The expansion in the production capabilities of glass companies since the late nineties allowed the development of ways to use glass that had not previously even been considered.
Since then small and medium sized regional glass companies had the machinery to polish, bevel, laminate, toughen and expand. With many more people experimenting and developing new ways to use glass, designers were encouraged to push their imagination.
At a domestic level, it meant access to glass kitchen splashbacks that could surround a range hood, glass balustrades, glass pool fences and “frameless” glass shower screens.
As demand took off and these products became standard in new homes and renovations, it opened up the opportunity for others to get a piece of the action by importing ready-made product.
Shower screens and pool fences seemed to fit the bill perfectly. All an importer had to do was buy up container loads of standard sizes and they were in the glass business. This produced a flurry of new companies that could sell a shower screen for less than half the quoted price from the local glass company.
The obvious benefit for consumers was the lowering of prices but this comes at a cost. The saying about things looking too good to be true applies, as does the one about “you get what you pay for”. Now you can buy your shower screen on the net without even having seen a glass expert. After all, why do you need an expert in glass when you can buy what you need with the instructions? How hard can it be?
If the internet is not your style now you can walk into any big name hardware store and walk out with a frameless shower screen for you to install immediately. What could go wrong?
Here are a couple of possibilities
- Floors and walls are never plum and a sloping floor is essential.
- Gaps and cut outs that the standard sizes won’t cover
- “Stainless” fittings that rust
- The difficulty of getting help from a local glass company
- The absence of a knowledgeable person to ensure that what is constructed meets the Safety Standards (special rules for bathrooms)
- The lack of replacement parts
As the push for ever cheaper product continues you will struggle to find a glass company on the first few pages of most search engines. Almost all will be importers but if you do drill down to find a glass company they will almost certainly supply glass that is certified to meet the Standards. Their whole business hangs on it, not just the shower screen.
Many people in the glass business has a humorous story to tell of the hopeful phone calls from frustrated consumers asking for help to fit the shower screen they bought on the internet. There is at one very good reason why a glass company would be reluctant to help. Once they get involved, under their license requirements they become liable for the consequences. If later, someone is injured due to poor quality product or a failed fitting they understandably do not want to be involved. You’re on your own.
Another point to ponder is the likelihood of spontaneous disintegration by nickel sulphide infusion. This occurs in some toughened (tempered) glass products when a microscopic particle of the mineral nickel is flaked off stainless steel machinery and lands in the molten glass at production. In some cases this can result in the glass exploding months or years later and while it is rare, the chances of it happening are less when driving down the price of production is not the main motivation of the manufacturer.
This does not necessarily mean that the shower screen you buy at the hardware store will not do the job safely but the result often matches the price tag.