Using glass around the house.

The information given on this page is given in good faith, however always consult your glass merchant to ensure that local regulations regarding installation of glass are adhered to.

Glass is normally used around the house to allow natural light to enter an area, to divide up an area without losing light or for purely decorative purposes, whichever the reason, safety must always be of paramount importance.

Design and installation of glass structures should be left to specialist contractors.

The notes below are for information only and are purely intended to give the average diy person enough knowledge and awareness to have confidence in a good contractor and to detect contractors performing less than fully professionally.

If buying a piece of glass for diy installation, always tell the glass merchant what it is going to be used for - they will then be in a position to select the correct type of glass for the application.

Glass used within a building can be divided into:

  • Underfoot
  • Vertical
  • Overhead
  • Furniture


Although glass is not widely used underfoot within domestic premises, there is no reason why this should be.

Unless the glass area is restricted by a surrounding barrier, the assumption must be made that the glass area needs to be strong enough to take the full load expected on the surrounding conventional floor area. For domestic premises a distributed load of 1.5kN/sq. m and a concentrated load of 1.4kN are often considered appropriate. Generally, 1 square metre is considered to be the practical maximum area for any single floor pane. Laminated glass of the appropriate specification and upwards of 30mm thick should satisfy these requirements. The support arrangement for the glass is critical, normally the support lip around the complete pane should be as wide as the thickness of the pane. Expansion joints, filled with a suitable sealant, are required between adjoining panes.


Vertical glass usage covers a number of applications, for any application above 800mm no special safety considerations is generally required. When used for domestic use above 800mm the generally guidelines for glass thickness is as follows:

area of glass minimum thickness
0.2 sq. metre 3mm
0.5 sq. metre 4mm
0.8 sq. metre 5mm
2.5 sq. metre 6mm

The general areas where special safety consideration needs to be made are:

  • External and internal doors and panels adjacent to doors
  • Low level glazing (below 800mm)
  • Full length glazing screens

External and internal doors and panels adjacent to doors

Often doors may be slammed, either by being caught in the wind or by human force; the slamming can cause normal glass to crack or shatter. The vibrations from the door slamming can be transmitted to any adjacent glass panel with potentially similar results.

Although safety glass is only required below 800mm, it is worth considering using safety glass for all glazing in a door and any adjacent glass panels (i.e. in the same frame). The thickness and grade will depend upon the size of each panel.

Low level glazing.

Glazing below about 800mm of the floor is normally considered as 'low level'. The risk with glazing at this height is that it could accidentally be knocked by furniture or people. In some locations, low level glazing can present a hazard on both sides. The thought of a child or elderly person falling against ordinary glass at low level is quite distressing, if one side faces onto a garden play area, the risk may potentially be even higher.

Low level glazing should be of an approved safety type. Again the thickness and grade depends upon the size of each particular panel.

Full length glazing screens

Full length glazed screens present the same potential risk to life and limb as low level glazing.

With any plain vertical glazing there is the risk of the glass not being recognised, generally the larger the area of glass, the larger the risk of someone trying to walk through it. To reduce the risk consider:

  • Using a patterned and/or coloured glass.
  • Design the flooring so that it does not appear to be continuous, change the colour of the floor covering on each side or add a floor boarder along each side of the glazing.
  • Putting pictures or decorative patterns on the glass, some patterns can be etched onto most types of glass.
  • Putting a horizontal feature (such as a hand rail or other horizontal feature) along the length of the glazing.


For overhead glazing, it is generally regarded as appropriate to install glass which is retained in place if broken (e.g. wired or laminated) or which fractures into relatively harmless pieces (such as toughened).

With modern plastic materials (polycarbonates etc.), the use of any glass overhead can be avoided without too many problems and the resulting reduction in risk may be considered worth while.


Glass can be used either as just the finish to a piece of furniture (i.e. on top of a decorative table top) or as part of the actual structure.

Where the glass is just the finish on a piece of furniture and is supported across its full area, the two main important characteristics are that the edges (if exposed) are smooth and that the glass can take any shocks (both physical and thermal) placed upon it. The minimum thickness generally recommended are as follows:

  any area 4mm
  any area 4.5mm
  less than 0.5 sq. metre 4mm
  less than 1 sq. metre 5mm
  Less than 1.5 sq. metre 6mm
  Over 1.5 sq. metre not recommended 

With toughened glass, remember that the untreated float glass needs to be cut to size and the edges finished before it is heat treated.

Page 5026