Broken glass. What to do?
April 4, 2011 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Glass in older double hung windows - is it relatively easy to replace, or should we hire a pro?

While visiting my girlfriend here in Houston, I accidentally broke the glass in the double hung windows in her apartment. It's an older house, and she's planning to move out soon. Now, I may be pretty clumsy, but I'm also relatively handy, though I've never replaced glass on this type of window. It'd be wonderful if we can do this repair ourselves, rather than talking tongue landlord and going through the hassle of having someone professional do it.

But I don't know if it's a great idea to take this on; I don't see exactly how this window works, though I havent really dug into it yet. It looks like one of those old windows with a weighted rope system on the sides.

Should I try this on my own? If so, what's the best way to proceed? I see some advice on other sites, but most seems pretty vague on how to go about this and whether I should even try.

Thanks in advance!
posted by koeselitz to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(argh - talking tongue = talking to her)
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 PM on April 4, 2011

Here's a DIY guide, and here's another with pictures illustrating the process. Basically, carefully remove the old glass and putty, clean the edges of the frame, place new glass in, held in place with putty and glazing points, then smooth out the putty and let it dry.
posted by illenion at 10:32 PM on April 4, 2011

unless it's a door, you can re-hang it with plate glass (many areas don't allow plate glass in the door as part of building codes)

these are the steps, as far as i can describe it.

get a putty knife, 33 putty, points, plate glass, a long metal straightedge, a glass cutter, and measuring tape, and gloves

scrape the old putty and broken glass out of the old rabbit and frame. be careful, you may break the other glasses in the case, depending on how old the old putty is, it can be very difficult to remove, especially if the wood is old and weak as well

measure your opening(s) for the new window
measure your rabbits (sp?), the piece the glass rests within. let's say they are 1/4" all the way around

get a sheet of plate glass (3/4 inch is better than half inch picture framing glass)
scrap is often big enough to cut a new 10"x10" window out of
your local ReStore or even glass shops will have small plate glass available cheap
cut the glass so that it's a 1/4" shorter and less wide than the opening (so that it's 1/8" overlap on the rabbit each side)

backbed the frame with putty
install glass
push points in, to hold glass in the frame
fill the frame with putty, cut the putty smoothly
let the putty dry, then paint it to seal

or here:
posted by eustatic at 10:45 PM on April 4, 2011

the part that takes a bit of skill is cutting plate glass. it takes a bit of strength and a steady hand, as well as a nice table covered with carpet. you may just want to order it from the glass shop.
posted by eustatic at 10:48 PM on April 4, 2011

p.s. 1/8" thick instead of 1/16". oh english measurements.
posted by eustatic at 10:50 PM on April 4, 2011

Unfortunately this window is like none of those described in the links provided. As I said, it's a double hung window; and it is much, much larger than ten inches. There aren't smaller individual panes. I've replaced glass before on windows with panes like the ones you've described, and found that pretty simple. The trouble is that this is a larger window - at least thirty inches across, and at least twenty inches high, on each pane.

Also, I don't see any putty on it. Maybe I'm not looking at it right.
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 PM on April 4, 2011

The size of the pane doesn't matter; larger ones are done the same way as smaller ones. It sounds as if the whole sash is one pane of glass, i.e. not "divided light." If it's the top sash, then there will be glazing putty all the way around the window on the outside face. If it's the bottom sash, then there will be putty on the bottom and sides, but the top of the pane will be slid up into a groove in the top of the sash. Your problem is compounded if the window is not accessible from ground level, because you have to either work from the outside (ladder) or remove the whole sash from the window (messy, requires more tools, leads to interior paint repairs, etc.)

The putty gets very hard and dry with age. To remove it, you need to either chisel it out (doing this without carving up the soft wood frame is tricky) or soften it using a heat gun so it can be removed with a putty knife.

Once you've got the old putty and glass removed, you can proceed as eustatic suggested above. Let the hardware store cut the new glass to size for you. Measure carefully. For a top sash, have the glass cut 1/8" smaller than the opening in both directions. For a bottom sash, the horizontal dimension should be about 1/8" smaller than the width of the opening, but the height should be about 1/8" TALLER than the opening so it can slide up into the aforementioned groove.

