Why Do Some RV Glass Showers Shatter Spontaneously?

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You wouldn’t think that glass would shatter for no reason.

To walk into your RV bathroom and see tiny pieces of glass strewn all over the floor, you must have hit a huge pothole and jarred the glass with enough stress to make it break, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Tempered glass used in many RV bathrooms can actually shatter spontaneously, leaving you to clean up a giant mess. Let’s learn how this happens and what you can do to try to prevent it. Let’s dive in!

Why Do Manufacturers Use Tempered Glass Showers in RVs?

You might wonder why RV manufacturers would use any type of glass in an RV. After all, they move at high speeds down the highway, jostling around from one bump to another.

But tempered glass is different from regular glass. In fact, tempered glass is four to five times stronger than standard glass because of the heating and cooling process it undergoes.

In addition to adding strength, the rapid cooling during production means tempered glass breaks into tiny pieces rather than flying shards. Should it shatter for whatever reason, tempered glass won’t cause severe injury nearly as much due to sharp edges.

So when RV manufacturers want to create a residential feel in the bathroom, they’ll install tile floors or tempered glass shower doors. This helps make the RV feel like a home rather than a tiny trailer.

What Other Types of Materials Are RV Showers Made Of?

But glass isn’t the only type of material used to produce showers. In fact, it’s much more common to find plastic shower doors.

Either folded or pleated plastic doors are lightweight, thus a great option for RVs. This is a good alternative to glass doors, which are heavier and take up more room.

Why Does Tempered Glass Shatter Spontaneously?

You won’t find a plastic shower door shattering spontaneously. You probably won’t have many problems at all.

On the other hand, tempered glass is notorious for breaking without warning. Let’s learn why.

No Room for Expansion in the Frame

Glass expands and contracts with fluctuating temperatures. If there is no space in the frame to allow this shift, the tempered glass will break.

Improper framing is one of the most common reasons glass shower doors seem to shatter spontaneously. If the frame has no give, the glass has no room to expand, and the glass will burst.

Internal Stress of the Glass

During the glassmaking process, nickel sulfide stones sometimes form as a result of the stainless steel machines. Over time, these stones can morph, causing internal stress.

When the glass can’t handle the stress anymore, it has nothing left to do except shatter to release the pressure. Buying high-quality glass can help reduce the chances of nickel sulfide stones putting stress on shower doors.

Damage on the Edges of the Glass

If there is damage on the edge of the glass, this can lead to problems down the road. Over time, with the expansion and contraction of the glass due to changing temperatures, even small imperfections will cause the glass to shatter eventually.

Small chips along the glass edges happen during shipment and installation, so it’s important to inspect the quality.

Thermal Stress in the Glass

Intense heating and cooling during the glassmaking process make tempered glass strong.

However, if the center temperature is higher than the edge temperature, this can lead to tensile stress at the edge of the glass. The center will expand and exceed the strength of the glass edges.

Keep in Mind: Looking to upgrade your RV shower door? Take a look at what your options are to replace your shower door!

Defective Tempered Glass

Sometimes the glass comes defective. Although this isn’t common, it is another reason why glass showers may spontaneously shatter.

Pre-existing damage, like cracks or scratches, reduces the strength of the glass. Thus, breaking is more likely to occur.

How Often Do RV Glass Showers Spontaneously Shatter?

Unfortunately, RV glass showers spontaneously shatter more than you might realize. Many owners share about walking into their bathroom after a long day to find tiny pieces of glass everywhere. Others tell stories of getting their RV out of storage to find broken glass from their shower doors.

One Jayco owner wrote on a forum, “Tonight while the camper (a 2018 30.5MLOK) was sitting in the driveway, one of the glass shower doors exploded…I went back to the camper to finish cleaning and made the discovery. One of the doors is completely toast and shattered into a million little pieces. The floors, vanity, and vanity top all suffered damage from this. Has anyone run into this?”

Many people replied with similar frustrations and experiences.

Another RVer shared on a Forest River forum that upon pulling their RV out of storage, they found tiny glass particles littered on the floor of their bathroom and right outside of it. 

They said, “One panel of the glass shower enclosure had apparently EXPLODED and showered tiny particles of glass everywhere. I read about it before. Hoped it wouldn’t happen to us …. but it did!”

But it’s not just RVers that suffer the shock of shattered glass. This can happen in a sticks-and-bricks house, too.

An ABC News report shared an Illinois couple’s experience one morning when they heard a strange sound upstairs. Upon investigation, they found tiny pieces of glass strewn everywhere on their bathroom floor.

The news article explained, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports more than 60 complaints from across the U.S. over the last eight years of shower doors shattering for seemingly no reason.”

Manufacturers have even had to recall shower doors after customer complaints.

Can I Prevent My RV Glass Shower Door From Breaking?

Although we can’t predict this spontaneous shattering, we can do our best to prevent it to a point.

However, homeowners or RVers who did everything to prevent such a disaster still walked into a bathroom full of glass pieces. But here are some tips to try to prevent your RV glass shower door from breaking.

First, regularly inspect the edges of the shower doors. As mentioned earlier, tiny chips and cracks can cause potential problems. 

Second, have safety film installed on the glass door. Third, try not to slam the shower door. Always close it gently. 

Finally, if you notice chips or cracks in the glass or along the edges, have the doors repaired immediately.

Keep in Mind: Showering in an RV isn’t the same as showering at home. Before you hop in the shower, make sure you don’t make any of these 5 Mistakes!

Can I Change Out My RV Glass Shower Doors?

If you have glass shower doors in your RV and want to eliminate the risk of walking into a bathroom full of broken glass, you can replace the doors.

You can get plastic retractable doors that are pleated or may fold into each other. Or you can simply use a shower curtain, which is the most lightweight and inexpensive option available.

The biggest consideration is the size of the space. If you have two large glass panels you want to replace, take careful measurements before installing different doors of the same size.

For example, you can trim pleated vinyl shower doors like this one from RecPro along the width but not the height.

RecPro RV Pleated Folding Shower Door and Frame | Sliding, Retractable, Wrinkle Free (Ivory, 36" x 57")
  • Easy to use door is made of vinyl and polyester material
  • Installs using common hand tools

If you’re a DIY RVer with the proper tools and knowledge, you can install a new shower door independently. But if it’s an extensive project that you don’t feel comfortable tackling, you’ll want to contact a professional.

Regularly Inspect Your RV Glass Shower

You can’t fully prevent the spontaneous shattering of an RV glass shower. But you can do things to lower the risk, like regularly inspecting the glass and edges.

Don’t delay getting repairs done if you find damage, or you might end up on an RV forum detailing your experience.

Do you own RV glass shower doors?

Last update on 2024-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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