What Is Tempered Glass?

If you're looking for a strong, safe, and versatile glass solution for your home or business, tempered glass is an excellent choice. It provides enhanced durability, reduces the risk of injuries, and offers a clear and aesthetically pleasing look. Tempered glass, also known as toughened glass, is a type of safety glass specifically treated to enhance its durability and safety compared to regular glass. It undergoes a controlled thermal tempering process that significantly strengthens the glass and alters how it breaks upon impact.

Tempered glass is designed for daily use and potential accidents, minimizing the need for replacements in the future – which makes it a versatile and reliable choice for many glass applications in your home and business. Let’s explore how this innovative safety glass can serve you.

What Is Tempered Glass Made of and Why it Matters

While tempered glass shares the same basic material as regular glass has, the tempering process transforms it into a much stronger, safer, and more versatile product. Tempered glass is actually made from regular glass, the only difference is the tempering process. With a specific heat treatment that alters the internal structure of the glass, tempered material is fundamentally much stronger and a safer material to use in safety-focused applications.

Here's a closer look at the science behind tempered glass:

  • The Base Material: Regular glass is primarily composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2) with small amounts of other minerals depending on the desired properties. This base material offers good clarity and light transmission but can be brittle and prone to shattering into sharp shards upon impact.
  • The Tempering Process: During tempering,  glass sheets are heated to extremely high temperatures (around 1100°F or 620°C).  Once heated uniformly, the glass is rapidly cooled with forced air blasts. Rapid cooling creates a unique internal stress pattern within the glass. The outer surfaces are compressed while the inner core remains in tension.

Why Does This Matter?

This internal stress pattern is what makes tempered glass so much stronger and safer than regular glass is. Here's how:

  • Increased Strength: The compression on the outer surfaces creates a "pre-stressed" state, significantly enhancing the glass's resistance to impacts, scratches, and pressure. Tempered glass can withstand forces several times greater than regular glass of the same thickness can.
  • Shatter Pattern:  When tempered glass does break due to extreme force, the internal tension causes it to shatter into small, blunt fragments instead of large, sharp shards. This dramatically reduces the risk of injuries compared to that of regular glass, which can break into dangerous shards.

Common Tempered Glass Uses

Tempered glass can be a custom glass solution to fit your needs and is widely used where safety and strength are crucial, including:

Built Differently

Tempered glass isn't just a safety improvement; it's a versatile building material chosen for its superior strength and aesthetics across various industries. From structurally sound glass balustrades and railings to minimalist shower doors, tempered glass is indispensable in several types of applications. Let’s see how this type of glass also proves its worth across several industries:

In Your Home:

  • Enhanced Safety: Tempered glass shines in common areas and highly-usable fixtures such as bathroom enclosures, shower doors, and glass tabletops. If impacted, it shatters into small, blunt fragments, minimizing injury risks.
  • Modern Aesthetics: Create a sleek and contemporary look with tempered glass tabletops, shelves, and partitions. Its clarity allows for clean lines and uninterrupted light flow, enhancing the overall space.

Businesses and Commercial Spaces:

  • Durable Display Cases: Showcase valuable products and merchandise with confidence. Tempered glass offers superior strength and scratch resistance, protecting your valuables while maintaining excellent clarity for customer viewing.
  • Safe and Stylish Partitions: Divide office spaces or create designated areas with tempered glass partitions. They provide a sense of openness while offering sound-dampening properties and a modern aesthetic.

Public Areas and Construction:

  • Safety First in Architecture: Tempered glass is often specified in building codes for features such as glass doors, railings, and skylights. Its strength ensures safety in high-traffic areas, and its ability to withstand thermal stress makes it suitable for various climates.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Glass facades made with tempered glass panels offer a unique blend of architectural style and practicality. They allow for natural light penetration while maintaining structural integrity.

In Your Car:

  • Vehicle Side and Rear Windows: Tempered glass is used in car side and rear windows for its strength and ability to shatter safely in case of accidents.
  • Tempered Glass Car Windshields: While not used for the front windshield due to optical clarity requirements, tempered glass can be a valuable option for car windshields in certain car models, particularly for off-road vehicles or convertibles. Its superior strength offers several benefits:
    • Impact Resistance: Tempered glass is more resistant to cracking and shattering from flying debris or road hazards compared to traditional laminated glass windshields.
    • Thermal Stability: It can withstand larger temperature fluctuations without cracking, which can be important in extreme climates.

Need more information on auto glass repair? Learn how Glass Doctor can help.

Strength and Style in Your Home

Incorporating tempered glass into your home not only enhances safety, but also adds a touch of modern style and sophistication to your living space. Here's how tempered glass elevates both form and function all around your house:

  • Shower Doors and Tub Enclosures:  Tempered glass is required by building codes in most areas for glass shower doors and tub enclosures – it can withstand the impact of someone accidentally falling against it, and if it does break, it shatters into small, pebble-like pieces that are less likely to cause serious injury. Also, tempered glass delivers a clean, unobstructed view of your shower or bathtub, enhancing the feeling of spaciousness in your bathroom.
  • Shelving:  Tempered glass shelves are a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas, making them a stylish way to display decorative items or store everyday essentials. Because tempered glass is stronger than regular glass, it can safely hold a significant amount of weight, depending on the shelf thickness and support system.
  • Partitions and Railings:  Interior designers often use tempered glass partitions and railings to create a sense of openness in a space. Glass partitions allow natural light to flow freely throughout your home, making it feel larger and brighter. Tempered glass railings for stairs and balconies offer scenic views while meeting safety standards.

