Replace a Glass Frame in an Exterior Door

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    How to Replace a Glass Frame in a Steel Exterior Door

    entry door with broken muntin frame
    Broken window muntin / frame surround. © 2015

    Most exterior doors have windows and one of the most common doors is a steel exterior door with a 9-lite glass panel. This type of door is a staple of many residential suburban homes.

    These doors have the look of 9 individual glass tiles separated by muntins but in actuality, the door has one large insulated glass panel (usually 20" x 36" or 22" x 36") sandwiched between a plastic frame or 'surround'. Sometimes the muntins break, leaving you with a rather sad looking door as seen in this photo.

    So then what? Well, as opposed to having to replace the door, you can actually just replace the plastic frame and your door will be restored to its former suburban splendor!

    In this tutorial, I will show you how to replace this plastic window frame surround and save yourself hundreds of dollars in replacement door costs.

    You can purchase this replacement kit from your big box home improvement store like Loews or Home Depot or order a replacement glass frame online.

    Difficulty: Easy to Average

    Tools Needed:

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  • 02 of 14

    Broken Window Frame Detail

    broken muntin detail
    Window frame actually sandwiches a one-piece 22" x 36" insulated glass vision panel. © 2015

    The 9-lite frame surround gives the appearance of muntins separating each individual window panel but it is actually a two piece plastic surround that sandwiches an insulated glass vision panel in the door. In this tutorial, the exterior muntin is broken and the plastic surround will be replaced.

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  • 03 of 14

    Score Around Perimeter of Door Window Frame Surround

    scoring inside of window frame for removal
    Score the perimeter of the frame / door corner to break the paint seal. © 2015

    The two piece plastic frame surround will be removed from the inside. Before attempting removal, however, first use a utility knife/razor blade to score the corner of where the frame meets the door. This will break the paint or caulk bond between the door and frame and make removal of the frame possible. Do this to the inside and exterior frames.

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  • 04 of 14

    Remove Fastening Screws

    screws holding frame in place
    Remove screws attaching the two halves of the plastic frame together. © 2015

    You will find the exterior and interior halves of the plastic frame attached together with 14 Phillips head screws. The screws may be exposed as in the photo shown here, or they may be concealed beneath plastic plugs (see slide 13 of this tutorial).

    Remove the fastening screws.

    If the fastening screw is concealed beneath a plastic plug, take another screw and screw into the plug about 1/4", then pull the screw straight out (with the plastic plug attached) to reveal the fastening screw, then remove.

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  • 05 of 14

    Remove Glass Panel and Exterior Frame

    removing glass frame from door
    Remove exterior frame half with glass panel unit. © 2015

    Once the screws are taken out, remove the interior half of the window frame. You may have to use a putty knife or similar thin blade tool to get under the frame to gain leverage.

    Once the interior of the frame is removed, proceed to remove the exterior frame and glass panel. The glass panel will be attached to the exterior frame with adhesive and will come out together.

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  • 06 of 14

    Steel Door with Glass Panel Removed

    glass frame removed from door
    The 22" x 36" glass unit and plastic frame fits into a 23" x 37" door opening. © 2015

    Once the glass panel is removed you will be left with a 23" x 37" opening in the door (if you have a 22" x 36" glass panel).

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  • 07 of 14

    Remove Old Frame from Glass Panel

    exterior door window panel
    Remove frame from glass panel. © 2015

    The old frame will be attached to the large insulated glass panel by adhesive or caulk. Lay the glass panel and frame on a solid flat surface (frame side up) and remove the old exterior half of the frame.

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  • 08 of 14

    Clean Glass Panel of Old Paint and Adhesive

    cleaning window of old paint
    Clean glass of all old paint and adhesive. © 2015

    Use a razor blade paint scraper to carefully clean the glass of all old paint and adhesive residue on both sides of the glass panel. Clean glass panel with glass cleaner before the next step.

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  • 09 of 14

    Prepare the Window Frame Surround for Installation

    preparing new window muntins
    Prepare the window frame surround for installation. © 2015

    Separate the two halves of the frame assembly and place the half with no screw holes face down on the work surface. The side with no screw holes is the exterior side of the frame.

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  • 10 of 14

    Apply Silicone Caulk to Window Frame

    silicone on glass
    Adhere the frame to the glass with silicone adhesive. © 2015

    You will adhere the frame to the glass by using a clear silicone caulk and a caulking gun. Run a continuous bead of clear silicone around the perimeter of the frame. You do not need to apply silicone to the interior muntins, just the exterior.

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  • 11 of 14

    Place Glass Window Unit onto Frame

    glass on muntins
    Place window unit onto exterior half of frame. © 2015

    Carefully lay the glass window unit onto the exterior half of the plastic frame surround and press into place.

    Expect some clear silicone caulk to ooze out. This is normal and you can clean this up later with rubbing alcohol once the window is in place BEFORE the caulk is dried. If you have to clean the caulk after it is dried, you can easily do so with a razor blade scraper.

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  • 12 of 14

    Attach the Window Frame / Glass Unit Assembly to Door

    attached window to door
    Insert the window assembly into the door and fasten the window frame halves together. © 2015

    Carefully lift the half frame and glass unit assembly into the door opening from the outside of the door. While the unit is held in place from the outside, place the interior half of the frame using the attachment screws that came with the kit.

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  • 13 of 14

    Insert Screw Hole Plugs

    screw plugs
    Optional plastic plugs conceal the screw holes. © 2015

    As a final step, you can insert the small plastic screw hole plugs that came with the kit. This will conceal the screw holes and provide a clean, finished look.

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  • 14 of 14

    Finished Window Frame Installation

    repaired door with new glass frame
    Before and After. © 2015

    The completed window frame installation makes the door window look brand new and can now be easily painted or left in its white color.