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How to Replace a Glass Frame in a Steel Exterior Door
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:Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Broken Window Frame Detail
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.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Score Around Perimeter of Door Window Frame Surround
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.Continue to 4 of 14 below.
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Remove Fastening Screws
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.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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Remove Glass Panel and Exterior Frame
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.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Steel Door with Glass Panel Removed
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).Continue to 7 of 14 below.
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Remove Old Frame from Glass Panel
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.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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Clean Glass Panel of Old Paint and Adhesive
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.Continue to 9 of 14 below.
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Prepare the Window Frame Surround for Installation
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.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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Apply Silicone Caulk to Window Frame
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.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Place Glass Window Unit onto Frame
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.Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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Attach the Window Frame / Glass Unit Assembly to Door
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.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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Insert Screw Hole Plugs
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.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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Finished Window Frame Installation
The completed window frame installation makes the door window look brand new and can now be easily painted or left in its white color.