Having said all of this, I'm inclined to think you'd be better off letting a professional deal with it. You might even ask the landlord how much he'd charge to fix it. To do this yourself, as a first-timer without on-site guidance, you're going to be buying tools & supplies, driving back and forth between the hardware store and apartment, screwing around with it for half a day or better, and the results are likely to look amateurish. It's not worth the time it will take to learn this skill unless you expect to re-glaze a lot more old windows during your liftetime.
posted by jon1270 at 2:38 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personal opinion: hire a pro. As a home owner in DIY-prone Sweden I've seen the long-term effects of various attempts at home-glazing. Such a job, sloppily done, isn't going to be a joy for anyone.
Look at what jon1270 says: it could be an awful lot of hacking to even get the old pane properly dismantled; and the danger of hurting yourself at any level of the scale 1-100 has not even been mentioned.
posted by Namlit at 5:05 AM on April 5, 2011

The putty may be on the outside of the frame--that's how our windows are, and depending on how your windows are constructed, you may need to either reglaze it from the outside (this may or may not be pretty easy depending on how high the window is) or remove the whole frame (again, not necessarily difficult, but kind of involved, and maybe not a great Intro To Glazing).

As a landlady, I wouldn't mind an experienced DIYer doing the job but I'd rather not have a beginner trying their luck on this particular project. In my county the state of my window repair is one of the things the inspectors check on in order to renew my rental license and it's kind of important to have them done right.
posted by padraigin at 5:18 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just look for a neighborhood handyperson, look for signs on wall at local grocery, hardware, laundromat, or ask around, and pay this person to do it for you. Chances are they've already got the tools and the putty and will be able to do it quite cheaply.
posted by mareli at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you are handy and have standard tools like a screwdriver, utility knife, leather work gloves and hammer then you should be able to do it. You should remove the window as a first step which will make it much easier. which means removing the moulding without damaging it. then pull out the window frame. It will be much easier to work with on the floor.
posted by JJ86 at 6:49 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

We may require a photo of your window. :) My double-hung windows work as the above links describe.
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2011

Hello, all. Sorry about the skepticism above – it was night, and I couldn't quite see the window well. In the morning, I could see the glazier's putty around the outside of the window, and it was easy to proceed by myself. Here's how I did it, along with some pictures of the process.

First, I measured the glass carefully, making sure to measure the whole glass, not just the glass that was exposed. (That is, noting that the glazier's putty on the window obscured some glass, I measured up to the wood of the window frame.) The glass I was replacing was the lower pane (or "sash") of a double-hung window (the kind of window that has two halves, one which slides over the other.)

After I'd measured the glass, I took the measurements to a hardware store I found that was willing to cut glass to measure for me. The pane was about $15; that's here in Houston, but I don't know how much it might be elsewhere. While I was there, I picked up some glazier's (window) putty.

When I got back to the house, I started by scraping the old putty away from the edge of the window all the way around the frame with a putty-knife. (I noticed pretty quickly that it helped to lock the window.) When I'd finished doing that, I carefully pulled the broken bits out and lifted what was left of the old pane up and slid it down and out of the frame. With the old glass out of the window, I went around the frame with the putty-knife, scraping away all the extra putty that was left.

Once the glass was gone and the window was clean, I got my new windowpane and gingerly slid it up into the slot in the top of the frame; then, I pushed the glass forward and into the frame so that it was flush against the wood. When it was sitting nicely there, I went around the sides and bottom of the frame, applying putty first with the putty knife and then with my fingers, stuffing it into the cracks and then smoothing it out to a nice finish.

And – that's pretty much it! I guess the putty will take a week or so to really set, but then it can be painted. Overall, it wasn't hard at all, and I'm glad I spared the expense.

Again, thanks to everyone for the help! I'm marking the most helpful answers as "best answer," but everyone helped a bit, and I thank you for it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:54 PM on April 6, 2011

Looks good. I'm especially impressed that you managed that with the iron bars between you and the window.

For future reference, it's good to bed the pane in a thin layer of putty that you apply to the frame before setting the glass in place. You wiggle the glass is it goes in, and the excess putty squeezes out on the inside of the window, forming a sort of gasket.

It's also a good idea to use glazier's points to hold the glass in place more securely while the putty is soft.
posted by jon1270 at 2:49 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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