Tom Shafer

Window glass replacement: how to deal with glass failure

November 18, 2014

Today I unloaded 14 individual pieces of insulated glass from my car to put into some of home's 40 windows. If I was replacing the glass in all 40 windows, that would equate to about 70 pieces of glass - double hung have two pieces and picture windows have one. At this point you may be thinking, "That's a lot of glass." And you'd be right. So why replace it?

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How soon do you want to begin this project?

Well, in my case the insulated glass units have failed, meaning a combination of the glass and spacer, held together with a sealant, are defective. The glass had in some manner separated from the spacer. Perhaps it was a pinhole, perhaps the entire perimeter of the glass unit separated, but either way, moisture had migrated into the unit.

It's a big job with a few steps involved. This weekend I will paint the sashes (since my windows are wood clad and need to be repainted from time to time). If you need to do your own sash painting, I've found it is most easily done with a small one inch diameter, three inch roller, and a diagonal sash brush. Once everything is painted, I'll go in and replace the glass. Lucky for me, the window glass was all still covered under warranty. Also lucky for me, I know what I'm doing and can tackle this project well within my comfort zone.

But what should you do if your windows have the same problems and don't happen to be a window expert? Follow the steps below:

  1. Find the warranty for your window. If you don't have a written warranty, try to determine the manufacturer. The name may be on a label hidden somewhere on the window, i.e. a hidden sash part, in the jamb, etc. In the worst case scenario, you may discover the window is out of warranty or the manufacturer is out of business.
  2. With no warranty, you will have to supply your own glass from a glass company and either have them install the replacement glass or do it yourself if it's within your skill set.
  3. If you have wood windows like I do, an acceptable alternative is a sash replacement kit. This supplies new sash and new liners for the window jambs. But not all sash kits will fit all windows, but it could come out cheaper, and so is an option worth looking into.
  4. The most expensive and most disruptive option to the home is a total window replacement. The cost here varies depending on the quality of the window and the difficulty of installation.

How you decide to solve your glass problem depends on how much you want to spend and if the windows are in the warranty period. But the one thing you don't want to do is ignore the failed glass. Having to unexpectedly spend your money on home fixes is frustrating, but the problem won't fix itself. If you get it taken care of early, you'll save yourself from further costs down the line.

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