I’m a former contractor and a code enforcement officer in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. In our town, a hot tub is a common deck upgrade, so I was surprised when your recent article (“Smart Hot Tub Planning,” Jan/Feb 2014) failed to address the proximity of the tub to glazing. Like most states, New York utilizes a version of the International Codes and requires safety glazing for any glass located within 60 inches horizontally from the water’s edge and less than 60 inches measured vertically from a walking surface (R308.4.5, 2012 IRC). The reason for this is rather obvious: A wet hot tub’s surface presents a slip hazard upon entry and departure; add a few glasses of wine and muscles that are maybe a bit too relaxed and there is a recipe for disaster. Many people have rapidly bled to death after lacerating an artery with broken glass, and this part of the code is a direct consequence of that.
Several manufacturers offer films that can be applied to meet impact requirements; the version sold by 3M (solutions.3m.com) sells for about $3 per square foot in my area. As an extra measure of safety, some local installers add “crash bars” across the window that also serve as grab bars.
Contractors and designers should consult the code in their specific jurisdiction to make sure their design meets the minimum standard or—better yet—to design above it. The last thing anyone wants to see is an injury or a death, or a contractor’s life turned upside down from the legal and mental ramifications of a deficient design.
Michael S. Oliver