Glass flooring is increasingly gaining popularity amongst many homeowners- considering that it was mostly a reserve of commercial establishments looking to beef up the aesthetics of their business settings. However, so much misinformation still exists regarding the structural strength and durability of walk-on glass surfaces, as well as other aspects on this type of flooring. This blog seeks to set the record straight. Read on for a comprehensive review of glass floor systems.
What does glass floor system mean?
A glass floor system refers to a walkable surface made out of glass material. Installing glass flooring is a great way to increase the amount of natural light coming into your rooms, while also enhancing insulation and aesthetic allure. Glass flooring is most commonly used on the upper floors to allow for better natural illumination of the rooms on the lower floors. The strength of glass flooring varies depending on the maximum load it’s expected to take.
You may have been misled to think that glass is a brittle material and as such isn’t safe. But this couldn’t be any further from the truth when it comes to glass flooring systems. These floors have a robust support structure and are designed to withstand significant foot traffic. Glass that’s specifically meant to be used as flooring material is typically five times stronger than regular annealed glass.
What type of glass is used for flooring?
Also known as tempered glass, toughened glass used for flooring is designed to be just as structurally secure as metallic or wooden flooring. The strength and stability offered by this type of flooring ensures structural integrity is maintained. To make toughened glass, standard glass is heated to extreme temperatures, proceeded by swift cooling.
The enormous temperature difference between the outside and the inside of the glass during the quick cooling process creates enough tension that holds the glass up to five times more strongly than regular glass. Even in the event that something very heavy drops on tempered glass, it barely breaks. You may notice minute-sized glass pieces, rather than large, broken pieces of glass.
This is a type of structural glass that boasts a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) layer in between two glass panes. The PVB interlayer serves to provide extremely strong structural adhesion. This means that even in the vent of breakage, the glass will stick to the PVB interlayer, instead of glass splinters being dangerously tossed into the surrounding. This makes laminated glass flooring the best glass floor system in terms of safety considerations. Not to forget- the plastic adhesive also boosts the glass floor’s heat insulation capabilities.
Sandblasted glass is glass whose surface has been etched to create a translucent appearance. During the sandblasting process, sand is passed through the surface of the glass, causing wear and a frosted look. Images- as seen through this type of glass- appear blurred. That’s why sandblasted glass flooring is popular amongst homeowners who love the unique beauty of glass flooring, but would still like to prefer some privacy between the upper and. lower rooms.
In its standard state, glass is a smooth, slippery material. This can present a significant safety risk when it’s used for flooring. So, how can we enjoy the transparency offered by glass flooring without compromising o safety? Anti-slip glass solves this conundrum.
Slip-resistant glass flooring is made by acid-etching or sandblasting the surface of glass to create various patterns that enhance traction. Anti-slip glass is a popular material for glass flooring systems and staircases, as they provide enhanced safety against the risk of slipping and falling.
How thick is a glass floor?
If you’re considering installing a glass floor system in your house and you’ve never been down this path before, you’re probably wondering how thick the glass needs to be for the structure to be considered safe. Well, the answer depends on four considerations, which we go through in detail below:
1. Specified loadings
If you want a glass floor that will withstand high loading- including heavy furniture items- then the glass will have to be thicker for stronger structural support. Conversely, if you won’t put lots of heavy items atop the surface or don’t expect too much foot traffic, narrower glass can be used to save on costs.
The fewer the number of supports for the glass panels, the thicker the panels need to be. For instance, a 1×1-meter square glass flooring panel that is only supported on two sides can provide enough structural support at about 50mm thickness. However, if this panel is provided support on all four sides, it could be only 32mm thick and still provide adequate structural strength and stability.
3. Type of glass
Heat-strengthened or tempered glass boasts greater structural strength compared to standard float glass. As such, toughened glass flooring doesn’t have to be as thick as standard glass flooring.
4. Glass spans
The glass span is the most significant determining factor when it comes to glass floor thickness. This is the maximum floor width that the glass panels are expected to cover. Basically, the wider the span of the panel, the thicker it should be.
What kind of glass can you walk on?
For glass to be considered safe to walk on, it needs to boast adequate structural strength. The International Building Code (IBC) provides guidelines on the criteria for determining whether a given type of glass is safe enough to withstand foot traffic.
Generally, het-strengthened-laminated glass is recommended due to its superior toughness over most types of glass. Avoid installing, standard annealed glass as a flooring structure, as this can expose the house’s occupants to significant safety risks.
