Not All Glass Tile is Created Equal

By Taylor Hori

How a request to demonstrate stress in glass turned into an award-winning installation.

Blistering days, freezing nights, chemically treated water, and an ever-shifting footprint. These are the conditions pools are asked to withstand. Master designers, builders, and installers working with quality products are all necessary to ensure a successful project. For Luke and Amy Denny of Alpentile, one look at a homeowner’s desired tile selection told them all they needed to know; the tile had been improperly cooled and would, without a doubt, fail in the Arizona desert.

Amy reached out to Sean Gildea, CEO and Founding Member of Oceanside Glass & Tile, with a simple request. They knew the tile was inferior, but how to show their customer? Sean requested samples of the tile be sent to Oceanside’s manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico. There, Oceanside Glass and Tile’s Research and Development Engineer, Rodolfo Sierra, looked at the glass under a Polariscope. As Rodolfo turned the polarized lens 180°, he began to see prominent light areas in the glass, or stress.

Stress is a natural part of the glass making process. As the molecules on the outside cool, they solidify into their final shape while the glass within stays molten. The cooling glass continues to contract but can only give so far because of the already solid glass exterior. The Polariscope visualizes this stress by filtering light to pass through the glass at one angle, similar to a pair of polarized sunglasses. As the light passes through the glass on one wavelength, it will refract off of the stressed glass molecules, resulting in bright, lit up areas in the glass. The only way to relieve that internal stress is by annealing, or a controlled heating and cooling of the tile.

With a visual aid to prove the original tile was under stress, the homeowner was convinced to select a new, properly annealed, glass tile. Again, Alpentile turned to Oceanside Glass & Tile. The original translucent blue mosaic had a brilliant iridescence that the homeowner very much wanted to replicate. At first glance, Oceanside did not have a color that matched the original tile, but they did have colors that came close.

An expansive catalog, at its core, Oceanside Glass & Tile’s color palette comes down to 31 base colors, 4 finishes, and 5 iridescent applications. Sapphire was selected as the base color for its deep blue translucency while Rainbow Iridescence, shown here on an opaque Black tile, was selected for its chroma.

Working again with Rodolfo, samples were sent to the homeowner with the Rainbow iridescence applied at different intensities over the Sapphire tile. Together, Alpentile and Oceanside Glass & Tile were able to create a backyard oasis for a high-profile homeowner and a brand-new color for the Oceanside Glass & Tile palette, Peacock.

— Taylor Hori of Oceanside Glass & Tile