The Different Types Of Fire-Rated Windows And Their Benefits

Kenneth Wilson

Not sure if you need fire-rated windows in your home? In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about fire-rated windows, including how they’re made and how they operate. There are different types of fire-rated windows, and all of them have the potential to stop the spread of a fire.

What We Know About Fire-Rated Windows

These windows go through a few tests before being labeled as “fire-rated”, and one of them is a heat test. In the heat test, the window must be exposed to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 90 minutes. Being able to hold up in extreme temperatures like 1600 degrees Fahrenheit is crucial for these windows to work. The testing is important, as it guarantees the windows will be able to survive during a fire.

Non-rated and fire-rated glass windows look the same and you can’t visually tell them apart from one another. However, they behave very differently in the heat, as standard, non-rated glass will break when it reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That means a fire can easily enter the window and spread into the next room.

Fire-rated windows are based on time increments, so a 45-minute rating means the glass will be able to contain smoke and flames for 45 minutes. When they perform these tests, the glass must remain in the window frame to pass. If the glass cracks, but smoke or fire doesn’t go through, it will still pass. However, if it cracks and smoke can go through the window, it will fail the test.

After the heat test, they move on to the hose stream test. This is where they spray the hot glass using a water pressure of at least 30 psi to see how it will handle the thermal shock.

The non-rated glass will shatter if one side of it is cool and the other is hot, but fire-rated glass can handle it. If sprinklers come on during a fire, the hot glass windows will get cold water on them. Normal windows will shatter when this happens, allowing the smoke and flames to spread.

Reasons Why you Need a Fire-Rated Window

To keep the fire and smoke from spreading to other rooms or apartments in some cases. Office and apartment buildings often have strict fire code guidelines they follow to keep fires from spreading and doing more damage. Think about it, if you live in an apartment and your neighbor’s place catches on fire, do you want to know your apartment is safe? It’s easier to put out a contained fire, and it causes way less damage as the fire can’t spread.

In a house, you can certainly benefit from having fire-rated windows and doors to prevent fires from coming inside. This is especially helpful for those who live in areas that experience wildfires. Fire-rated windows are a great way to keep your home safe, and they can even increase the property value as new windows typically do.

Benefits of Fire-Rated Windows

There are a ton of great reasons for installing fire-rated windows and doors. Both allow for easier evacuation, as you don’t have to worry about them catching on fire. Fire-rated windows help protect the rest of your property from fire damage, as they keep the fire contained to a single location.

Here are some of the benefits and reasons why you would want to install fire-rated windows:

  • They allow for safe evacuation in case of a fire
  • They prevent smoke and fire from leaving the contained area
  • Fire-rated windows and doors keep offices, schools, hotels, and apartment buildings safe from fire breakouts
  • Installing fire rated windows and doors can prevent wildfires from catching your entire house on fire
  • Having new windows installed on any house will increase the property value, and fire-rated windows will increase the value if you live in an area where wildfires are common

Tempered Glass vs Fire-Rated Glass

Many people think the tempered glass is just as good as fire-rated glass, but this is not true. In fact, tempered glass can only withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while fire-rated glass can survive temperatures up to 1600-degree Fahrenheit. Tempered glass is good for its impact resistant qualities, which is why it’s often used on hurricane impact windows. Even though tempered glass can withstand more heat than traditional windows, it’s not going to help much during a fire.

Basically, if you live in Florida and need to have hurricane-proof windows, then get tempered glass windows built for hurricane resistance. (Related: Sunroom Addition Cost & Consumer Guide) However, if you live in California and have to deal with wildfires, then get fire-rated windows. This decision is all about where you live and what kind of environmental conditions your house will have to go through.

Types of Fire-Rated Glass

Ceramic Glass 

Ceramic has become popular within recent years, being used on everything from car paint to cook-tops. It’s transparent, wireless, and some ceramic glass has fire ratings as high as 3 hours. They’re great for their high impact safety ratings and sound reduction, making them the best option on the market.

Wired Glass

Polished wired glass is the original fire-rated glass on the market. For a very long time, wired glass was the only type of glass that could pass the fire rating tests. Wired glass is often confused with impact-resistant glass, but it’s a very weak glass. The wired glass will almost always pass the tests and get a 45-minute rating.

Tempered Glass

When it comes to low-level fire safety, specially tempered glass has become the best option. Tempered glass has high impact ratings, making it the perfect option for windows on doors. It’s not as safe as wired or ceramic glass, but it works well for small window applications. Specially tempered glass can’t pass a hose stream test, so if it gets hit by a little bit of water from a sprinkler during a fire, it will shatter.

Automatic Fire-Rated Window Shutters

This option belongs in its own category because it doesn’t simply rely on the glass to be fire-rated. Many fire-rated window shutters will automatically descend when the system detects a fire. This will keep your home safe while you’re away. There are many benefits to having an automatic fire-rated window shutter system installed, such as the ability to control them with a remote. These shutters are usually made of strong steel, so they help with theft prevention as well.

If you want to increase the value of your home, then automatic fire-rated window shutters are the best option. They’re the most helpful when it comes to large glass pieces, like a glass sliding door that goes to your balcony or patio.

Kenneth Wilson
September 28, 2021
Window Replacement

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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