How to Replace Glass in a Single-pane Window
Installing Glass in Wood, Vinyl, and Metal Window Frames for a Clear View
It doesn't take much to break a window. A baseball, a disoriented bird, a hailstorm: all can result in a broken windowpane. For both safety and aesthetic reasons, this repair needs to go straight to the top of your to-do list. Replacing single-pane windows that have broken glass requires some skill, patience, and a good deal of caution, but you can do it yourself. But in the end, you can save considerable money by doing the job yourself rather than calling in a professional window technician.
Repairing vs. Replacing Windows
Cost is usually a large factor when it comes to repairing or replacing windows. Replacing a broken glass pane is typically much cheaper than replacing an entire window. If you need to repair a single-pane window, you're in luck, because it's much easier to fix this type of glass pane than tackling modern double- or triple-pane sealed windows.
Window Repair Limitations
These repair instructions are narrowly targeted toward a certain type of window: a single-pane glass window. Most windows today are now double-glazed or double-paned. Both are terms for windows that have two panes of glass, one in front of the other. Between the two panes is a void that is filled with air or krypton or argon gas. If you have one of these types of windows, these repair instructions do not apply. The entire sash or window unit will need to be replaced.
Wear work gloves and safety glasses while completing the repair.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Work gloves
- Safety glasses
- Old towel
- Putty knife/chisel
- Flat-head screwdriver
- Heat gun
- Small paintbrush
- Glazing tool
- Spring clips
- Glazier's points
- Glazing compound
- Replacement glass
- Linseed oil
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Newspaper and paper bag or box
How To Replace Glass in a Single-pane Window
Remove the Glass
Remove the broken shards of glass from the frame, one piece at a time, taking care to protect yourself from being cut by the razor-sharp edges. Even when wearing gloves, do not take any chances. Lay a towel over the glass and use that to help remove it, wiggling each piece out slowly. Save some shards to take to the store if you want to match the replacement glass more accurately. Wrap the broken glass in newspaper and dispose of it in a bag, box, or another container.
Measure the Window
Measure the size of the window opening and subtract 1/16- to 1/8-inch from both the length and width when ordering a replacement pane. It is important to take exact measurements.
Remove Clips and Old Putty
If the frame is vinyl, metal, or aluminum, pull out the spring clips or vinyl splines with pliers or a screwdriver. If you are replacing a window pane in a wood frame, remove the old putty or glazing compound from the window using a putty knife or chisel. A heat gun will help soften the putty and make it easier to remove. Heat an area just before you scrape, removing a little at a time. Trying to remove too much at once can damage the frame.
Remove Glazier's Points
Using a pair of pliers, pull out the glazier’s points—the little metal triangles in the frame beneath the beads of putty that held the pane in place. In some cases, you can re-use the glazier's points.
Clean and Oil the Area
If you're working with a wood window, clean the area and lightly sand the frame. Use a small paintbrush to apply a coat of linseed oil to the frame. The oil will help the glazing compound stay pliable while you install the new pane of glass.
Apply Glazing Compound
Apply a thin layer of glazing compound around the frame with the glazing tool. The glazing compound should be the consistency of thick dough, which will provide good cushioning when you insert the new pane.
Insert the Glass
Insert the replacement piece into the wood frame, and press firmly and evenly around the glass perimeter. If the frame is vinyl or metal, insert the replacement glass and reinsert the spring clips or vinyl splines. Replace the spring clips if the old ones are damaged or corroded.
Insert the Glazier's Points and Compound
Hold the pane in place and insert the glazier’s points into the corner using the glazing tool. Insert the glazier’s points every 4 inches around the glass and drive them into the wood with the glazing tool.
Knead glazing compound into strips the thickness of a pencil. Place it around the edges of the newly installed pane of glass, pressing it into place between the pane and frame with your fingers.
Coat the blade of the glazing tool with linseed oil and smooth the glazing compound. Hold the tool at a 45-degree angle in a corner and slide it toward the opposite corner with one stroke (the glazing compound should cover the glazier’s points, but be careful not to spread the glazing compound so it is visible in the windowpane).
Allow the glazing compound to cure for at least a week before painting.
When to Call a Professional
You may consider leaving the job of replacing a broken window to professionals, especially if the pane of glass is large or if it needs to be repaired quickly.
Window Repair Tips
- If you are removing broken shards from an especially large windowpane, consider removing the entire window frame and laying it flat. You can remove and replace the glass from the frame in this position to ensure greater control and safety.
- A glass store and most hardware stores can cut a new pane of glass for you to your size specifications.
- Make sure to let the window repair set for about 24 hours before raising or lowering it. Several days' waiting time is required before painting the window (if needed) since the glazing compound takes a long time to set.
Is it worth replacing single-pane windows?
It might not be worth replacing a single-pane window because it is not insulated and is inefficient when it comes to energy costs. Single-pane glass can actually be retrofitted to become double-pane windows using various methods, such as adding inserts. You can still buy single-pane windows for certain applications, such as for use in a garage or shed.
How much does it cost to replace a single-pane window?
It takes one day to have new windows installed or fixed, so time is not the issue. Cost isn't an issue either since fixing a single-pane window is very cheap. The pane itself costs under $100 if you fix it yourself, but hiring a home repair service to replace a single-pane window can cost a few hundred dollars to get the job done.
How long do single-pane windows last?
Single-pane windows may last as long as other windows, but they are drafty, let in noise, and are otherwise poor-quality windows for homes.