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Building Code Requirements for Tempered Glass

Updated: 05/31/2024

Understanding the necessity of tempered glass is crucial in construction projects as complying with building codes ensures safety and durability. In this guide, our team at Apex Tempered Glass will delve into the nuanced regulations surrounding tempered glass.

Whether you’re a homeowner or industry professional, grasping these standards is essential. Join us as we navigate through the intricacies of building code requirements to ensure that every glass installation meets the highest standards of safety and quality.

Who Sets the Requirements for Tempered Glass?

Who Sets the Requirements for Tempered Glass?

The use of tempered glass in construction and consumer products is governed by various regulations and standards to ensure safety and compliance. Some of them include:

  1. ASTM Standards: The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards such as ASTM C1048 and ASTM E2353, which specify the requirements for tempered glass in terms of its physical and mechanical properties, as well as its testing methods.
  2. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): The CPSC sets regulations related to consumer product safety, including requirements for tempered glass in products such as doors, windows, and furniture to prevent injuries from breakage.
  3. International Building Code (IBC): The IBC provides guidelines for building design and construction, including requirements for tempered glass in specific locations to ensure structural integrity and occupant safety.
  4. Local Building Departments: Many local municipalities have their own building departments that enforce building codes and regulations specific to their jurisdiction. These departments may have additional requirements or amendments to national or international codes regarding tempered glass usage.

Compliance with these regulations helps ensure that tempered glass installations meet the needed safety standards and prevent potential hazards. Builders, contractors, and property owners should familiarize themselves with these regulations and work with qualified professionals to ensure proper compliance and installation of tempered glass in their projects.

When Is Tempered Glass Required By Code?

Tempered glass is required by building codes in specific situations where safety is a concern. Here are some common instances when tempered glass is mandated by code:

  1. Windows and Doors: Tempered glass is typically required in windows and doors that are within a certain distance from the floor, especially if the glass is large or near areas where people walk.
  2. Shower Enclosures: Building codes often mandate the use of tempered glass for shower enclosures to prevent injuries from shattered glass in case of breakage.
  3. Glass Railings and Balconies: Tempered glass is required for railings and balconies to ensure structural integrity and safety.
  4. Glass Near Stairways and Ramps: Glass panels near stairways or ramps are often required to be tempered to prevent injuries in case of accidental impact.
  5. Storefronts and Commercial Buildings: Building codes may require tempered glass for storefronts and commercial buildings to enhance security and safety.
  6. Pool Fencing: In areas where there are swimming pools, building codes often mandate the use of tempered glass for fencing to prevent accidents.
  7. Glass in Public Areas: Tempered glass is frequently required in public areas such as schools, hospitals, and public buildings to minimize the risk of injuries.
  8. Glass Partitions: Tempered glass may be required for glass partitions in commercial or office settings to ensure safety and durability.
  9. Glass Tables and Furniture: Building codes may require tempered glass for table tops and glass furniture to reduce the risk of injury in case of breakage.
  10. Glass in Hazardous Locations: Any location where there’s a higher risk of impact or breakage, such as in industrial settings or areas prone to severe weather, may need tempered glass for safety reasons.

It’s important to consult local building codes and regulations to determine specific requirements for tempered glass in your area, as requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Tempered Glass Requirements



Tempered Glass in Windows Glass in windows must be tempered if it exceeds 9 sq ft, bottom edge is <18″ above floor, and near walking surfaces. Exceptions: decorative glass, horizontal rail adjacency, distance from walking surface.
Tempered Glass in Doors Glass in doors must be tempered if adjacent to a stairway or landing. Exceptions: small openings, decorative glazing.
Tempered Glass Adjacent to Doors Glass near doors must be tempered if <60″ above floor and meets certain conditions. Exceptions: decorative glazing, permanent barriers, closets, patio doors.
Tempered Glass in Structural Glass Panels Glass baluster panels need a top rail unless laminated with multiple plies.
Tempered Glass in Wet Locations Glass near wet areas must be tempered if <60″ above floor. Exception: >60″ horizontally from water’s edge.
Tempered Glass Adjacent to Stairs and Ramps Glass near stairs/ramps <36″ above the walking surface must be tempered. Exceptions: horizontal rail, distance from walking surface.
Tempered Glass Adjacent to Stair Landings Glass near bottom stair landings <36″ above and within 60″ from bottom step must be tempered. Exception: guarded protection.