Pros and Cons of Tempered Glass


  • Safety: Shatters into small, blunt pieces, minimizing injury risk. Ideal for shower doors, tabletops, or areas with children or pets.
  • Strength: Up to four times stronger than regular glass is, resisting impacts, scratches, and even thermal shock. Excellent for tabletops and high-traffic areas.
  • Clarity: Maintains high transparency. Ideal for windows, tabletops, and showcases.
  • Heat resistance: Can withstand higher temperatures than regular glass can, which makes it a great material to use for shower doors..
  • Scratch resistance: Less susceptible to scratches, which is ideal for glass car windshields.
  • Versatility: Available in various thicknesses, colors, and textures, offering diverse design possibilities.
  • Easy cleaning: Smooth, non-porous surface simplifies cleaning and maintenance.
  • Sleek and Modern Aesthetic: Creates a contemporary and minimalist look, enhancing the visual appeal of your home.


  • Limited modifications: Once tempered, the glass cannot be cut, drilled, or shaped further, limiting customization options.
  • Prone to chipping: Edges are vulnerable to chipping upon impact, which can compromise the glass's integrity and aesthetics.
  • Higher cost: Tempered glass is generally more expensive than regular glass is due to the additional processing involved.
  • Weight factor: Larger panels can be heavy and require sturdy support structures for installation.
  • Visibility issues: Tempered glass can sometimes exhibit slight distortions or optical imperfections, especially in large panels.

Tempered Glass Care

After installation, it’s important to maintain tempered glass properly; it is relatively easy and can help preserve its clarity, durability, and safety features in the long run.

Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

  • Cleaning Basics
    Keep it clean and simple: no harsh chemicals.
    Clean the glass regularly with a non-abrasive glass cleaner or a vinegar:water mixture to prevent the buildup of dirt, grime, and fingerprints. Many tempered glass applications, such as shower doors, often have protective coatings, so harsh chemicals or abrasive materials aren't the best option.
  • Use Soft Cleaning Materials
    A soft, lint-free cloth, microfiber cloth, or a sponge are less likely to scratch the glass surface.
    Soft cloths gently remove dirt and fingerprints without leaving any residue, ensuring your tempered glass remains clear and sparkling. Abrasive materials such as paper towels or sponges can trap dirt particles, leading to micro-abrasions that dull the glass and leave streaks.
  • Avoid Sharp Objects
    Be careful when cleaning or handling tempered glass near sharp objects, as they can scratch or chip the glass.
    While tempered glass is shatter-resistant, it's not entirely immune to damage. Sharp objects such as knives, tools, or even abrasive cleaning pads can chip or crack the edges of the glass, especially if they come into contact with the compressive stress layer on the surface.
  • Avoid Harsh Impact
    Avoid hitting or dropping heavy objects on the glass surface.
    Even if the impact doesn't cause immediate shattering, scratches or chips caused by heavy objects can act as stress concentrators. So when the glass encounters pressure, even from everyday use or temperature changes, these stress points can become the focal points for cracks to form, which can lead to breakage.
  • Protect Edges
    Handle the glass carefully, and avoid placing heavy items near the edges.
    Be careful when moving, installing or storing your tempered glass. Chipped or damaged edges can create sharp shards instead of the expected blunt fragments, posing a significant cutting hazard — especially concerning for shower doors or tabletops, where broken glass could cause serious injuries.      
  • Regular Inspection
    Periodically inspect the glass for any signs of damage, chips, or cracks.
    Tempered glass, despite its strength, relies on its uniform structure for its safety features, so even a minor crack or inclusion can lead to bigger issues. Regular inspections can proactively address the safety and functionality of your tempered glass installations – especially in areas such as shower enclosures, tabletops, or balcony railings, where unexpected breakage could pose a significant risk.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperature Changes
    Avoid exposing it to extreme temperature changes whenever possible.
    Although tempered glass can withstand reasonable temperature fluctuations, but gradual changes are more manageable. For example a cold car parked in the sunlight that has a tempered glass windshield could weaken the glass or cause breakage.
  • Protection During Construction or Renovation
    Protect the glass with a cover to prevent damage from debris, dust, or construction materials.
    Taking preventative measures, such as covering with cardboard or thick plastic, can significantly reduce the risk of damage (dust and debris build-up) to your tempered glass. Communication with your contractor is key to finding the best solution that aligns with the project constraints and keeping your tempered glass intact and out of harm's way.
  • Prompt Repair
    If the tempered glass becomes damaged, seek professional repair or replacement services promptly. 

Ready to Unlock the Potential of Tempered Glass?

Whether you're looking to enhance the safety of your home’s glass windows or seeking a durable solution for your storefront glass, Glass Doctor is here to help you find a tempered glass solution that functions and feels right for you.

Contact Glass Doctor today to discover how tempered glass can elevate the safety, durability, and aesthetics of your living and working spaces. Our services are backed by the Neighborly® Done Right Promise, which guarantees that it’s done right the first time.