Glass serves many uses in modern life. Insulated and specially treated glass keeps in warmed or cooled air and provides good condensation and sound control. Tempered and laminated glass makes doors and windows more secure. In large commercial buildings, glass panels give office buildings a distinctive look, while reducing the need for artificial lighting. The creative use of large windows, glass doors, skylights, and sunroom additions makes homes bright, airy, and inviting.
Glaziers are responsible for selecting, cutting, installing, replacing, and removing all types of glass. They generally work on one of several types of projects.
Residential glazing involves work, such as replacing glass in home windows; installing glass mirrors, shower doors, and bathtub enclosures; and fitting glass for tabletops and display cases. On commercial interior projects, glaziers install items such as heavy, often etched, decorative room dividers or security windows. Glazing projects also may involve replacement of storefront windows for establishments such as supermarkets, auto dealerships, or banks. In the construction of large commercial buildings, glaziers, after reading and interpreting blueprints and specifications, build metal framework extrusions and install glass panels or curtain walls.
Besides working with glass, glaziers also may work with plastics, granite, marble, and other similar materials used as glass substitutes and with films or laminates that improve the durability or safety of the glass. They may mount steel and aluminum sashes or frames and attach locks and hinges to glass doors.
For most jobs, the glass is precut and mounted in frames at a factory or a contractor's shop. It arrives at the jobsite ready for glaziers to position and secure it in place. They may use a crane or hoist with suction cups to lift large, heavy pieces of glass. They then gently guide the glass into position by hand.
Once glaziers have the glass in place, they secure it with mastic, putty, or other paste-like cement, or with bolts, rubber gaskets, glazing compound, metal clips, or metal or wood moldings. When they secure glass using a rubber gasket—a thick, molded rubber half-tube with a split running its length—they first secure the gasket around the perimeter within the opening, then set the glass into the split side of the gasket, causing it to clamp to the edges and hold the glass firmly in place.
When they use metal clips and wood moldings, glaziers first secure the molding to the opening, place the glass in the molding, and then force springlike metal clips between the glass and the molding. The clips exert pressure and keep the glass firmly in place.
When a glazing compound is used, glaziers first spread it neatly against and around the edges of the molding on the inside of the opening. Next, they install the glass. Pressing it against the compound on the inside molding, workers screw or nail outside molding that loosely holds the glass in place. To hold it firmly, they pack the space between the molding and the glass with glazing compound and then trim any excess material with a glazing knife.
For some jobs, the glazier must cut the glass manually at the jobsite. To prepare the glass for cutting, glaziers rest it either on edge on a rack, or "A-frame," or flat against a cutting table. They then measure and mark the glass for the cut.
Glaziers cut glass with a special tool that has a small, very hard metal wheel. Using a straightedge as a guide, the glazier presses the cutter's wheel firmly on the glass, guiding and rolling it carefully to make a score just below the surface. To help the cutting tool move smoothly across the glass, workers brush a thin layer of oil along the line of the intended cut or dip the cutting tool in oil. Immediately after cutting, the glazier presses on the shorter end of the glass to break it cleanly along the cut.
In addition to handtools such as glasscutters, suction cups, and glazing knives, glaziers use power tools such as saws, drills, cutters, and grinders. An increasing number of glaziers use computers in the shop or at the jobsite to improve their layout work and reduce the amount of wasted glass.
Glaziers often work outdoors, sometimes in inclement weather. They typically work with sharp tools and are often around broken glass. As a result, the rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses for glaziers is among the highest of any occupation. For these reasons, constant attention to safety is crucial in this occupation.
Glaziers’ work is quite physical, and so they must be prepared to lift heavy glass panels and work on scaffolding, sometimes at great heights. In addition, glaziers do a considerable amount of bending, kneeling, lifting, and standing during the installation process.
Most glaziers work a standard 40 hour workweek. During construction boom times, however, they may be required to work 50 or even 60 hours per week.
Education & Training Required
Glaziers learn their trade through formal and informal training programs. Usually 3 years of classroom and on-the-job training are required to become a skilled glazier. There are a number of different avenues that one can take to obtain the necessary training. Most glaziers start by obtaining a job with a contractor who then provides on-the-job training. Entry-level workers generally start as helpers, assisting more experienced workers. During this time, employers may send the employee to a trade or vocational school or community college to receive further classroom training.
Some employers offer formal apprenticeships. These programs combine paid on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Apprenticeship applicants usually must be at least 18 years old and meet local requirements. The length of the program is usually 3 years but varies with the apprentice's skill. Because the number of apprenticeship programs is limited, however, only a small proportion of glaziers learn their trade through these programs.
On the job, apprentices or helpers often start by carrying glass and cleaning up debris in glass shops. They often practice cutting on discarded glass. Later, they are given an opportunity to cut glass for a job and assist experienced workers on simple installation jobs. By working with experienced glaziers, they eventually acquire the skills of a fully qualified glazier. On the job, they learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and install glass and metal framing; cut and fit moldings; and install and balance glass doors. In the classroom, they are taught about glass and installation techniques as well as basic mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.
Manufacturers have often worked with unions to ensure that workers know everything they need to know in order to install manufacturers’ products safely and properly. In line with the architectural push for green construction, trade associations, unions, and partnerships between the two are now offering training to construction workers on the latest energy efficient products and green building techniques.
Certifications Needed (Licensure)
Only the State of Connecticut currently requires glaziers to have a license. In addition to passing a test, workers need education, experience, and an apprenticeship to be licensed. There is a voluntary license in Florida. Other States may require licenses in the future.
Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Skills needed to become a glazier include manual dexterity, good eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance. The ability to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately also is required. In addition, a good work history or military service is viewed favorably by employers.
Glaziers - What They Do - Page 2