Tempered Glass in Windows

When it comes to windows, safety standards are crucial. Section R308.4.3 delves into the regulations surrounding glass within windows, outlining four key conditions that determine whether the glass is deemed hazardous.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Size Matters: If the individual pane of glass exceeds 9 square feet in the exposed area, it’s time to take precautions.
  2. Height Parameters: Keep an eye on the bottom edge — anything less than 18 inches above the floor warrants attention. Conversely, if the top edge exceeds 36 inches from the floor, it’s on the radar.
  3. Watch Your Step: If there’s a walking surface within 36 inches of the glass, it’s a potential hazard zone.
  4. All Conditions Apply: For glass to be considered hazardous, it must meet all four conditions outlined above.

Now, let’s address some exceptions:

  1. Decorative glass gets a pass — it’s exempt from tempering requirements.
  2. Adding a horizontal rail adjacent to the glass can mitigate risks. If the rail is installed between 34 to 38 inches above the walking surface and can withstand a horizontal load of 50 pounds per linear foot, tempering may not be necessary.
  3. For outboard panes in insulating glass units or multiple glazed panels, tempered glass isn’t mandated if the bottom edge is a lofty 25 feet or more above the ground or adjacent surfaces.

Tempered Glass in Doors

Tempered Glass in Doors

When it comes to door safety, tempered glass takes the lead. As per Section R308.4.1, glass within fixed and operable doors — whether swinging, sliding, or bifold — is deemed hazardous. This mandates the use of tempered glass to mitigate risks. However, there are two exceptions:

  1. If glazed openings are too small for a 3-inch-diameter sphere to pass through.
  2. In the case of decorative glazing, which adds aesthetic value without compromising safety.

Understanding “decorative glass” as defined in Chapter 2 is key — it encompasses artistic elements integral to the door’s design, such as stained glass.

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Tempered Glass Adjacent to Doors

When it comes to glass adjacent to doors, safety standards are paramount. Section R308.4.2 outlines the parameters for glass in this location, focusing on the proximity to the door and the height of the glass from the floor.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Glass adjacent to a door is deemed hazardous if its bottom edge is less than 60 inches above the floor and meets certain conditions: a. If the glass is within 24 inches of either side of the closed door. b. If the glass is within 24 inches of the hinge side of an in-swinging door and less than 180 degrees from the plane of the door.

In these cases, tempered glass is required for safety. However, there are exceptions:

  1. Decorative glazing does not require tempering.
  2. If there’s a permanent barrier like a wall between the door and the glass, tempering isn’t needed.
  3. Glass adjacent to doors leading to closets or storage areas less than 3 feet deep follows Section R308.4.3 guidelines.
  4. Glass adjacent to the fixed panel of patio doors is exempt from tempering requirements.

These exceptions ensure safety without compromising functionality or design. It’s important to note that these regulations specifically address glass near doors, not windows, which have separate guidelines.

Tempered Glass in Structural Glass Baluster Panels

When it comes to integrating glass panels into structures, safety takes center stage. But within the building codes, there’s an intriguing twist to ensure both safety and style.

Let’s dive deeper:

  1. Safety First: Structural glass baluster panels are a must-have, but they’re accompanied by a unique requirement — a top rail or handrail. This adds an extra layer of stability, ensuring that even if one panel falters, the rest hold strong.
  2. The Exception: But here’s where it gets interesting. If you’re not a fan of visible rails, there’s a clever workaround. Enter laminated glass panels with multiple plies of equal thickness and type. These panels stand tall sans the need for a top rail or handrail, blending seamlessly into your design while maintaining safety standards.

This unique clause marries safety with aesthetics, offering a practical solution for those seeking sleek and modern architectural elements.

