A Glazier’s Toolbox: What’s Needed to Get the Job Done Safely and Efficiently

Contract glaziers working in the field make up an important part of the building enclosure team. It’s their job to install the glass and glazing products, helping to bring an architect’s or designer’s vision to life. But they can’t do it alone. They need a toolbox—literally and figuratively— packed with the essentials to help them do the job right, on time and on budget.

But what tools are actually needed to create these structures?

According to Doug Williams, product manager at Frameless Hardware Company (FHC), based in South Gate, Calif., efficiency and timeliness are key.

“Basically, [contract glaziers] are looking for a tool that’s going to save them time because time is money. So if a tool can save them time, make their job easier and do a professional install, that’s what they’re looking for.”

This is a sentiment echoed across workers in the industry. Any tool that saves time and additional labor is worth the purchase.

“The most important tools now are suction cups and those that make installs easier,” says Dustin Anderson, president of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas. “We have recently looked at buying a glass manipulator to make commercial jobs easier to do with fewer employees. Any tool right now that might eliminate the need for another pair of hands on the job is something worth the investment if you can manage that investment.”

Neil Heesch, owner of Malibu Shower Enclosures based in Cornelius, N.C., concurs, adding that suction cups provide a sense of security when handling glass, in addition to other protective equipment such as hard hats, gloves, goggles and dollies.

“First and foremost is safety,” he says. Knowing he will be safe and protected allows him to work efficiently and does not slow him down.

“I use suction cups and gloves; and the sense of safety makes me do my job quicker.”

Personal protective equipment can be found on every person in all areas of construction.

“PPE is one of the most important tools/supplies our [glaziers] should always be concerned about,” says Jim Rathbone, senior vice president at Kensington Glass Arts located in Ijamsville, Md. “Hard hats, cut-resistant gloves, safety glasses, work boots and masks are critical on all projects.”

Many facets of the industry are currently dealing with the ongoing labor shortage. For some contract glaziers, the goal is minimizing that burden and using time efficiently.

“The lack of manual labor is always a driver for product innovation,” says Markus Filipp, senior vice president of product management and operations at Bohle America Inc. based in Charlotte, N.C. Those at FHC agree the labor on a certain project must be considered when developing a new tool to streamline any project.

“One of the biggest items on a project is labor,” says Chris Hanstad, president and CEO of FHC. “So, whenever a company can develop a tool to make the installer’s life faster and more efficient, they’re going to want to buy it. They’re going to want to invest in a tool, because the labor is very expensive and [a] difficult expense to manage.”

However, quite often, it’s the glaziers who proactively come up with and innovate new tools, says Hanstad, explaining that a lot of solutions originate with customers and hardcore glaziers in the industry.

“They dream up these tools, and then guys like Doug and me bring it to life and share it with the rest of the industry.”

Williams shared an example of one of these ideas having come to life, which started as a make-shift tool that glaziers had used for years.

“There’s a tool we just started carrying for trimming the polycarbonate [on a] frameless shower, and it’s called the Sweep Saver. For years, people cut [the polycarbonate] with a hand-scissor or razor blade, but [that way] takes 40 minutes to get it exactly right.”

According to Williams, this new glazier-invented tool, however, allows  installers to insert a razor blade and slide it down to trim polycarbonate within 30 seconds to the perfect size every time. “You don’t have to do it by hand; there is no guesswork and you’re not going to get a crooked cut.”

A glazier’s toolbox includes a wide assortment of supplies. But it’s the tools that help ensure efficiency and safety that are most essential.

Luly Hernandez is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. Email her at lhernandez@glass.com.

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