Commercial Glass Installation: What You Need To Know
Storefront glass and choosing a storefront glass contractor are not usually top-of-mind for most business owners and facility managers.
Until it is.
Recent events in many cities have resulted in vandalized commercial property, including broken windows and storefront glass. As a result, there has been a demand for storefront glass installation and for professional commercial glass contractors.
However, even businesses that did not suffer damage from civil unrest still need the services of a commercial glass company now and again. Whether it’s for replacing aging window, partition, or storefront glass, or simply to add new commercial windows to remodeled facilities, glazing is a high-demand and exacting profession.
Commercial Glass Installation Considered
As a whole, the glass and glazing industry in the United States is massive. It ranks as 71st in manufacturing industries by market size and as the 323rd largest in the U.S., according to industry research firm IBISWorld.
It’s also estimated that there are almost 23,000 glass and glazing businesses in the country. Of course, not all of these are commercial glass contractors, and many businesses offer both commercial and residential installation.
Most people outside of the industry rarely use the terms “glaze” or “glazing” so a basic explanation of the words can be helpful.
According to Wikipedia,
“Glazing, which derives from the Middle English for ‘glass’, is a part of a wall or window, made of glass. Glazing also describes the work done by a professional “glazier.”
Essentially, commercial glazing is a system of glass installation in commercial buildings using double- or triple-layered glass. The benefits of commercial glazing include controlling pollution, heat, and CO2 emission. In addition, commercial glazing helps occupants maintain comfortable temperatures while saving energy.
The installation of commercial glazing glass can reduce the need for air-conditioning units, which emit carbon dioxide, and this helps reduce pollution. Ultimately, well designed and professionally installed glass and glazing save electricity and energy.
The Wikipedia entry goes on to note that,
“Common types of glazing that are used in architectural applications include clear and tinted float glass, tempered glass, and laminated glass as well as a variety of coated glasses, all of which can be glazed singly or as double, or even triple, glazing units. Ordinary clear glass has a slight green tinge but special colorless glasses are offered by several manufacturers.”
Know When to Replace Storefront Glass
Most commercial buildings have what is commonly referred to as a storefront. This is often built from a combination of aluminum and glass to create a glass “wall.” The aluminum can be different colors and styles, and the glass as well.
Typically, storefront glass structures start with the aluminum frame being installed, then the glass in the frame. After this, the frame is then water-proofed using a specialized caulk.
While these installation systems will last for decades under normal conditions, there are still a number of other factors that can reduce the lifespan of any commercial glass window including:
- The quality construction materials of storefront window structures
- The U-factor, or the thermal efficiency of the windows
- Insufficient or improper maintenance that can damage windows and reduce longevity
- Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or harsh climates that can deteriorate materials
- Poor installation or the building settling affecting the integrity of windows
Even in the most ideal of scenarios, and apart from accidental damage or vandalism, most external commercial glass installations will have to be replaced at some point.
So, outside of the obvious reasons to replace your storefront and other commercial glass, how do you know when it’s time to replace them? A primary factor is the framing material used.
Typically, commercial storefront glass is framed with aluminum, vinyl, or wood. These materials are almost always high-grade and professional quality and, when installed correctly and properly maintained, can have extensive lifespans.
How long can they last?
Aluminum is one of the strongest metals, especially in relations to its weight, and frames made with aluminum can easily withstand severe weather and constant exposure.
On average, the aluminum windows installed by storefront glass contractors can last about 15 years. In many instances, if expertly installed and well-maintained, many aluminum windows have been known to last up to 20 years.
Even though it’s not metal, vinyl windows are incredibly strong and durable. Vinyl windows are naturally moisture-resistant and can easily last a minimum of 20 years, even in severe weather conditions.
Vinyl windows, while resistant to dents and chips, are less likely to show any damage than aluminum. In fact, with professional installation by a storefront glass contractor and proper maintenance, these windows can last up to 40 years.
The most traditional and oldest known material used. When it comes to commercial glass, glazing with wood frames is a time-honored, yet still viable option. That’s because wood windows can last at least 30 years or more.
In many cases, wood windows are installed in some commercial buildings specifically because of their life expectancy. And, like other materials, properly installed and maintained wood windows can last as long as the rest of the building.
In addition to the materials used to install commercial glass, there are few other factors that can indicate it’s time for replacements:
- Loss of thermal integrity
Increasing numbers of leaks, drafts or gaps in seals are signs that it’s time to replace your commercial windows. This can often impact the operation of your HVAC system since it may need to run more often to compensate for the loss of conditioned air, or the introduction of cold air from leaky window glass.
- Visual wear-and-tear
Seasonal temperature extremes and exposure to inclement weather year after year can result in visible damage, such as shrinking seals and gaskets, warped or damaged frames, and scratched or clouded glass.
- Increased maintenance costs
Older commercial windows tend to become less cost-effective when purchasing replacement parts or for increasingly frequent repairs. More time and resources required for repairing commercial windows or storefront glass can be a good sign it’s time to consider a replacement.
Choosing a Commercial Glass Company
Regardless of whether you need to replace old storefront glass, or install a new glass storefront, it needs to be done correctly and at a fair price. 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.
Because professionalism and experience are critical for commercial glass installation, your choice of contractor should be limited to one that specializes in commercial storefront glass installation. While it’s certainly possible for a residential glass installer to take on a small commercial job, it may still not be the best option.
