How to Ensure the Safety of Glass Flooring

By Tim Casey

When designed, manufactured and installed correctly, glass flooring is as safe as any other flooring product.

But how can you ensure that safety?

Here are four questions to ask a glass manufacturer before you agree to work with them.

1. Do you use anti-slip glass on your glass flooring and stair treads?
Untreated glass can be slippery. This becomes an even bigger hazard when it’s wet. To ensure the glass flooring is safe for use in either interior or exterior settings, make sure the manufacturer plans to use an anti-slip treatment.

There are several different methods for creating anti-slip glass, each with their pros and cons. They include permanently fusing little pieces of glass aggregate to the walkable glass surface in a kiln; baking an anti-slip product onto the glass surface, which is akin to silk-screening; and using the technique of acid sketching whereby portions of the glass surface are removed, resulting in varying depths of glass.

To ensure you get the ideal anti-slip option for your project, make sure to ask whether the treatment will create a transparent or frosted glass appearance; if it’s rated for interior and/or exterior use; and the expected life span.

2. Do you design your glass flooring with a failure redundancy?
When properly designed and manufactured, failure of a glass floor is very unlikely. However, because of the safety implications involved with glass flooring, you want to be sure your project is designed and built with a failure redundancy.

What does this mean?

Every glass floor panel should be designed using three separate pieces of glass that are ‘sandwiched’ together. In the unlikely event one piece of the glass flooring fails, the structure is engineered and manufactured to stay structurally intact.

Ignoring this three-ply system creates a project that is potentially unsafe. It also makes the project noncompliant with the most up-to-date ASTM standards, which state a minimum of three glass pieces must be used in every glass flooring panel and glass stair tread.

3. How thick will the glass floor be?
In most cases, a glass floor will be approximately one-and-a-quarter-inch thick. (This is three three-eighths-of-an-inch glass panels fused together.) International building codes and glass flooring safety standards govern glass thickness.

Every project is different, though, and should have a glass-specific engineer sign-off on the design based on whether the glass floor will be interior or exterior; the anticipated weight the glass must hold; if the project is for a private residence or a commercial space; the size, shape and span of each individual glass panel; and the support system designed to accompany the flooring.

4. Who is involved in the design and manufacture of the glass flooring?
Lots of manufacturers have the equipment necessary to create glass flooring. But few companies have the experience, expertise and processes to create stunning, durable and safe flooring.

Always ask about the manufacturer’s experience in the field of glass flooring. The manufacturer should be able to demonstrate not only years in the industry but a high level of specialized expertise.

It’s also important to make sure you know everyone involved in your glass flooring project. Most notably, this should include an engineer with glass-specific experience. This person will be responsible for all calculations and designs that ensure the safety of your glass flooring project.

Tim Casey is the founder and owner of Jockimo Inc., which specializes in decorative architectural glass products for designers and architects. Tim grew up in the glass industry, and he continually develops new and exciting glass products and technologies that expand what is possible with architectural glass.

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