Glaziers specialize in working with glass. These construction professionals remove, cut, and install all types of glass. They can also work with plastics, granite, marble, or other glass substitutes. When they are working on residential projects, glaziers might be responsible for replacing old or broken glass in home windows with new glass. The new glass may have been chosen for its insulating properties or its strength. Glaziers may custom cut glass for tabletops or display cases. They may also install glass mirrors, shower doors, or bathtub enclosures.
Both residential projects and commercial projects may be completed indoors or outdoors. Interior projects might involve installing heavy glass panels such as glass office walls, decorative room dividers, or bullet-proof security glass in banks. Outdoor projects may include replacing large storefront windows for businesses such as supermarkets or auto dealerships. They may also build metal frames for glass, glass handrails, and balustrades. Other possible jobs include installing glass panels or curtain walls.
While glass will arrive from the factory pre cut in many instances, the glazier may need to cut the glass manually at the jobsite using special metal cutting wheels in some cases. Once it is cut, the glass is moved into place using suction cups that hold the glass. If the glass is very large and heavy, a crane may be used to lift it into place. The glazier must then secure it in place using mastic, putty, bolts, rubber gaskets, glazing compound, metal clips, or moldings made from metal or wood.
The glazier’s job is more dangerous than that of many other craftspeople because they work with sharp tools and broken glass. In fact, they have one of the highest rates of injury (nonfatal) and illness of any craftsmen. Therefore, it is important for them to learn the skills of their craft well.
Glaziers become skilled at their trade through on-the-job training or formal apprenticeship programs. Individuals will typically begin their on-the-job training as a glazier’s helper, performing tasks such as carrying glass and cleaning up glass debris. They may be given opportunities to assist experienced workers with simple installations and, later, to cut glass for a job. By working with experienced glaziers, individuals will learn how to use the tools of the trade; how to handle, measure, cut, and install glass and metal framing; how to fit moldings; and how to install and balance glass doors. A limited number of formal apprenticeship programs are offered by employers to applicants who are at least 18 years old and meet any other local requirements. Both on-the-job training and formal apprenticeship programs last approximately three years, and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Formal classroom courses include glass installation techniques, math, blueprint reading, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.
The state of Connecticut requires glaziers to pass a test to be licensed, while Florida has a voluntary program. However, other states will likely require licenses in the future. Glaziers who learn their trade as apprentices become certified journeyworkers. Some professional organizations such as the National Glass Association offer written certification examinations that certify proficiency at increasing levels of difficulty.
Salaries vary depending upon skill set and geographic location. The median hourly wage for glaziers is $17.11. The middle 50 percent earn between $13.37 and $22.66 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.65 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $30.47 an hour. The limited duration of construction projects and the cyclical nature of construction industry conditions can impact total earnings. For example, recessionary factors may cause a reduction in hours and busy periods may lead to increased earnings due to overtime. Union contracted glaziers generally earn more than non-union workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average employment growth of about 8 percent over the next 10 years. Job growth will be driven by expected increases in both residential and commercial construction featuring large glass exteriors. In addition, it is expected that there will be a continuing need to update existing structures with insulated windows for temperature control and/or safety glass for security and hurricane protection.