One of the best inventions of humanity is glass. Glass is produced by melting sand and it keeps the elements out of most homes and offices. But is glass a fire risk? Can it easily catch fire and then make a fire in a building even worse?
Glass is not flammable and it’s very hard to make glass burn that’s because glass is an oxide of silicon. Silicon dioxide has already been burned and can’t burn any more.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you should be completely careless about using glass, but fires are not typically a major worry. Let’s take a closer look.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
What Is Glass?
Glass is a peculiar thing. That it is transparent makes it useful in many different applications. From spectacles and optical products to table covers to windows and door panes. It can also be used as insulation material or even for fiber optic communications.
It might be surprising to some, but glass can occur naturally, and it often does in the eruption of volcanoes. The first uses of glass by people would have been with natural glass. In particular, it appears that glass beads were very popular.
It has been manufactured by people for nearly 6,000 years, with the first glass made in Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Syria in around 3,600 B.C! This, of course, means that we’ve been using glass for longer than we’ve been using iron.
The most commonly used forms of glass are made from Silicon Dioxide (sand or quartz), but in more recent times it has become common to mix other compounds into the glass in order to give it different strengths or optical properties.
Now some say that glass is actually a liquid, rather than a solid, but that is actually not true. Watch this video for a better explanation:
The name “glass” comes form the Roman “glesum” and the Romans were, perhaps unsurprisingly, renowned glass makers.
Also read: Is Sand Flammable? What You Should Know
Is Normal Glass Flammable?
No, normal glass is not flammable and does not readily catch fire. Because it is made from fully oxidized silicon, the only way to get the glass to burn would be to raise the temperatures so high that the silicon-oxygen bonds broke down.
If that happened, then the silicon produced would burn in oxygen, but this would only happen at temperatures substantially higher than that produced in house fires or office fires.
So, for all intents and purposes you’re unlikely to be able to set fire to glass.
Also read: Are Tires Flammable? You May Be Surprised…
Does It Burn In A Fire?
No, glass doesn’t burn in a fire. Because glass is neither flammable nor combustible, you can’t burn it – there’s nothing there to oxidize.
So, why does glass mark in flames? Well, that’s a surface accumulation of other compounds such as carbon being released from whatever is being burned.
It might look unappealing, but it’s not very hard to remove, you can usually wipe it clean though you may need to use a particular solvent if the residue is an oily compound. But the glass beneath will not be burned.
Of course, it’s worth noting that while glass may not burn, it can melt though it won’t boil.
It melts at around 1400 degrees to 1600 degrees Celsius that’s about 2,500 to 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit!
It’s also worth noting that glass may crack when it is subject to intense heat. This is caused by either the rapid expansion of the glass under fire or by the rapid contraction when the fire is removed.
Of course, some glass is specifically treated (by adding other compounds to it) to ensure that it doesn’t crack when exposed to heat. So, if you have a glass kettle, for example, don’t worry about it springing a leak the next time you make a cup of coffee.
What About Fire Glass?
Fire glass is a bunch of small glass pebbles that are added to fires to give an impressive aesthetic of a dancing flame.
It’s made of ordinary recycled glass and while, technically speaking, if you break something up into small parts (pebbles) it will have a lower flammability point than the equivalent material in a big block – for fire glass this effect is insignificant, and it doesn’t burn any more than ordinary glass does.
Here is some more info on fire glass:
Is Tempered Glass Fireproof?
Yes, tempered glass is specifically designed to withstand not just flames, but also “thermal shock” which is the action of the hot flame followed by the cold splash of water.
So, yes tempered glass is fireproof.
Will Tempered Glass Break From Heat?
Tempered glass is specifically designed to resist “thermal shock” and that means it’s not meant to break with heat.
Of course, if it were to get much hotter than ordinary fire, it might break, but by that point the door or wall it was in would be on fire anyway.
Can You Burn Glass With A Lighter?
No, you cannot burn glass with a lighter, though as the lighter is fueled by butane – you can leave a sort of smoky stain on the glass, but this will wipe clean fairly easily.