To understand mechanisms underlying laser-induced damage of BK7 and fused silica, we calculate the temperature field of the substrates with laser irradiating at a given laser power and beam radius. We find that the two glasses show different thermal behaviors. A model is developed for estimating the time t to heat the surface of the substrates up to a particular temperature T with cw laser irradiation. We calculate theoretically the duration t that the samples are irradiated, from the beginning to visual catastrophic damage, with the assumption of damage threshold determined by the critical temperature. The duration t that the samples are irradiated, from the beginning to visual catastrophic damage, is investigated experimentally as well. Here we take the melting point or softening point as the critical temperature, given the thermomechanical coupling properties, which is enough to cause damage for BK7. Damage features are characterized by the sound of visual cracks. Finally, we calculate stresses induced by laser heating. The analysis of stress indicates that the damage of BK7 is due to the stresses induced by laser heating. © 2005 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.