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Glass Tiles

Frameless Shower Doors and Glass Tiles
Glass tiles can add beauty and class to a shower surround or backsplash, but a heavy glass door will break the glass tiles..

Frameless shower doors and glass tiles. What is the problem?
More and more people are using glass tiles to accent their bathrooms. Glass tiles illuminate and shine and give a look that can't be recreated with porcelain or ceramic. While glass tiles are hard and beautiful, they are real glass and they break like real glass.

Glass is brittle and heavy Glass doors are heavy and put a lot of stress on the glass tiles. The hinges have four holes for four screws that are to go through the glass tile. If you were able to drill all four holes with out breaking the tile, it is just a matter of time before the use of the door breaks the tiles for you. We will try to install a door on glass tile for you but if the tile breaks we will charge you $140 for every trip that we have to make to try again.

The tiles where the hinges or fasteners are located should be replaced with ceramic tiles.

We installed this one in Mill Valley.
You have to be very careful fastening hinges and brackets to keep glass tiles from cracking. It's possible but it's not a good idea. Most shower door companies won't even try it. We will give it a shot for you but if we break one tile we charge $140 to go away and come back after you fix the tile. $140 every time that happens.


How to avoid cracking a tile while drilling for frameless shower door hardware. First off, if you are installing a frameless shower door for a customer, make sure that you talk to them about the troubles of working on glass tile and make sure that they know you are diving into a project that can(and probably will) run into some problems. If you let them know in advance of probable issues, they might not be as upset when you have to come to them about replacing a tile. If they are adamant that cracking a tile is unacceptable, then you may want to rethink if you need that job. I have heard several stories from customers that told me other shower installers refused to install over glass tiles and to be honest i'm not sure I blame them.

Let’s start with installing a shower door hinge on glass tile. Every step is critical from drilling the hole to inserting the anchor to tightening the screw. In my experience, the best way to limit the amount of glass cracking is to drill a slightly oversized hole in the glass by rotating the drill slightly ass you are drilling for the mounting screws. Then insert the plastic anchors as gently as possible and push the anchors just past the glass tile so that when the screw is installed the anchor won’t expand inside the glass hole. You can use a punch or even another anchor to help push the anchor past the glass tile. Then when you hold the glass door in place with the hinge on you can safely tighten the screw. I would also recommend against using an impact driver to tighten down screws over glass tiles as well as possible hand tightening the last few turn of screw. A sore wrist is a lot better than having to replace tiles and postpone a shower door installation as well as deal with upset customers.

Another option is trying to keep holes in a grout line. Drilling a hole in a grout line may reduce the change of breakage. If you look closely at the picture on the left, I planned to install all the hardware in grout lines with this shower. The hinge at the top is a wall mounted pivot which has 2 mounting screws that are vertical from each other which allows for both the screws to enter a grout line. It would be near impossible to stay in grout lines with a normal wall mounted hinge. The wall mounted pivots also help the door miss the window sill by putting the pivot of the door around 3 inches away from the wall so that when the door is open the door does not hit the sill.

The shower image to the left is one we just completed in november 09' in Berkeley. The shower is neat because there is an exit onto the back deck which overlooks the bay area and a glass railing that we put in there also.
As you can see, the curb tiles are ceramic and the wall tiles are glass. The glass tiles were very fragile and we had to fasten 4 clamps onto them. All of them cracked. Only a few cracks were visible, but visible enough to cause the customer to want to pull out the shower panels and replace tiles and re-install the shower. These pictures are of the completed shower after a tiler came back to replace tiles and after we reinstalled the shower.
Who is to blame when the glass tile breaks?
I will tell you who gets blamed. Shower installers. Tilers can come in and install the most fragile tile and yes it looks great, but they are basically a booby trap waiting for some poor shower door guy to come and try and fasten ANYTHING to the glass tile and they will break. In my opinion properly installed tiles will not break except in the case of glass tiles. Glass tiles almost always break, so if you are a shower installer I would recommend putting something in writing before you even take the job that you can not take responsibility for breaking glass tiles.
I am probably biased, but i don't think it is anyones fault when the tiles break. I think everyone needs to know going into a glass tile installation that it is probably not going to go as smoothly as a normal tiled shower install.
How this one ended up.
Well we installed the shower and my installer came back frustrated because of how fragile the tiles were and said that several tiles had broken. So i went up the next day to take a look and it wasn't as bad as he had made it.
There was one main crack that the customer didn't like so i offered to take out the panel at no charge and I drilled some tiles so that the tile person could install them with holes already drilled. That way there should be no problems. When i went back to install the panel and door I tightened down each bracket by hand with a screwdriver. Then resiliconed everything in place after hours of cleaning silicone. Then to boot the contractor deducted 150 dolars off my invoice to cover the installation of the new tiles. I agreed to paying the bill because I did the wrong thing and did not communicate enough to him in advance about the possibility of tiles breaking. I suppose i could have then rebilled him for reinstalling the shower, but life is too short to fight everyone for every dollar in my opinion.