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 qualities, while 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 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, as well as 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 gasketa thick, molded rubber half-tube with a split running its lengththey 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 glass that is wasted.
Glaziers often work outdoors, sometimes in inclement weather. Their work can, at times, result in injuries as they work with sharp tools and may need to remove broken glass. They must be prepared to lift heavy glass panels and work on scaffolding, sometimes at great heights. Glaziers do a considerable amount of bending, kneeling, lifting, and standing during the installation process.
Glaziers learn their trade through formal and informal training programs. To become a skilled glazier usually takes 3 years of both classroom and on-the-job training. There are a number of different avenues that one can take to obtain the necessary training. One of the ways is to obtain a job with a contractor who will then provide 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 employees formal apprenticeships. These programs combine 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, will start by carrying glass and cleaning up debris in glass shops. They often practice cutting on discarded glass. After a while, 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.
Because most glaziers do not learn the trade through a formal apprenticeship program, some associations offer a series of written examinations that certify an individual’s competency to perform glazier work at three progressively more difficult levels of proficiency. These levels include Level I Glazier; Level II Commercial Interior/Residential Glazier or Storefront/Curtainwall Glazier; and Level III Master Glazier. There also is a certification program for auto-glass repair.
Some skills needed to become a glazier include manual dexterity, 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 contractors.
Advancement generally consists of increases in pay for most glaziers; some advance to supervisory jobs or become contractors or estimators. For those who would like to advance, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish in order to relay instructions and safety precautions to workers with limited understanding of English; Spanish-speaking workers make up a large part of the construction workforce in many areas. Glaziers may advance to glazier supervisor or general construction supervisor positions. Others may become independent contractors. Supervisors and contractors need good communication skills to deal with clients and subcontractors and should be able to identify and estimate the quantity of materials needed to complete a job and accurately estimate how long a job will take to complete and at what cost.
Glaziers held 49,000 jobs in 2004. Almost two-thirds of glaziers worked for glazing contractors engaged in new construction, alteration, and repair. About 1 in 10 glaziers worked in retail glass shops that install or replace glass and for wholesale distributors of products containing glass.
Job opportunities for glaziers are expected to be good as some employers report difficulty in finding qualified workers. In addition, employment is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through the year 2014.
Employment of glaziers is expected to increase as a result of growth in residential and nonresidential construction. Demand for glaziers also will be spurred by the continuing need to modernize and repair existing structures, which often involves installing new windows. Homeowners also are preferring rooms with more sunlight and are adding sunrooms and skylights to houses. Demand for specialized safety glass and glass coated with protective laminates is also growing in response to a higher need for security and the need to withstand hurricanes, particularly in many commercial and government buildings.
Like other construction trades workers, glaziers employed in the construction industry should expect to experience periods of unemployment resulting from the limited duration of construction projects and the cyclical nature of the construction industry. During bad economic times, job openings for glaziers are reduced as the level of construction declines. However, construction activity varies from area to area, so job openings fluctuate with local economic conditions. Employment opportunities should be greatest in metropolitan areas, where most glazing contractors and glass shops are located.
In May 2004, median hourly earnings of glaziers were $15.70. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.08 and $21.58. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.73, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.36. In May 2004, median hourly earnings in the foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors industry, where most glass shops are found, were $16.10.
Glaziers covered by union contracts generally earn more than their nonunion counterparts. Apprentice wage rates usually start at 40 to 50 percent of the rate paid to experienced glaziers and increase as they gain experience in the field. Because glaziers can lose time due to weather conditions and fluctuations in construction activity, their overall earnings may be lower than their hourly wages suggest.
Some glaziers employed in construction are members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
For more information about glazier apprenticeships or work opportunities, contact local glazing or general contractors, a local of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, a local joint union-management apprenticeship agency, or the nearest office of the State employment service or State apprenticeship agency.
For general information about the work of glaziers, contact:
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, 1750 New York Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20006. Internet: http://www.iupat.org
For information concerning training for glaziers, contact:
National Glass Association, Education and Training Department, 8200 Greensboro Dr., Suite 302, McLean, VA 22102-3881. Internet: http://www.glass.org
Associated Builders and Contractors, Workforce Development Department, 4250 North Fairfax Dr., 9th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Internet: http://www.trytools.org
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,
Glaziers, on the Internet at
(visited June 21, 2006).