower door, much much stronger, but also much much more expensive.

        Check out the replacement storm door plastics at Home Depot or Lowes.
        Plexi is cheap, Lexan like 3X more expensive.

    • Moongirl55 says:

      Done multiple home renovations in my time and have dealt with this issue. Go with the curtain. Easy to clean: You toss it in the washer (can’t do that with a shower door) or throw it out and buy a new one.
      And it won’t shatter.

    • tiz says:

      TRUST me, as a housekeeper that cleans shower doors at LEAST once a day, go with a curtain. glass doors DO look nice in the beginning, but boy oh boy, after awhile, the calcium/hard water stains/soap scum build up starts to look really, really awful.

      glass shower doors are very difficult to keep looking clean & presentable, not to mention, they’re clearly dangerous.

      i personally like shower curtains anyways, they’re a lot more sanitary, and you can get virtually ANY kind you want. i have a black leather shower curtain with gold shower curtain rings and it looks nice n fancy! i also use shower curtain liners for the inside, and they have little magnets to stick them to the side of the tub. when i notice they’re getting a bit mildewy, i just get a new one. they’re very cheap

  10. MercuryPDX says:

    I’ve never had a glass doors on a shower, and when I bought my house it was a first. I quickly grew to hate it. The water here is VERY hard and I found it to be much easier to take them off the track to clean them.

    One day I was cleaning the doors in the garage and one shattered all over me. I remember being thankful it happened then, and not while I was in the shower. From now on it’s always curtains.

  11. Trilby says:

    Is it just the fancy-shmancy frameless glass panels that shatter, I hope?

  12. TVGenius says:

    5. Do not put any weight on the shower door grab bar.

    So the grab bars are just for looks?

  13. jp says:

    This happen to my brother and his family. He said they all woke up at 3 in the morning after hearing something in the back bathroom. Door completely shattered and no one was even near the bathroom. He called a company to replace it and they say this happens more often than people realize. He was told it usually happened when the frame isn’t properly installed and over time weakens the glass.

  14. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    But, man, you should see the way they push against the glass in those Cinemax movies…

  15. Nakko says:

    Holy crap!
    Sticking with my plastic shower curtain! x.x

  16. sirwired says:

    Tempered glass is better than the alternative. Non-tempered glass turns into lethal artery-slicing shards when it breaks. Tempered glass can cut, but non-tempered can kill.

  17. Clyde Barrow says:

    “As he dug into the issue, it turned out that its not that uncommon for tempered glass door to shatter, whether on impact, or spontaneously.”

    As someone who worked in the vehicle glass industry as an engineer, this is exactly what tempered glass is supposed to do; it shatters to protect you from slicing open your body. Those minor cuts are nothing compared to what pane glass will do which will shred your entire body and face as though you walked into a meat cutter. One of major reasons why children died so easily 40+ years ago because most home glass installation was the none-tempered type such as pane glass. Tempered glass is safety glass, hence, this is why it is used as back glass on a vehicle and it allows occupants to exit if need be.

    • lockdog says:

      The best part of tempered glass is that when you break it, the pieces are so small they take time to settle, so you get this tiny, barely audible tinkling, just like snow on a cold cold morning. Sometimes it goes on for minutes. Tempered sliding glass doors are the best for this.

  18. diasdiem says:

    6.) Use a shower curtain instead of a glass door.

  19. Incident8 says:

    The door on my stereo cabinet was a tempered piece of glass. Sitting in the livingroom with my wife after watching a couple hours of TV the glass door just literally exploded into a thousand pieces. No bumping, jarring or other such disturbance. Only thing we could think was that there must have been some temperature variance between the front of the glass (directly exposed to the AC) and the back that caused uneven expansion. But damn it was an odd experience.

  20. jessjj347 says:

    I appreciate that this man didn’t have much of an injury, but I wonder what would happen with an older person who is more fragile?

    • dulcinea47 says:

      Probably not much… it’s glass, and it’s sharp, but it sort of crumbles, it doesn’t break into pointy shards like what happens when you drop a drinking glass. You’re likely to get a lot of small nicks and not any big gashes.

