Top tips on tackling glass breakages

Top tips on tackling glass breakages

Featured Article
06 Feb 2019

As Featured in PRO INSTALLER Magazine - 07/18

Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, part of the NSG Group, offers seven tips on identifying the origins of and solutions to glass breakages.

The work of a glazing installer can sometimes tread into the realms of a detective. Installers are often the first point of contact when a glass breakage occurs, leading professionals to don the deerstalker cap and trench coat to look for clues and find the culprit.

While the plight of the glass detective may create less entertaining television than a gritty American crime drama, solving glass breakages is vital for customers, clients, and a building’s occupants. So, what do you need to know to become a top glass and glazing sleuth?

1) Get your tools ready: The glass detective has a bag of tricks that helps make solving the mystery easier. Generally, in addition to appropriate PPE for construction sites or buildings, a kit for inspections may include a laser gauge, coating detector, tape measure, steel rule, camera, magnifying lens, compass, feeler gauge to measure gap widths and penknife.

2) Interrogate witnesses:
Like any good detective, it pays to ask lots of questions about the background to the problem. Knowledge of activities taking place in or near to the glass, any recent unusual events or changes, and remedial or maintenance work on site can all paint a picture of what may have happened.

3) Locate the origin: This is vital, as it will provide crucial evidence. It’s almost the equivalent of finding a fingerprint at the scene of the crime! The glass should be examined from both its surface and its edge to gather as many clues as possible.

A magnifying glass is essential for examining the glass, both on the surface and looking through the edge. The break pattern should be inspected to hone in on the failure origin. Following the branching of the crack will often lead to the right place. 

4) Inspect the fracture area: From the surface, the source of a fracture or breakage in toughened glass can sometimes be found by identifying the point of branching - often seen as cat’s eyes or butterfly wings (two characteristically shaped pieces of glass). Keep an eye out for these cat’s eyes, as they are a tell-tale sign of the origin. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that these indicate an inclusion in the glass!

The fracture area should be inspected, searching for rib marks and hackle lines, which should lead back to the failure origin.  When looking at the edge around the fracture, the presence of a highly polished mirror region can provide an estimate of the stress level in the glass at the time of fracture. 

5) Dealing with toughened glass: If the glass that has broken is toughened, then the detective may be unfortunate in finding that most of the fragments have fallen from the frame and ended up on the floor. In some instances, if you’re very unlucky, a cleaner may have swept them away, along with all-important evidence. If the fragments are still present, then it’s a case of getting down on your hands and knees to search for the fragments containing the origin.

6) Know your causes of fracture: There could be a number of causes of glass fracture, including impact damage (deliberate or accidental), edge damage before installation (during handling), poor installation (e.g. tight glazing, missing setting blocks), poor design (e.g. insufficient clearances, structural movement), inclusions in the glass and thermal breakage.

7) Know your types of fracture: Some fractures are easier to detect than others. For example, thermal breaks typically run from, and are perpendicular to, the edge of the glass. Others may be more difficult to identify without viewing under a microscope in a laboratory and, if an inclusion is suspected, may require subsequent chemical analysis.

The mysterious case of the glass breakage is unlikely to become a Netflix hit any time soon, although I would happily watch it! However, the clued-up glass detective can help to establish the likely cause of fracture which can play an important role in outlining solutions and agreeing next steps with the supply chain.