Incorrect installation or sub-par workmanship can quickly result in damage, leakage, and possibly breakage, which could easily lead to potential lawsuits. In other words, when it comes to commercial glass, going for a “cheap” contractor is never worth incurring an unnecessary risk.
Not all glass quality is the same, either.
Typically, glass storefronts are installed with what is known as “safety” glass. However, it’s not quite that simple. There are essentially two main types of glass that are considered safety glass but for different reasons. These are known as tempered glass and laminated glass.
Tempered glass is made using a special heating process that makes it up to four times stronger than annealed glass, which is used in such items as tabletops, cabinet doors, and basement windows. Tempered glass, unlike annealed glass, breaks into thousands of tiny pieces when shattered, which are less dangerous than big glass shards.
Laminated safety glass, on the other hand, consists of two pieces of annealed glass with a very strong layer of laminate that is sandwiched between them to keep the glass shards firmly in place if it breaks.
One security advantage of laminated safety glass is its tendency to hold together as a sheet when broken, which provides an additional barrier against intruders. In addition, laminated safety glass is safer for anyone that may be near it when it breaks.
Because glass types, usage, and selection are so critical, there are aspects of this that can help you determine your choice of storefront glass installer:
- A professional commercial storefront glass contractor can inform and advise you of your options for glass choices and make reliable recommendations.
- A commercial storefront glass contractor will offer you a variety of options of styles and design for your glazing needs.
- A good commercial glass company provides after-project support. Quality storefront glass glazing projects require more than a “stand-alone” installation job. A professional glazing contractor will follow up a few times after the job to ensure the integrity of the installation.
- For new construction storefront glass installation, competent glazing contractors work well with other contractors on a job. Not only is this a hallmark of professionals, but it also avoids costly difficulties or delays.
If a commercial property requires specific window sizes or glass types that are not easily met with standard products, a contractor should have experience ordering or fabricating custom commercial glass products, as well as installing them.
Common Commercial Glass Products
Aside from storefront glass and windows, commercial glass applications can take various forms. Here are a few of the more common glass products installed for commercial structures:
Large commercial spaces and office environments can benefit from using glass handrail designs. In multi-level areas, such as interior balconies or around staircases, glass panels with handrails provide elegance and luxury to a well-appointed office.
In addition to the clean visuals and elegance of unobtrusive glass fixtures, these handrails can provide the high-end look that makes the proper impression on clients or potential business partners.
A framed glass railing is made up of panels of glass fixed between two frames, on the top and bottom, to create a solid piece. The framing material may be wood or metal, and provide an easy-to-grip banister when used on stairways.
A potentially more elegant option is frameless glass railings. These structures use hidden hardware to anchor the barrier in place and clamping hardware on the glass panels.
Multi Panel Glass Doors
These glass doors can be installed using multiple sections that can slide into a pocket, which is hidden while the door is open, or panels that fold-up and stack on one or both sides of an opening.
These glass door panels allow in a maximum amount of natural light while providing versatile and ample access. Multi panel glass doors are not only elegant and dazzling architectural features, they are multi-functional as both windows and doorways.
Interior Glass Walls
Glass wall panels provide a flexible, and environmentally-friendly way to divide interior spaces. They can be designed in a variety of glass door configurations that include bi-fold systems, hinged doors, pocket doors, sliding doors, and folding walls, as well as demountable partitions or fixed panels.
Commercial installations of glass wall systems are used in a wide variety of buildings such as retail, corporate, healthcare, educational, and art centers.
These types of interior walls and dividers can be designed in both framed and frameless styles, as well as a free-standing cubicle and office partitions that are not attached to a ceiling.
Insulated Glass Replacement
Insulated glass is quite common in commercial buildings and has been around since the early 1980s. The insulated glass units, or IGUs, as they are called, are constructed of two pieces of glass sealed to a spacer bar that creates an airtight space between them. This airspace is sometimes filled with an inert gas and serves as an insulator.
An IGU uses a seal around the perimeter of the glass that prevents moisture from getting inside between the glass panels and condensing there. Unfortunately, as older insulated glass units age, this does occur and the interior of the glass panels “fog up.”“
The life expectancy of IGUs varies widely depending on a number of factors. However, all windows of this type are susceptible to seal failure, especially those with high exposure to the sun. In most cases, the best solution is to replace insulated glass structures.
Glass Table Tops
Whether you need protection for your office desks or conference tables, or simply want to create a classic statement, a custom fitted glass table top can be a great solution.
Glass tabletops are popular in conference rooms and an entire table top made from glass can be created for a table seating 12 or more people. A glass table top offers the benefits of adding a sense of spaciousness in an otherwise small room, easily complementing any decor, and is easy to clean and disinfect.
In addition to table tops, glass shelving can complete a look for an office, conference room or studio, as well.
Choosing a Commercial Glass Installer Near You
When it comes to selecting a professional glass contractor, Santa Rosa has quite a few to choose from. Because of the many natural disasters that have occurred over the last few years, there’s been a huge demand locally for commercial glass, Sonoma County and neighboring regions included.
Which local contractor is right for your commercial storefront glass needs?
Finding the answer to that question 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. For commercial storefronts, Santa Rosa businesses are covered.
Whether you require commercial glass to flood 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.