Glass with wood frame railing - expansion and thickness

by Rob
(Chillicothe, OH)

I had a mature walnut tree hit my house and deck, and it wiped out a couple sections of my railing.

I have a heavily wooded backyard, and was thinking about replacing with glass panels so I can see the backyard better. Can I mount glass in wood frames that I will make so it matches the rest of the railing? If so, how snug should the glass fit for expansion, etc?

Since wood will also swell when wet, what are your thoughts on how frame should be made? If I use six foot panels of tempered glass, what thickness should I use?

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Jul 13, 2011
Glass with wood railing tips
by: Editor-Rich Bergman

Glass panels in wood framed railings are nice. There are a couple ways to secure the panels to the railings. The can be set into dado grooves on two sides - top and bottom rail, or four sides - top, bottom rails and inside faces of opposing posts.

There are also some glass panels on the market that are about 6"-8" wide that fit into pre-grooved top and bottom wood rails and are very nice.

Its true that wood does expand when wet but not enough to cause concern with the glass. In fact if you install the glass when the wood is at its driest, say 10%-15%, then when it does get a bit wetter, maybe 20% if it is really exposed to constant rain, it will expand a little bit and this will make the glass more snug.

If you can afford it go with a 3/8" thick panel but it must be tempered safety glass. A 1/4" panel may be enough also but it is based on whether it can withstand a certain side ways impact force. I have installed other commercial glass panel wood rail systems that used 1/4" glass and they met all code requirements.

However, I highly recommend you check for yourself locally to be sure before you go out and spend the money.

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