Sunday, April 3, 2011

Glazing your own windows

When I show older homes to buyers, I often hear concerns about windows. Indeed, it seems like nearly once a week I have some client telling me that the windows in a given listing "need to be replaced." I try to be delicate in my disagreement, despite the fact that this totally drives me nuts.

As I've said to many a friend and many a client, I really have to hand it to the replacement window industry - they have worked hard to inculcate the notion that old windows are bad, so much so that it seems to have become a FACT in our culture. Bravo to them. That takes some doing.

Perhaps the reason that preservationists have not been more successful at contradicting this FACT myth is that we lack a product to sell.

But, I digress. What I really want to write about here is glazing your own (old!) windows so that they last you forever, and avert the tragedy that would be tossing old windows into a landfill and spending a bunch of money on some crap that can most likely never be repaired when some part of it breaks.

Specifically, I want to tell you that it is EASY!

Window glazing is a task about which I have long been nervous, and I've always avoided it by bringing broken windows to the hardware store for glazing. (This, of course, is perfectly fine as well if you're not into the whole DIY experience, and it's not overly expensive.) I had always heard that it was a dicey process, and the idea of screwing it up scared me more that it should have.

Enter my fellow house-addicted BFF.

His old house had a TON of multi-paned windows. ONE TON, I tell you. Un montón de ventanas. And of course, the glazing was old and in need of replacement. (We don't buy anything other than fixer-uppers, obviously.) He was determined to glaze them himself.

And he did.

And he told me it was easy.

And I was all, like "OMG! Show me how!"

So he did. It was very exciting.

Here's more or less how we did it:

Step #1 for a broken window is (duh) to removed the broken glass and clean out the old glazing, paint, or whatever gunkiness might be along the small ledge where the glass sits, and then place the pane of glass in. (If you're just replacing old and crumbly glazing, no need to remove and replace the pane, clearly.)

Step #2 is to wedge the points in. You can do this with your putty knife, as the points come with a handy-dandy little ledge under under which to jam the knife and press them into the wood. I have no idea if there's some general rule about how many to put in (I didn't bother googling that part) but we just put 3-4 on each side of average-sized double-hung sash, figuring that was good enough.

Step #3 is the beginning of the fun part. Do you like play-doh? I love play-doh. (Who doesn't like play-doh?)

Take a glob of putty out and start rolling it between your hands like you're making a bread-stick. Lay it along the edge of the glass, covering the points. Press it in a bit with your fingers. Repeat all around. (I forgot to take a picture of this step. I was over-stimulated by the play-doh.)

Step #4 brings the putty knife back into the picture. First, with your knife perpendicular to the sash (and the putty bead,) start pulling the putty up and away from the pane, toward the wood. Scrape the knife (and the putty) up against the wood edge. Do this along the entire edge. Scrape scrape scrape. This helps jam the putty into the corner.

Step #5 is the most technical part. This is where you smooth it out and make it look all lovely. For this step, your knife should be angled, and you'll go in a direction that is parallel to the wood edge, rather than perpendicular. Start in a corner and scrape SLOWLY from one end of the particular edge to the other. If the putty is pulling up behind your knife, you may be going TOO FAST. Slow down.

Step #6 Clean up any lines of putty excess that were cut away in your smoothing strokes.

Step #7 Admire your handiwork and tell all of your friends.


Putty is temperature-sensitive. Try to do this work either indoors or on a relatively warm (but hopefully not sweltering) day outdoors. Also note that it can take up to a month for the putty to cure enough to hold paint. Check your product container for details.

Also, do you know what this is is the photo below?

This is a broken window pane that someone had siliconed into the frame. Please do not do that. It makes the pane VERY difficult to remove. It also looks ugly, and is just all-around annoying. Thank you.