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Residential Building Codes for Safety Glass

Until the 1960s, there were no regulations regarding safety glass in residential, or even commercial, building codes. As a result, many lawsuits targeted the glass manufacturing industry. Understandably, the glass manufactures rallied together to create national standards regarding glass breakage resistance. These regulations became law as part of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1973. Since then, residential building codes for safety glass have undergone many revisions. There is strict adherence to these laws and deaths due to glass-related accidents in the home have decreased considerably.

Glass in Doors

There is a marked concern for possible impact with doors, due to our walking through them to access the interior of the house or various rooms. Any door with glass, be it a sliding glass door, a bi-fold door, storm door or unframed swinging doors must have safety glass. Exceptions include doors with glass panes too small for a 3-inch ball to go through, and doors with beveled glass or decorative etching.

Sidelights around Doors

Sidelights, the small, narrow windows around doors, need to contain safety glass as well. This is because of their proximity to the door and the risk of accidental impact.

Doors on Enclosures

Doors on enclosures also need to have safety glass in them because of the rise of accidental impact. The doors in this category include those on showers, saunas, tubs and whirlpools.


The category for windows is large and complicated in the residential building codes for safety glass. This is due to window placement and size, as this can determine the need for safety glass. If a window in an enclosure is less than 60 inches from the floor, it needs to have safety glass. If the bottom of the window is less than 16 inches above the floor and the top is 36 inches up from the floor, you might not need safety glass if you install a safety bar that's able to hold 50 pounds per foot across the window. Art glass, such as stained or etched, could also have exemptions. However, if the window is more that 9 feet square, it requires safety glass or a horizontal bar. Properly installed glass block windows and jalousie windows are exempt.

Glass Railings

Glass railings need to be safety glass--no exceptions. They also need to have a guardrail or railing separating you from the glass itself.


Skylights that are sloped more than 15 degrees need to have wired glass in them. Otherwise, the glass must be tempered, laminated, or strengthened in some manner. If the skylight is smaller than 16 feet square and 10 to 12 feet from the ground, you do not need to install a screen beneath it.


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