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Fire Rated Glass Buying Guide: Choosing the Best Product for Your Needs

Fire Rated Glass Buying Guide: Choosing the Best Product for Your Needs
The U.S. Fire Administration reported almost 1.3 million fire-related incidents in the country in 2019, causing 3,704 deaths, 16,600 injuries, and US$14.8 billion in losses. These numbers led to a growth in awareness about fire safety products in buildings, anticipating a boost in the country’s fire-rated glass consumption in the coming years.

This surge and growth in awareness and application evolved the fire rated glass market to offer various products that suit different consumer needs. If you’re unsure which fire rated glass is best for your project or don’t know where to start, our fire rated glass buying guide below can help.

What is Fire Rated Glass?

Fire rated glass is a type of glass that offers a level of protection in the event of fire, and while it doesn’t extinguish the fire, having them installed can benefit you in different ways.

1. Contains fire, smoke and radiant heat

Keep flames, smoke and in some cases dangerous radiant heat from spreading and have enough time to get out of a burning room or building. The official term for this is compartmentation, which means that the glass restricts fire damage to a specific area, preventing it from spreading and causing more damage.

2. Withstands heat

 Fire rated glass can withstand high temperatures better than other glass types. For example, standard window glass will shatter at around 250°F, but fire rated glass can survive high temperatures without breaking.

By slowing the spread of fire, fire rated glass ultimately preserves human life and protects your property and assets.

3. Easy integration

Due to the rise in the demand for fire rated glass, manufacturers now make it easy to integrate it into any commercial, institutional or residential projects without having it look out of place.  Advanced versions can also perform multiple functions such as energy efficiency, hurricane resistance, bullet resistance, blast resistance, attack resistant, and more.  Decorative options are also available.  

Fire rated glass is now an essential part of building plans. They can be either fire-protective or fire-resistive. Let’s take a look at the difference.

Fire-Protective vs. Fire-Resistive

Fire rated glass can either be fire-protective or fire-resistive. Here’s a summary for both to give you an idea of which one you need in your project.

  • Fire-protective glass

Fire-protective glass is a type of fire rated glass designed to compartmentalize flames and smoke but not prevent radiant heat transfer, meaning that objects or people on the other side of the glass will feel the heat. It is also subject to application, area, and size.

It is tested to  NFPA 252/257 or UL 9/10C, typically up to 45 minutes.  Fire-protective glass is usually for openings and doors. Some examples of fire-protective glass are specially tempered glass, specialty fire protective, wired glass, and glass-ceramic.

  • Fire-resistive glass

Fire-resistive glass also compartmentalizes flames and smoke but prevents the transmission of radiant heat through glazing, which means objects on the other side of the glass don’t get hot enough to combust. Furthermore, fire-resistive glass is not limited in application or size, unlike fire-protective glass. 

It is tested to ASTM E-119 or UL 263 and typically 60-120 minutes. They are used in wall (including butt-glazed), door and floor applications. Some examples include fire resistive tempered units and annealed multilaminates. 

For a more in-depth look at the differences between fire-protective and fire-resistive glass and specific examples for each, check out our separate article here.     

Types of Fire Rated Glass

Fire Protective Glass

  • Wired Glass

For a long time, wired glass or wire mesh glass was the only type of fire rated glazing available on the market. It’s made from a wire grid mesh incorporated into a sheet of glass. The wire holds the glass in place in the face of a fire.

However, regular wired glass breaks and causes jagged edges. Safety wired glass has a film covering the glass so that if it does break, it won’t be penetrated, reducing injury.   are 

 With clear, safe and economical and USA-made fire rated glass options that today, designers, contractor and owners have moved away from using wired glass for safety and aesthetic reasons.   

  • Ceramics 

Ceramics resists high levels of heat by letting the heat through unabated. . Since it can handle temperature changes, it’s often used for cooktops and fireplace doors.

Ceramics are brittle and break easily.  Like wired glass, they would have to be filmed or laminated to meet safety standards, adding to its already high cost. Ceramics also have a noticeable amber or greenish tint.

  • Specialty Tempered Fire Rated Glass

This type of fire rated glass can be a cost-effective alternative to wired glass and ceramics; however, it usually won’t survive the hose stream test, so it also has limited use. In the US, fire rated glass in 20 minute doors does not need to meet the hose stream test.   

