The use of glass dates back to Eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt, around 3,500 BC. However, it was not until 100 AD that the Romans began installing glass windows into buildings. Today, we refer to those who install windows as glaziers.
What is a glazier? The word glazier is used interchangeably with "glazing contractor" and "glass contractor." They perform one of the most critical roles across construction. This is because their work allows light to naturally enter buildings, while also keeping the elements at bay. When you think about it, virtually every building has windows, making window installation an activity that touches every industry. These installers also come to the rescue to repair or replace damaged windows.
Wearing the correct safety gear is important for everyone working in construction, especially glass contractors.
Glass contractors install windows across all parts of the economy – commercial, residential, industrial, healthcare, and schools. Unfortunately, those who find a career in this field experience the third-highest percentage of recordable on-the-job injuries in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For every 100 employees installing glass in construction, 3.9 will experience an injury. Only framing and roofing contractors experience a higher percentage of job-related injuries.
This article will cover what role glass contractors perform, the safety measures workers must take, and the PPE they require.
Before windows are installed, they must first be manufactured. Some of the largest window manufacturers include Corning International, Guardian International, and PPG industries. The manufacturing side of glass, known as flat glass manufacturing, falls under NAICS code 327211, with the sector employing over 10,000 workers in 2019.
Then, some companies are engaged in manufacturing windows with door units and door frames. Some of these include Anderson Windows, Jeld-Wen, Masonite, and Pella, which fall under NAICS code 321911. Part of their operation involves precutting glass and encasing it into frames. Overall, the industry employed a little over 50,000 workers in 2019.
Companies like Pella have manufacturing locations, all over the United States. Once an end-user has selected the glass they prefer for installation in their home or business, a contractor must install it.
After the glass is manufactured, it is sent to construction sites where workers install it. NAICS code 238150 represents all companies operating in the construction sector. The glasswork performed under this code includes new work, additions, alterations, maintenance, and repairs.
The construction industry is home to most glazing contractors.
Window installation is a $5 billion industry with more than 40,000 workers finding employment in the field. According to IBIS World, companies in this industry are responsible for installing the following:
- Decorative Glass
- Stained Glass
- Window Panes
- Glass Partitions
Some of the top companies in this industry segment are Aeroseal Windows, Champion Windows, Glass Doctor, Window Nation, and Window World. In total, over 25,000 window installation businesses are operating across the United States. Companies like these complete residential and improvement projects by installing various windows, from single-hung designs to double-pane styles.
Here are some of the standard windows you will find installed in homes:
- Single-Hung Windows: Allow the bottom portion to be lifted open while the top part remains stationary.
- Double-Hung Window: Can be opened from the top and bottom, creating more ventilation options.
- Picture Window: Provide a decorative element but don't open, making them more energy-efficient.
Glass and Glazing Contractors
What Is window glazing? According to Merriam-Webster, Glazing or glasswork is defined as the process of fitting window frames with glass. It also refers to the glass that goes inside a window and the window glazing compound or putty that holds the glass together. Similar to how glazier and glass contractors are interchangeable, window glass and window glazing are identical terms.
Windows can be either single glazed, double glazed, or triple glazed. Here is a breakdown of each:
- Single-Glazed – involves one single sheet of glass and is the least energy efficient.
- Double-Glazed –utilizes two panes of glass, helping with overall insulation.
- Triple-Glazed – involves three panes separated by argon gas, increasing insulation even more when compared to double-glazed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), glaziers are those individuals who install glass into various fixtures, such as doors, windows, and skylights.
In residential construction, glaziers are responsible for getting all windows, mirrors, and shower doors installed. You will often find these workers installing items such as display cases, dividers, and storefront windows in commercial buildings. Glaziers may be self-employed, or they may be employees of companies that do commercial and residential glass installation.
Here are the areas where you will find most glaziers working:
|Foundation and Building Contractors
|Building Material Dealers
What does a glazier do? The work performed by glaziers is physically demanding. Their job responsibilities include:
Adding adhesives, sealing, and caulks
Fastening glass to frames with clips
Cutting, grinding, and drilling
Fixing cracked and damaged glass
Handling glass during transportation to work sites and during the installation process
Installing glass in windows and door frames
Molding and sealing glass, preventing the glass from moving
- Transforming materials into different shapes
Glazing Methods and Products
Some of the most common glazing methods are:
- Cable Netting – this method uses high tensile cables, such as steel, to carry the weight of the glass and grip it at each corner. The result is a sleek, modern look.
- Dry Glazing – this method secures the glass in a frame with dry, resilient gaskets or structural tapes that are used to compress materials on either side of a glazed element.
Pointed Support Glass Systems – in this method, tempered glass is secured using bolts placed through holes drilled into the glass itself.
- Snap In – this method is used when working with vinyl beads and setting up aluminum windows.
Lastly, dap latexis a DAP® window glazing product commonly used to secure single pane glass with a tightly bound compound.
Window installers and glaziers use specialized equipment to perform the tasks related to their work. They also need to protect themselves from the risks associated with certain aspects of the job. Window installation is rarely a DIY project, even though toolkits can be found at home improvement stores like the Home Depot or the Window Shoppe.
