Why are oven doors shattering?

Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 07, 2016

When Karen Baker decided to sink thousands of dollars in her kitchen remodel, she made sure her money wouldn't go down the drain.

"I did my research and bought the best of what I could buy in my budget," Baker said.

Including a $2,000 Whirlpool double oven.

"We used the lower oven about 2 or 3 times and had some spill over and decided to do a self clean," Baker explained.

Never expecting that clean cycle would lead to an even bigger and scarier cleanup.

"A very loud boom like a little gunshot went off in the kitchen," explained Baker.

When Baker walked in her kitchen, she couldn't believe what happened to her lower oven glass door.

"The entire thing shattered. Half of it shot out the bottom and all in little pieces," described Baker.

From ovens to shower doors, products you use every day are built with tempered glass. It's called safety glass because it  breaks into small pieces compared to large sharp pieces when regular glass breaks.

While tempered is supposed to be safer, that may not stop the danger especially when it's glass from an oven that breaks.

"It was definitely sharp," Baker remembers.

Sharp and hot causing burns in some cases. People are fired up sharing their shattered glass oven photos on social media.

Hundreds have asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to do something. Brands like Whirlpool, GE, and Kenmore are all impacted.

Sears Kenmore gets the most heat with the 790 model ovens generating the most complaints.

"There appears to be a pretty consistent pattern of problems," explained Sean Kane with The Safety Institute.

The Institute is pushing the government to act.

"Our biggest  concern is someone is peering in the oven. When this happens they are going to lose their eyes," explained Kane.

So far, most injuries reported to the CPSC are minor. Sears makes the Kenmore ovens and says safety is a high priority.

Kenmore said its ovens are built to withstand the high heat in cooking.

So what's causing the glass to fail?

We found reports to the CPSC of the door handle falling off moments before the Kenmore 790 glass shattered.

"We are hoping Kenmore will step up and do a recall," explained Kane.

No recall yet. Sears said glass imperfections are only to blame in a small number of cases when the glass breaks in the first year of use.

If the glass breaks later, Sears said it likely was damaged during use. A small fracture in the glass can cause it to shatter.

"There are other complaints about other model ovens also shattering. Do you have concerns with those too?" Strathman asked Kane.

"Of course. We have concerns with all," Kane said. "Ovens are not supposed to have exploding glass doors and they are hot very hot."

That's why Baker is hot.

"I'm sure my top oven is going to go at some point so I don't really feel safe," Baker said.

Once it happens it may happen again.

One Kenmore customer told the CPSC their door broke three times. A Whirlpool customer reported two breaks.

Whirlpool gave Baker replacement glass for free. She has to pay to have it installed. That's estimated around $200.

Despite these reports, Whirlpool said tempered glass is the best material for ovens.

Manufacturers say it's up to you to be careful.

So here's how to protect your family. Don't use the door to push the oven rack back inside. Hitting the glass, even just slightly, can increase the chance it may break later.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it takes all incidents seriously. The agency encourages consumers to file complaints on when there's an incident. These reports are available to all consumers.

Sears full statement:

The Kenmore brand places the highest priority on the safety of our products and those who use them. Ovens and ranges are specifically designed to withstand the high heat involved in cooking.

Within the first year of purchase, on a very small number of units, failure in the glass may be due to imperfections in the glass at installation and would be covered under the manufacturer's warranty.  Breakage beyond the first year following purchase is most likely due to damage caused to the glass during use. Damage to the glass can be caused by a number of things including using the door to push in an oven rack or an object striking the glass-both examples may cause a weakness and lead to failure over time.

As a precaution, and for the safety of our customers, the Kenmore brand (and the industry in general) uses safety glass that is specifically designed to "pebble" into small pieces with rounded edges to help prevent injury if the glass breaks. This is the latest technology and while the sound may startle a homeowner, Kenmore ovens and ranges comply with industry (UL) Safety Standards for Household Ranges.  Some additional information which may be helpful is the reference to the glass pulled from our owner's manual, below.

Owner's Manual, page 26:

Special Door Care Instructions - Most oven doors contain glass. Glass can break.

Read the following recommendations:

1. Do not close the oven door until all the oven racks are fully in place.

2. Do not hit the glass with pots, pans, or any other object.

3. Scratching, hitting, jarring or stressing the glass may weaken its structure causing an increased risk of breakage at a later time.

Whirlpool full statement:
Whirlpool Corporation takes all consumer complaints seriously. Our ovens use tempered glass and meet UL858 requirements for glass in consumer products. Fully tempered glass is designed to reduce risk of cuts when broken. It is this characteristic of tempered glass that makes it the best material for oven glass doors. We encourage customers with concerns to contact us directly at 1-800-807-6777 or 1-800-422-1230

General Electric full statement:
Oven doors are made using tempered glass, which has been used in millions of oven doors for many years. GE designs oven glass doors to last the life of the product and to resist normal wear and tear. In the rare case an oven door does break, we will work with the consumer to resolve their issue.