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Tempered Glass in Wet Locations

Within the labyrinth of building codes lies Section R308.4.5, a crucial regulation dedicated to addressing safety concerns surrounding glass installations in or near wet environments.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Wet Location Definition: Any wall, enclosure, or fence facing hot tubs, spas, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, bathtubs, showers, indoor, or outdoor swimming pools qualifies as a wet location if the bottom edge of the glass is less than 60 inches above any standing or walking surface.
  2. Tempering Requirement: In such wet locations, tempered glass is a must. Whether it’s single glazing or part of a multiple-glazed setup, the glass must be tempered if it’s within 60 inches vertically from the floor.

But wait, there’s an exception:

  • 60-Inch Horizontal Rule: If the glass is more than 60 inches horizontally from the water’s edge of any of the mentioned features, including bathtubs, hot tubs, spas, whirlpools, swimming pools, showers, saunas, or steam rooms, then tempering isn’t required — regardless of its vertical placement.

This exception ensures safety without compromising design flexibility, offering a practical solution for glass placement in wet areas.

Tempered Glass Adjacent to Stairs and Ramps

The 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) Section R308.4.6 specifically addresses the requirements for glazing adjacent to stairs and ramps. Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • Hazardous Location Designation: Glazing where the bottom exposed edge of the glazing is less than 36 inches above the plane of the adjacent walking surface of stairways, landings between flights of stairs, and ramps is considered to be in a hazardous location.
  • Safety Measures: For glazing in these hazardous locations, the code specifies that certain safety measures must be taken to prevent injury. This typically involves the use of safety glazing materials, such as tempered glass, which is designed to break in a way that reduces the risk of injury.
  • Exceptions:
  1. If glazing is adjacent to a walking surface and a horizontal rail is installed at 34 to 38 inches above the walking surface, it must be capable of withstanding a horizontal load of 50 pounds per linear foot without contacting the glass. The rail should have a cross-sectional height of not less than 1.5 inches.
  2. Glazing that is 36 inches or more measured horizontally from the walking surface is exempt from these requirements.

These provisions are designed to enhance safety by reducing the risk of falls and injuries related to glass breakage in areas where people are likely to be moving up or down stairs or ramps. For detailed applications or additional exceptions, we recommend consulting the full text of the IRC or relevant local amendments.

Tempered Glass Adjacent to the Bottom of Stair Landings

Let’s dive into Section R308.4.7, the last stop on our journey through glass safety. Unlike before, where we focused on glass near stairs, now we’re looking at the bottom of stair landings.

Here’s the lowdown:

  1. Landing Hazards: If glass is less than 36 inches above the landing and within 60 inches from the bottom step, it’s considered risky.
  2. Glass Protection: Glass in these areas must be strong enough to handle potential accidents, so it needs to be tempered.

But wait, there’s a special case:

  • Guarded Protection: If there’s a guardrail in place, and the glass is at least 18 inches away from it, it might not need to be tempered. But the guardrail has to meet certain rules outlined in Section R312.

Illinois Building Codes and Tempered Glass Requirements

Illinois Building Codes and Tempered Glass Requirements

Illinois adheres to stringent building codes to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of its residents. These codes encompass a wide range of construction and design standards, including specific guidelines for the use of glass in buildings. The Illinois Building Code, which adopts and amends the International Building Code (IBC), sets forth the requirements for materials, design, construction, and quality of glass in both residential and commercial applications.

Areas Where Tempered Glass Is Mandated by Illinois Building Code

The Illinois Building Code mandates the use of tempered glass in several hazardous locations to enhance safety. These areas include, but aren’t limited to, doors, sidelights, windows near floor level, shower enclosures, and areas near swimming pools. The goal is to minimize the risk of injury from glass breakage in situations where impact is more likely. Additionally, when planning a construction or renovation project, it’s ideal to consult with a local building official or a professional in the field to provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the maze of building code requirements for tempered glass is essential for ensuring safety and compliance in construction projects. By understanding these regulations, you can guarantee the durability and security of your glass installations.

As a trusted tempered glass manufacturer in Chicago, Apex Tempered Glass is here to help. We’re passionate about top-quality craftsmanship to deliver excellence at every step. Contact us today for a free quote and expert guidance on all your tempered glass needs.

Nina Tsoy

Finance And Operations

Nina leads Apex Tempered Glass, a company specializing in manufacturing all types of glass. Known for her strategic expertise and exceptional operational performance, Nina is committed to providing innovative solutions for any glass-related issue.