How much weight can you put on glass flooring?
The amount of weight that a glass floor system can take depends on the type of glass used and the amount of support provided for the glass panels. As such, it’s safe to say you can put as much weight as you want on glass flooring, provided that the floor contractors took that into consideration when planning for the thickness of the side panels.
For relative comparison, modern glass floors can withstand about twice as much weight as a regular wooden floor. Premium-quality glass floors can take up to 400 kilograms of weight for every square meter of the glazing.
How do you install a glass floor?
To properly install a glass flooring system, consider the procedure detailed below:
- Prep the structural opening– while referring to the certified project drawings, determine the positioning of the floor joists. This stage also entails prepping the perimeter through cleaning, sealing, and moisture-proofing.
- Install joists and anchor blocks– next, install the anchor blocks to the structure, followed by the primary and secondary floor joists. The fasteners should be firm and snug to avoid any future structural issues.
- Apply a sealant– the sealant should be applied at the intersection of the floor joists and the silicone gasket. This will establish an airtight structure that’s free of internal moisture.
- Install the glazing– before installing the glazing, position perimeter spaces around the periphery of the glass floor system. This ensures there’s uniform glazing pressure to prevent breakage. Meanwhile, you need to ensure that the mounting fasteners are just snug enough to close out the gaps between the glazing and gasket.
Finish off with the top surface glazing, installing the structural layer first, followed by the walking surface layer. While some types of walking surface layers can be installed with either side facing upwards/downwards, slip-resistant walking surface layers only have one ‘top/upper side. You should- therefore be careful to ensure you don’t install these with the wrong side ‘up’.
Pros and cons of glass flooring
Here are advantages and disadvantages of installing glass flooring
Pros of glass flooring
1. Diverse application
Glass floor systems can be used to enhance the aesthetics of a wide variety of spaces. From residential spaces like multi-storied apartments to commercial spaces like concert halls, restaurants, and clubs; this unique type of flooring can breathe a new lease of life into almost any kind of space.
2. Low maintenance requirements
Glass floors are stain-resistant, making them easy to clean. You can simply wipe your glass floor with a wet mop once in a while to remove any built-up dust and debris to keep it looking spectacular. What’s more- compared to other types of flooring such as concrete- glass flooring is resistant to fungi and other allergens. Finally, glass is also resistant to fading due to exposure to sunlight.
3. Aesthetic appeal
Glass floor systems typically have a translucent color that let’s in light to illuminate the rooms beneath. The extra illumination eliminates the sense of darkness and drabness that’s often associated with such rooms. What’s more, you can get glass flooring in varying design patterns to match your home’s aesthetics.
4. Enhanced Functionality
Glass flooring also serves a functional role, as they make spaces appear larger. This is great for those who want to avoid feelings of claustrophobia in tiny spaces. You can also install retractable glass flooring to allow for proper ventilation of lower rooms.
Cons of glass flooring
1. Hard to install
If you’re contemplating installing glass flooring within your home with no prior experience, just forget about it. To minimize the visibility of the adhesive interlayer between the translucent glass panes, professional installation is recommended. You also need special equipment such as a carbide blade to effectively cut the glass panels to size without breaking them.
2. Vulnerable to scratches
Glass surfaces scratch quite easily and due to the translucent nature of glass, these scratches tend to be more noticeable. Large, visible scratches tend to make glass flooring unsightly.
Does glass tile crack easily?
Glass tile is vulnerable to cracking when exposed to structural issues- such as an unstable subfloor. The resultant structural stress is what causes the glass tile to crack. Glass- as a material- is hypersensitive to stress cracks. Unlike ceramic, glass lacks a crystalline internal structure, and is- therefore- less cohesive. To prevent your glass tile flooring from cracking, ensure to establish structural integrity prior to installation.
How much does glass flooring cost?
There are so many options when it comes to walk-on glass flooring. As such, prices tend to vary. Generally- though- you should expect to pay anywhere between 200-300 dollars per square foot of glass flooring. This is significantly costly compared to other types of flooring. Hardwood flooring, by comparison, costs about 10-40 dollars per square foot. Glass flooring is expensive due to the amount of expertise and labor that goes into professionally installing it.
Other aspects such as the type of finish that you desire may also run up your glass floor system installation costs. For instance, you can pay extra to have colored patterns embedded into the glass layers. You can also get the glass layers themselves frosted.
Sources and Reference
Wildeltd: Glass Flooring Design Considerations