Let's look at the tools and materials needed by professional windows installers and glaziers.
- Caulk and Sealant: Caulk seals joints and seams to prevent leaks. This sealing process is necessary around window frames to increase energy efficiency and avoid drafts.
- Caulk Gun: Caulk is installed using a caulking gun, which expresses a bead of caulk along the desired seam.
- Claw Hammer: A claw hammer is likely one of the most recognizable tools in even the most basic toolbox. It is used to efficiently hammer and removes nails from window frames.
- Finish Nailer: This type of nail gun is used to install finishing touches, such as molding or trim around windows.
- Glazing Compound: A putty used to hold single pane glass in place.
- Glazing Tape: This double-sided, high-bonding tape helps stop wind and water from entering a window box.
- Level: Keeping construction projects level is one of the most important jobs of any contractor. A high-quality leveling tool ensures that everything is precisely horizontal, including the windows.
- Miter Box: A miter box is made up of two components to help you construct miter joints: a hand saw with teeth set up for cross-cutting and a box with slots on both sides to help you make accurately angled cuts. This tool helps cut clean edges for window molding and trim.
Glaziers work with all kinds of window frame materials, ranging from aluminum to fiberglass to wood. Here are some of the other common materials used in window installation:
- Fiberglass: This material is considered one of the best forms of insulation to install around windows.
- Finishing Nails: These are much more robust than brads, and they also help create a finished appearance in things like molding and trim.
- Paint: Putting the finishing touches on a newly installed window typically involves painting the trim.
- Painters Tape: This specially formulated tape is used to create a clean and perfect paint job, especially where there is a color change.
- Plastic Sheeting: Ideally, windows won't leak. However, until old, cracked, or broken windows can be replaced, some windows benefit from plastic sheeting to help prevent warm air from escaping and prevent cold or wet air from coming in.
- Shims: These are small, flat pieces of wood that help prevent windows from moving around when they are in their frame.
No matter the task, the material, or the tools used, anyone handling glass knows that safety protocols must be practiced at all times. Otherwise, someone will easily be injured.
Glazing industry professionals emphasize the importance of taking proper safety precautions and abiding by all local and federal safety regulations. In fact, most companies go above and beyond OSHA and CCOHS standards to keep their workplaces safe.
These are the three most significant risks to worker safety:
Handling breakable materials: Glass is inherently high-risk because it is so fragile.
Hot and cold conditions: Working in extreme temperatures can pose a risk to workers.
- Lifting heavy items: Many glass installation elements are heavy and awkwardly shaped, making them difficult to handle.
In addition to those three risk factors, there are numerous other hazards faced. CCOHS explains that some of the specific injuries and illnesses that glaziers face include:
Exposure to dust when cutting and grinding glass
Exposure to solvents that can be found in adhesives, sealants, and cleaning products
Back and arm injuries resulting from handling sheets of glass that can be heavy, large, or awkward
Cuts or lacerations from the sharp edges of glass materials
Eye injuries resulting from flying particles when cutting or grinding the glass
- Working in extreme weather conditions, including heat and cold
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed across virtually every industry segment, and window installation is no exception. When surveyed by O*NET OnLine, 78% of glaziers identified PPE as a critical need for the work they perform.
Jeld-Wen's installation guide highlights why installers need protective gear, as broken glass can easily cause serious injury. When glass breaks, it generally involves flying particles that can threaten harm to one's eyes. Andersen Windows highlights how most window components have sharp edges, requiring the use of cut-resistant gloves and sleeves.
Here are examples of the safety gear workers should consider:
- Abrasion-Resistant Gloves – protect a glazier's hands when sanding
- Cut-Resistant Sleeves – protect one's arm when handling glass sheets.
- Chemical-Resistant Gloves – protect workers' hands from adhesives, sealants, and solvents. This type of PPE also comes in handy when dealing with paint and stain.
- Hi-Vis T-Shirts – wicking styles keep workers cooler during hot summer months.
- Rain Gear – protects workers when caught in hazardous outdoor weather.
- Safety Glasses – help protect eyes from flying glass and dust.
- Sealed Eyewear – provide an inner liner to help keep dust and glass particles out.
We've been keeping workers safe for over 45 years, and that includes workers in the glass installation industry!
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How to glaze a window?
Some excellent YouTube videos will walk you through the process of glazing a window. The Family Handyman also has an outstanding article that provides insight into installing a single pane window.
Do you have to paint window glazing?
Latex glazing doesn't require paint. However, most people will paint Glazing to match colors.
How to remove old window glazing?
- Removal of old window glazing is best done by using heat to soften the previous glazing material. Once it's warm, a chisel or putty knife will quickly remove the Glazing. Just remember that there is always the possibility of getting cut when working with glass and knives. Be sure you're wearing cut-resistant gloves.
Protecting Glaziers With High-Quality PPE
At MCR Safety, we know the importance of protecting yourself with the best PPE available. We provide safety gear that keeps workers in the window installation industry safe! If you are working in this field, installing or repairing windows and glass, be sure to use the highest quality PPE you can find.
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We welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions for how we can best protect people at work.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's during window installation, on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.