Regardless of the size or type of commercial building you have, there are windows and other types of glass installed throughout. The front of your building may only have a small glassed-in area next to the doors, or the entire face of the building might be made with glass.

In fact, many commercial retail buildings have what is commonly referred to as a storefront.

A storefront (or shopfront) is the facade or entryway of a retail store, usually located on the ground floor or street level of the building. These glass structures often include one or more display windows designed to attract attention to a business and its offerings.

These are often built from a combination of aluminum or wood framing and glass to create a glass “wall.” The frames can be different colors and styles, as well as the glass. Typically, a storefront glass structure begins with the installation of an aluminum frame, with the glass then placed in the frame.

Once this is completed, the framing is water-proofed using a specialized caulk and seals.


What Can Go Wrong With Commercial Storefront Glass

Under normal conditions, and with proper maintenance, professionally installed commercial storefront glass will last for decades. However, there are a number of other factors that can limit the lifespan of any commercial glass window.

These include the following:


  • Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or harsh climates
  • Faulty installation or the use of inferior quality construction materials
  • Settling or shifting foundations affecting the integrity of window structures
  • Insufficient U-factor, or the thermal efficiency of the windows, for the climate
  • Insufficient or improper maintenance of the windows


In addition, there can be eventual problems with commercial storefronts caused by broken doors, cracked or chipped glass, foggy or etched windows, and sprinklers. This last one is a common issue for many commercial buildings.

The problem arises when hard water stains occur from sprinkler water hitting the storefront glass. Over time, this results in deposits of chemicals like calcium and magnesium building up on the glass panes. When the water dries, hard water spots or “limescale” is left behind.

However, even well-maintained, high-quality glazing will have to be replaced at some point. And that’s not even taking into account the very real possibility of accidental damage or vandalism. So, aside from the obvious reasons to replace your storefront and other commercial glass – like broken windows or remodeling – how do you know when it’s time for it to be replaced?


Are We There Yet?

All things being equal, and depending on the materials used, commercial storefront glass structures can last up to four decades or more. However, a more reasonable expectation might be closer to 20 to 30 years.

A primary determining factor is the framing materials used.

Commercial storefront glass is typically framed using aluminum, vinyl, or wood materials. When installed correctly and properly maintained, these high-grade and professional quality materials can have extensive lifespans.

How long can they last? Let’s take a look at the three most commonly used frame materials.



Aluminum has one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any metals, and window frames made from aluminum can easily withstand constant exposure and severe weather.

Typically, aluminum window frames will last up to 15 years. However, expertly installed and well-maintained aluminum windows have lasted up to 20 years.



While it may not seem likely, vinyl window frames are incredibly strong and durable. Vinyl windows are versatile, easy to customize, and inherently moisture-resistant. And, best of all, they can easily last 20 years or more, even in severe weather conditions.

Vinyl windows are resistant to dents and chips and, unlike aluminum, they are less likely to show any damage. In fact, these windows can last up to 40 years with professional installation by a storefront glass contractor and proper maintenance.



The oldest and most traditional material used for window framing of all kinds is wood. And it is still used today for commercial glass. In fact, commercial glazing with wood frames is still a viable option for many types of storefront applications. And the best part is that wood windows can last up to 30 years or more.

In many cases, wood windows are selected for some commercial buildings specifically because of their life expectancy. And, when properly installed and maintained, wood windows can last longer than the rest of the building.

In addition, there are few other factors that can indicate it’s time for replacements, aside from the materials used to install commercial glass:


Visual wear-and-tear

Outdoor temperature extremes and long-term exposure to severe weather can result in visible damage, such as warped or damaged frames, shrinking seals and gaskets, and scratched or clouded glass.


Loss of thermal integrity

Increasing numbers of leaks, drafts or gaps in seals can diminish a window’s U-factor and be signs that it’s time to replace commercial windows. Another indication can be the operation of your HVAC system if it’s running more often to compensate for the loss of cooled air, or air from leaky window glass.


Increased maintenance costs

Commercial windows that have become less cost-effective from purchasing more replacement parts or for frequent repairs, probably should be replaced. More time and resources required for storefront glass can be a good sign it’s time to consider replacement.

Finding a storefront glass company that can complete the job quickly with minimal downtime to your business is essential. This is true whether it’s an installation in a new building, or simply replace some existing windows in your old location.


Choosing a Contractor Near You: Why Staying Local Can Be a Good Thing

Finding a great, local glass installer is simple when you can tap into one of Santa Rosa’s best glass companies. With a team composed of many highly skilled technicians with a passion for glazing and the satisfaction of a job well done, B&L Glass delivers robust solutions for all kinds of clients.

Whether you require commercial glass to brighten a storefront with light, or glass curtain walls to create a stylish look for your offices, we have the skills and professionals necessary to execute your ideas to the highest level.

With the attention to detail necessary to craft bespoke office doors with glass and the capabilities to work even at the largest scales, we offer the most reliable path to outcomes you’ll love.

Contact us today to learn more about these differences, or to discuss your project with our team.