  • Specialty Fire-Protective Glass

Specialty fire-protective glass is the most economical fire and safety-rated glazing available while meeting the hose stream test.    It provides excellent clarity (available in low-iron versions) and meets the highest human impact safety requirements. You can use it for interior and exterior applications and is available in specialty architectural make-ups and patterns.

Fire Resistive Glass

  • Annealed Multilaminate

This type is multi-laminated, consisting of alternating layers of annealed glass and transparent  intumescent interlayers. The higher the fire rating, the more layers of annealed glass are needed. They are susceptible to damage of the interlayers from moisture, have smaller sizes, require great care in handling due to breakage, and have other restrictions that limit their use.  All annealed multilaminates are made overseas.  

  • Fire-Resistive Tempered Units

Fire-resistive tempered units consist of specialty tempered glass with the cavity or cavities filled with a clear, semi-rigid intumescent interlayer.  They are more durable compared to annealed multilaminates and are available in larger sizes.  Fire resistive tempered units are made in the USA.  

4 Things to Consider When Shopping for Fire Rated Glass

1. Does the glass have a certified fire rating?

All fire rated glass must be tested, certified, listed and under the follow-up service of a nationally recognized third-party laboratory such as UL on Intertek.  

2. Do you need fire-protective or fire-resistive?

Both fire rated glass types must pass different requirements to be fire-protective or fire-resistive. Always ensure that you know what kind to get and for what purpose.

For example, fire-protective glass is suitable for building codes requiring “opening protective” assemblies, while fire-resistive glass is ideal for building codes requiring an enclosed space is designated as fire-resistant, like a stairwell. Fire protective is typically rated from 20-45 minutes and subject to area and size limitations, while fire resistive is typically rated 60 minutes or more and does not have size or application limitations.  

Lastly, review the testing requirements.  Fire protective glass is tested to NFPA 252/257 or UL 9/10C, which fire resistive glass is tested to ASTM E-119 or UL 263.

3. Does it meet additional performance or design requirements?

Fire rated glass has been in constant innovation, and fortunately for designers and building owners today, the variety in design and performance requirements are more diverse.   Today’s advanced fire rated glass products can also protect against environmental (hurricane) and man-made (ballistic, blast, attack, forced entry) threats.  Decorative and energy-efficient make-ups are also available.  

4. Does it meet Buy America Requirements? 

With USA-made fire rated glass and framing systems being readily available, architects can specify them in government-funded public projects such as transportation terminals, federal buildings, courthouses, and more in order to meet Buy America Requirements.  SAFTI FIRST is the only vertically integrated, single-source USA-manufacturer of advanced fire rated glass, framing, entrances and floor systems.  Our products are made in our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Merced, CA. 

Click here to view SAFTI FIRST’s Capabilities Video: 

What to Look for in a Fire Rated Glass Provider

1. Proven Expertise & Experience

Fire rated glass is a life safety product, and its use is governed by the IBC. Fire rated manufacturers should be experts not only in their products, but in the test standards and code requirements as well.   They must have an excellent track record and an extensive portfolio to back it.

2. High-quality products that are code-compliant

A fire rated glass provider should offer products that meet and exceed the minimum requirements. SAFTI FIRST manufactures fire rated glass products that meet code and creates aesthetically pleasing designs to fit client needs.

3. Fast lead times

Most importantly, fire rated glass suppliers must deliver. The product is not the only thing that matters to clients. Manufacturers should provide the right product and deliver it within an optimal timeframe. Work with a fire rated glass provider that proves their efficiency and delivery.

4. Great customer support

Working with fire rated glass can sometimes be complex. The product is manufactured and assessed and should also meet client size, use, and design expectations. A reliable manufacturer will provide clients with excellent customer support to help them choose the fire rated glass that meets their requirements.

Click here to read some of our Customer Testimonials: 

5. Amazing problem-solving

Every client has a different need; sometimes, even the most seasoned fire rated glass provider will have difficulty solving problems. The important thing to look for is the eagerness and willingness to solve a client’s problem.

Know Which Fire Rated Glass Best Suits Your Needs

The best way to ensure that you’ll get a fire rated glass according to your need is by knowing how to choose the best one. Remember that requirements are to be met, and each type has a specific use.

SAFTI FIRST manufactures world-class, USA-made fire rated glass and glazing solutions. We provide quality products that enhance the fire protection of your projects without compromising on aesthetics or architectural appeal.

We have various fire rated glass and glazing solutions to help take your project to the next level. Contact us today!

Do you have a current or upcoming project that needs fire rated glass and framing? Contact us today!