Mystery of the Broken Glass

Eichler owner’s atrium pane shatters into thousands of pieces—but how and why?
Fridays on the Homefront
San Jose Eichler owner Paulo Motta recently found his world shattered—literally. While away from home, one of his ten-foot atrium glass panels cracked into thousands of pieces (as above) without warning.
But how? "There's always a reason," Paulo says logically. "I'm an engineer, so I know." But the mystery continues.
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Mystery glass: thousands of pieces

"I love the sound of breaking glass," sang British new-waver Nick Lowe back in the '70s, but few homeowners would concur with his rebellious claim. Count first-time Eichler owner Paulo Motta among those who do not.

Motta and his family bought their home in the Fairglen tract of San Jose in 2014, when it had numerous single-paned windows and glass panels. As parents of three small children, the Mottas didn't want to live with the safety hazard.

"When we got in, we did it almost immediately," Paulo says of replacing three large panels and one small one in their atrium, as well as a sliding-glass door, with tempered, double-pane glass. It added safety, security, and insulation for energy savings.

But three years later, the Mottas' world was shattered—literally. Recently, while they were away at work, one of their ten-foot glass panels shattered without warning.

But how? The incident left Paulo scratching his head as he continues to contemplate the 'mystery of the broken glass.'

Naturally, when the couple returned home to discover the incident, Paulo says, "It was a big deal. It's a major breach of security of the home. It's not something you can solve overnight."

Palo Alto Glass, the installer of the original glass upgrade, responded immediately to the situation.

"I called them the morning after, and they came that afternoon," Paulo recalls. They removed and cleaned up the shattered panel, but could not definitively answer why it happened: "They were, 'Oh, it could be a lot of things.'"

It was a less than satisfying response for the homeowners.

"There's always a reason," Paulo says logically. "I'm an engineer, so I know."

The San Jose couple's search for an explanation spurred them to take the mystery to the Eichler Network's Chatterbox Lounge forum.

"Has anyone had their large glass panel shatter without an apparent reason?" starts his plaintive post. "Any tips on how to deal with this situation would be appreciated."

"Although it is rare, spontaneous breakage of the tempered, insulated glass panels we install in Eichler homes is possible for a couple of reasons," says Palo Alto Glass' owner Dave Stellman.