  21. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    Shower the people you love with glass…

  22. dulcinea47 says:

    That happened to me when I was about ten or eleven years old. I shut the sliding door, and *bang*, ankle deep in shattered glass. Scared the crap out of me and boy was Mom mad (even though I didn’t do anything!)

  23. Hoss says:

    “That’s called a spontaneous blow….”

    Sometimes I need to remind myself I’m no longer in middle school

  24. aloria says:

    I had a tempered glass desktop explode on me and didn’t get cut at all– it just turned into tiny little pebbles. I suppose if I were naked in the shower I would have gotten scratched.

    I still prefer glass shower doors over curtains– ever since seeing the movie Pycho I like to be able to see out into the rest of the bathroom, and I absolutely hate the whole plastic blowing inward and clinging to your leg thing that I was never able to fix.

  25. dorianh49 says:

    Looks like his shower door… [sunglasses] had a bit of a temper.

  26. Froggmann says:

    6. Use a shower curtain instead.

  27. melcat says:

    Wow this just happened at my house too! The day I moved home for summer we both got home at the same time and we walked into the house to find glass everywhere. Our glass kitchen table had exploded during the day and bits of glass were all over the kitchen and down the hall to my own room. Even the walls around the table had marks in them from the pieces.

  28. wackydan says:

    All it takes is one little burr on the edge of the door or on any mating surface with the tempered glass. Seen it happen many times. Big sheets make one hell of a noise when they blow.

  29. StrangeEmily says:

    Something simmilar like that happened to me once, Working in retail i was getting a glass shelf ready for a store display and the entire thing exploded in my hands while i was holding it.

    It was an incredibly shocking experience to have that happen… i was covered in what looked like thousands of little glass squares.

    Not a single scratch or cut though.

  30. chiieddy says:

    Wow. After reading this, I clicked through to the CU article on cocktail tables and had no idea. But I did go online to confirm my glass cocktail table was safe (especially since my nephew is visiting on Thursday!) Thankfully it is. According the the store website (luckily I bought it recently and it’s still being sold) it’s made of “3/16″ tempered glass bevel edge”. I do know now to make sure to get tempered glass if I ever have to replace it.

  31. dabarak says:

    Okay, so Bob went to the shower and got showered. What’s the issue?

    (Just a joke.)

  32. Alessar says:

    When I was a little kid, one day our toilet tank spontaneously broke one saturday morning. It sheared in two diagonally with no one in the room and no one having used it within at least an hour.

  33. aschke says:

    This happened to me, while I was in the shower, midway through my morning routine. I found myself covered in soap and bits of safety glass. I switched to shower curtains.

  34. yagisencho says:

    Well then. Guess this would be a good time to replace the glass doors in our daughters’ bathroom.

  35. Splendid says:

    so i guess my tacky (flamingo motif etched into the surface of the glass) landlord-supplied 80s vintage METAL FRAMED glass shower are a safer alternative than these sleek minimal panels of glass without any frame surrounding the door.

    cool!

  36. Puddy Tat says:

    That is crazy and dangerous what happened if he jumped from all the glass falling and landed on a bigger peice this could kill you.

    And you can plainly see the blood he had to walk through this OUCH….!

  37. f3rg says:

    I was moving a tempered-glass kitchen table top a few years back, when I lightly-lightly-lightly set it on its edge on the driveway while I waited for my buddy to close his van door. As ridiculously gentle as I was trying to be, the instant it came in contact with the ground, it shattered into a billion pieces.

    Now I have a sturdy oak table. ;)

  38. Akuma Matata says:

    When tempered glass shatters, it shatters into tiny little pieces with rounded edges specifically to avoid lacerations. Unless he cut himself on the aluminum shower door framing or something, I’m highly skeptical of the story.

    The reason laminated glass isn’t used is because laminated glass is generally more expensive, and is actually weaker than tempered glass in an impact scenario. The only benefit is that when it does break, the glass doesn’t typically separate from the plastic interlayer and you have the spiderweb effect.

  39. Andy S. says:

    Just in case you didn’t know, and from the tenor of the replies most don’t, the sliding glass doors leading to the back yard are also made of tempered glass.