Q: I am putting in a new custom shower with frameless tempered glass doors. From the shower door to the window is less than 60 inches on the other side of the toilet. Do you know if the window has to be tempered?
A: Codes may be open to interpretation so you should always seek the advice of your local or state building official.
According to my understanding of Section R 308.4.6 of the 2003 IRC (International Residential Code), the answer would be no. If there is glazing within a 24-inch arc of an operable door and the bottom edge of the glass is less than 60 inches above the floor or walking surface, then the glass must be tempered. The codes covering the locations where tempered glass should be installed have grown over the years and some of the text may be confusing. I’ll do my best to simplify the wording while trying to maintain my understanding for the purpose of the codes. Simply stated, you must have tempered glass in a door or window if you should stumble, fall or place additional weight against the glass. Locations include:
1. Glazing in windows that are within 60 inches vertically of a tub or shower drain.
2. Glazing in swinging doors. (Jalousies are exempt.)
3. Glazing in door panels that are fixed, sliding, storm doors and bi-fold doors.
4. Glazing in unframed swinging doors. This would be your shower enclosure.
5. Glazing in doors and enclosures for hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, bathtubs and showers. Glazing in any part of the areas listed above where the bottom edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches above a walking surface.
6. Glazing in handrails and guardrails regardless of their height.
7. Glazing that is within 36 inches horizontally and is adjacent to a stairway, landing or ramp and the glass is less than 60 inches above the walking surface.
The areas most often found by a home inspector are large decorative windows. When a window meets all of the following criteria — 1. the glazing is more than 9 square feet of glass in a single pane and 2. the bottom edge is less than 18 inches above the floor and 3. the top edge is greater than 36 inches above the floor and, 4. if one or more walking surfaces are within 36 inches of the glass — the glazing must be tempered. In some homes we find furniture or plants blocking the 36-inch walking area rule, but the glass still needs to be tempered unless the products blocking the glass are permanently installed.