Tom Shafer

Replace broken, insulated glass quickly and safely

September 28, 2011

Broken glass in a window is a "fix-it-now" problem. The interior of your home is exposed to the elements and security is compromised--a dangerous and uncomfortable situation.

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So it doesn't surprise me when a customer shows up asking me to replace the broken glass in their window. What is a little shocking is when he or she brings the whole window to me with broken glass still lodged in the sash, jagged shards protruding and all but falling out.

It is never safe to remove a sash from the window with broken glass still in it. The glass should either be secured with tape--if the break is only several cracks--or broken completely out of the frame. Carrying broken glass is just plain dangerous.

Ordering insulated glass replacement units

Most of today's windows are made with insulated glass, which unfortunately is not an off-the-shelf-item. It has to be custom made so the size fits that particular sash. While the absolute best way to get the proper glass replacement is from the window manufacturer, few people know who that is.

Most, if not all big box home improvement suppliers, as well as lumberyards and hardware stores, can order replacement glass. However, ordering insulated glass this way presents some frustrating challenges:

  1. The dimensions have to be exact. A variation of 1/8-inch for either dimension could make the glass unit too large or too small.
  2. If there are grids between the glass, dimensions are even more critical. The location for each of the bars has to be exact, or they may not align with the other grids in the window.
  3. If there is another sash in the window and it has low-e glass, the glass in each sash has to match, both for appearance and insulating values.
  4. Insulated glass units can vary from 3/8-inch- to 1-inch-thick. If the thickness is not correct, insulating values might not be correct. If the unit is too thick or too thin, the vinyl glazing beads that secure the glass into the sash might not fit. The unit thickness must be exact.
  5. Finally, delivery for the glass unit can take a week or more.

So what should you do?

How to get glass replaced quickly

The best way to get the proper size, thickness, glass and installation is to contact a local glass repair shop. Look for shops that sell glass shower doors, mirrors or even replacement windows. Many of them can make your replacement, insulated glass unit and install it in one or two days.

When glass breaks, don't take the sash out of the window; make sure no one can be injured. Secure your home and call a glass shop for the quickest, most efficient way to replace the glass.


About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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