What Type of Glass Do I Use in a Glass Railing System?

The Case of the Reticent Railing Remodeler


Dear Glass Detective:

I’m planning a glass railing for my porch. The opening is 13’8” wide and the glass will be 35” tall sitting on five spigots. It will be attached at both ends with no top railing. Will 1/2” tempered glass meet Michigan building codes?

Don O.



Dear Don, 

Thank you for making contact with the Glass Detective regarding your concerns about a proper glass selection for a home railing system and what codes may be applicable. The safety of glass railing systems is no laughing matter.

You state that you are planning to use a ½” tempered glass panel without a top rail. You also state that you are residing in Michigan and you want to know if ½” tempered glass will meet Michigan codes for an installation of this type.

You ask a relatively straightforward question but unfortunately, I am not going to be able to provide you with a straightforward answer because I have a few concerns based on your description of the planned installation. Specifically:
Your  35-inch glass height is of concern unless the “spigots” as you call them are several inches off the porch surface and are somewhat solid or restrictive from the porch surface to the bottom of the glass. You also don’t mention how the glass is being installed. Is it using a channel at the bottom, patch fittings, clips, slots in the “spigots” or something else? The technology used is important to know in cases like this.

Additionally, I have concerns about the lack of a top rail for a number of reason–one related to code requirements and the other to common sense. Remember the glass is only going to perform properly if the framing/attachment system that holds it in place is adequate and properly installed. Glass railing codes have changed quite a bit over the past few years and they have become more stringent and more detailed for safety reasons … a good move in my opinion.

Given your project description, I am going to recommend you reach out to a good glass shop in your area that is experienced in this type of work. Choose one that is current on the codes being followed in your area and go from there. There are a number of reasonably priced, well-engineered systems that will suit your needs and allow you to sleep well at night knowing that people who share your porch with you will be safe.

I hope this information is of value to you and thank you again for reaching out to the Glass.com Glass Detective.

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