Your shower door looks like such an innocuous part of your bathroom; if you're like most homeowners, you don't go out of your way to be careful around this bathroom feature. However, both the walls and panels of your glass shower enclosure can burst under extreme circumstances, and while it's unlikely that this rare occurrence will ever happen to you, it's important to be aware of the potential explosion danger that your glass shower components pose. But what, exactly, causes these parts of your shower to burst, and what can you do to prevent this phenomenon?
Spontaneous Shower Door Explosion
Originally, manufacturers of shower doors were certain that consumers who reported cases of spontaneous shower door explosion were mistaken. After all, it's widely known that shower doors and shower panels can shatter if they come loose from their frames and tracks, so it's reasonable to believe that this much more understandable phenomenon was at work.
Over time, however, reports of exploding shower doors became so common on the internet that shower door manufacturers were forced to pay attention. While most cases of spontaneous shower door explosion occurred when consumers were elsewhere, some instances occurred while the owner of the shower was in the process of showering, which raised concerns about legal liability for injuries.
Cases of spontaneous shower door explosion seem to follow a very specific pattern:
- Shower doors didn't crack, they exploded. Instead of gradually shattering, consumers reported that their shower doors would explode all at once and sometimes cause a deafening boom.
- There was no perceivable cause for the shower door explosion. The doors didn't come loose from their tracks, and instead of shattering from one edge, consumers reported that their shower doors suddenly exploded from the center outward.
- Interestingly, most instances of this phenomenon occurred at night between the hours of midnight and 3 A.M., and most consumers who experienced this phenomenon were woken up by the loud boom that occurred when their shower doors exploded.
Reaction Among Manufacturers
Despite the uniform and seemingly endless reports from consumers, shower door manufacturers continue to maintain that these reports are exaggerated. Retailers of shower doors usually cite improper installation as the primary cause of shower door explosion, but installation contractors point out that the frames, brackets, and hinges are usually still in place after a shower door explosion occurs.
Most contractors agree that the problem lies in the tempered glass that is used in shower doors. The Consumer Product Safety Administration (CPSC) has admitted that tempered glass shatters into thousands of pieces when it is exposed to excessive stress, and this consumer protection agency has recently revised its mandatory safety standard for tempered glass and released a tempered glass safety alert in response to the recent spate of shower door explosions.
Why Do Shower Doors Explode?
A few theories have been put forward to explain the phenomenon of spontaneous shower door explosion. For instance, renowned contractor Herry Filgiano has pointed out that extreme shifts in temperature can cause tempered glass to shatter, but the mild indoor temperature shifts between day and night aren't likely to cause this phenomenon.
In addition, it's possible that tiny nicks on the edges of sheets of tempered glass could cause the entire sheet to shatter. If true, this fact would mean that framed shower doors are less likely to shatter since they don't feature drill holes.
To make it durable, manufacturers of tempered glass subject this material to high amounts of pressure. If a practically invisible chip or crack on a sheet of tempered glass occurs, a sudden temperature change could cause it to shatter. There's also a phenomenon called nickel sulfide inclusion that could be to blame for at least some of the instances of spontaneous shower door explosion.
Nickel sulfide is a common component of the tempered glass manufacturing process, and if this substance becomes trapped in a sheet of tempered glass, it could cause the sheet to explode. At this time, however, there are no convincing theories explaining the reason why shower doors spontaneously explode, which means that the cause of this phenomenon remains a mystery.
Is Tempered Glass Safe?
It's important to keep in mind that injuries related to shattered tempered glass are very rare. Tempered glass is a type of safety glass, which means that it generally shatters into small pieces instead of long shards.
While all types of safety glass, such as tempered glass, are highly resistant to straight-on impacts, they are surprisingly susceptible to edge impacts, which means that any pressure on the edge of a shower door may cause it to shatter. This fact is the reason why shower door manufacturers commonly cite track or frame malfunctions as the reason for shower door explosions.
How to Stop Your Shower Door from Exploding
Tempered glass is still the safest material to use for shower doors, but there does not seem to be a foolproof way to keep this material from spontaneously exploding. As certain authorities have noted, it may be beneficial to avoid frameless showers, and you should definitely make sure that your frames and tracks are in good condition if you want to avoid shower door explosions.
If your shower door is on a track, always shut it gently, and if it is on a pivot, avoid striking it from the edge. Of course, if you're truly worried about the potential explosion danger that your shower door poses, you could always replace it with a shower curtain.
If your shower door does explode, keep calm and remember that this is a relatively common occurrence. Instead of running into the bathroom, carefully assess the situation, and determine whether or not you should call first responders. In most cases, an exploded shower door can be handled with a simple broom and dustpan.