The Case of the Shattering Patio Doors

Question regarding shattering patio doors:

Dear Glass Detective,

I am looking for alternatives to replace glass in patio doors. All three doors in my home suffered spontaneous breakage; possibly due to metal inclusion of some type. The home is almost 7 years old (2011) and the breakages have occurred at intervals. The last one was this week. It has been the inside panels of the units and the shattering is a complete mosaic-like pattern (glass didn’t fall out). Is this a quality assurance problem going back to original build? I’ve read that these failures typically happen within the first 7 years, which is our experience. I need to deal with this so it doesn’t happen again.

Thank you,

Barbara H.

Answer regarding shattering patio doors:


Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective regarding your request for help in identifying the cause of glass breakage in your patio doors as well as what to do going forward. Here are my thoughts:

Based on your description of what has happened to your glass, I think you are most likely correct in assuming that what is usually referred to as “spontaneous breakage” has occurred. It has become an accepted fact (and until just a handful of years ago it was considered only a theory) that tempered glass can break (explode) spontaneously on its own without outside influence such as wind, water, impact, etc. The “inclusions” or “contaminants” that tend to cause this typically occur during the molten glass batch mixing process and the problem seems to be getting worse.

So what do you do going forward? What glass do you use or try next? My suggestion is to “stay with the tempered glass approach”. Overall, I feel it is still the best product for this application. Your situation is the exception and not the norm.

Insist that your future units be produced (fabricated) using high-quality glass. Find a reputable glass shop in your area and it will help source the replacement glass for you. When a new house is being built, the builders typically buy in bulk and the price of materials (cost to them) is the overriding issue in their purchasing process.  I have seen this too many times to remember. Quality matters.

I hope this is of some help to you and thank you again for reaching out to the Glass Detective!

Although backed by decades of experience, the Glass Detective cannot be held liable for any damages resulting from his views and opinions. In many cases, the ability to provide a precise answer is limited due to lack of first-hand inspection of the presented situation.

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© 2020 Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.


Lyle Hill

By Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management.

Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon.

One response to “The Case of the Shattering Patio Doors”

  1. Thank you for your help.
    Yes Quality Matters.
    And the story is as old as business. “You’re the only one that has ever reported this problem.” Deflects a lot of quality issues, doesn’t it.
    Wish I had a Toonie for every time I’ve heart that!

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