Learn how to fix a broken window step-by-step using correct technique, how to replace glass window panes at home yourself, and carry out basic window crack repair.
Not everyone has the tools and skills necessary to take on a project around the home. But, when there is a need to make emergency repairs, it only takes a little bit of know-how and understanding to complete just about any type of project. Broken windows cannot be prevented as they happen all the time, but they can be replaced or repaired in less than a day.
There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing to repair or replace window glass in a home. While older homes with traditional wood-framed windows can be replaced by any DIYer, the newer energy-efficient, insulated windows should be repaired by a professional.
In this two part series, we cover all things to do with broken window: how to fix, how replace window glass, essential tools and how to source replacement window glass panes. When you have finished this article, we suggest that you read the second part, before you begin any broken window repairs or window glass replacement at home.
DIY Window Repair and Replace Series
- Part 1: How to Fix a Broken Window (this article)
- Part 2: How to Buy Home Window Replacement Glass & Tools (next article)
Ready to learn how to fix broken window yourself? Listen in…
To Fix or Replace?
The question comes down to, whether you can simply fix the crack or broken window pane, or whether you have to replace it altogether. Once again, this really depends on what type of windows you have. Energy-efficient windows that use multiple panes of glass can be more difficult to fix. If they become foggy or allow moisture to otherwise build up on the inside surfaces, then you will most likely need to completely replace the window.
Many older homes have not upgraded to energy-efficient windows, and therefore their old wood-framed windows can be fixed with relative ease. In fact, fixing an older window only requires a few hours of time in order to remove the single pane that is broken and insert a new one. Most handy homeowners with a little bit of experience and some basic tools can complete this in a single day.
When to Call a Professional
In the end, however, whether you need to replace just a single pane of glass or an energy-efficient triple pane window, there comes a point in time when the only option left is to call a professional. After all, DIY projects can be risky if the window is on the second floor, and they can be costly if too many mistakes are made during the replacement.
Moreover, many do-it-yourself installers won’t be able to reproduce the same level of quality and finish that a professional installer can meet. Professionals have a lot of experience and therefore can complete the job with better results and in less time. But, the best part about hiring professionals, is that they handle the cleanup of the broken glass and know how to dispose of it properly.
How to Fix Broken Window | TOOLS
These are the essential tools and materials you will need to fix a broken window:
- Replacement window glass pane
- Work gloves
- Eye protection
- Putty knife
- Wood chisel or razor scraper
- Paint brush
- Tape measure
- Glazing compound
- Glazing points
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Metal straightedge
- Glass cutter
- Rubber mallet
- Shop vac, to clean up broken glass
The next article in this series (Part 2) will go into more detail about the tools required for fixing a broken window, and how to buy replacement window glass along with recommended products and suppliers. You can find that article below.
How to Fix Broken Window | PREPARATION
When it comes to working around the home, safety is the priority for anyone. It is important to make sure that glass is promptly cleaned up so that nobody gets injured. With the help of a good set of safety gloves, some long-sleeved shirts, pants, and work boots, you can safely clean up glass both inside and outside the home.
How to Clean Up Broken Glass
Regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself, or hire a professional, the most important thing to take into consideration is safety. After all, having broken glass in your home can create a dangerous situation.
The moment you discover a broken window, you must take immediate action in order to protect those who live within the home including pets and small children, from the possibility of being cut by the broken shards.
- Make sure that you wear a heavy shirt with long sleeves in order to protect your arms from any cuts, and use heavy rubber or leather gloves to protect your hands.
- If you have a shop vac, then you should use it to clean up any residual glass shards or dust that is in the area, as a broom and dustpan can only do so much.
- Once you have carefully vacuumed the entire area, you can then use duct tape in order to pick up any remaining little pieces that were missed by the vacuum cleaner.
- When you are finished, you will need to make sure that you properly dispose of the broken glass. The glass can then just be placed inside a plastic bag, but also needs to be placed in a second bag for another layer of protection.
- Make sure to properly label the bag to inform anyone who may pick up the bag that it has broken glass inside.
How to Seal a Broken Window
If you are able to, you should attempt to remove any of the broken glass that is still stuck inside the window frame.
However, if you are unable to replace the glass right away, you need to make sure that you have some way to seal up the window in order to keep the rain and wind from getting inside.
If you cannot remove the glass from the frame right away, masking tape is an excellent choice when it comes to securing any remaining glass and the window. Not only will it help prevent the glass from falling out, but it will also provide you with a minimum level of sealing from the outside elements.
Make sure that you use masking tape only, as duct tape is too sticky and can make the job of replacing the glass a more difficult one.
How to Fix Broken Window | INSTRUCTIONS
As long as you have the right tools, know-how, and desire to put forth the necessary effort to complete the job right the first time, anyone is capable of fixing a broken window.
Step 1: Clean up Broken Glass
The first step in fixing a broken window starts with the cleanup. After the glass was initially broken, any shards inside and outside the house should have been cleaned up right away. Use a shop vac inside the home in order to pick up any glass remnants inside. See previous section for details.
Make sure to keep one of the pieces of glass with you safely as a sample so you can determine the proper thickness of your replacement glass (see Step 4).
Step 2: Remove the Broken Glass and Glazing from Frame
There is most likely still glass firmly attached to the window frame, which you will need to remove. As windows age, the glazing compound that holds them in place tends to dry out and can be very tough.
If you have an extra drop cloth, then you will want to place that on the ground where you are working. This will provide you with a way to collect any glass that falls on the ground while you are working on the window. Make sure that you lay a drop cloth both inside and outside of the home, and when finished simply dispose of the cloth along with any glass shards.
- Start by putting on a pair of safety gloves and eye protection, then carefully attempt to remove any large shards of glass that are loose enough to pull out. See tips below.
- Then, using your putty knife, pry up on the glazing compound along the edges of the remaining pieces of glass. Although rubbery in nature, it should break off in chunks, but some of those chunks may also stick to the window frame itself. See tips below.
- Once you have removed all of the glass, and glazing, carefully clean up the frame using your razor scraper or chisel until the wood is slightly exposed.
- Next, you’ll want to sand the frame and seal the wood to prevent rotting.
Tip: Loosening the Glass
Your ultimate goal when removing the broken shards of glass from your window frame is to do it as safely as possible. Be careful of using heavy tools, as they may also damage the frame or potentially other panes of glass in the window. Instead, use a putty knife or chisel to loosen the glazing from the glass, rather than removing the glass from the glazing.
Tip: Removing Old Glazing
You will need to remove all of the old glazing before you can install your new window. With the help of a wood chisel, you can slowly remove any of the glazing from the edge of the frame, until the wood is only slightly exposed. If you are worried about digging into the wood too deeply, you may also try a putty knife.
Step 3: Measure the Frame
As the sealant dries, it’s time to pull out your tape measure and measure the dimensions of the opening.
After you have measured both the height and width of the opening, make sure to remove roughly 1/8-inch from each dimension to ensure that the cut replacement glass will fit in easier. Moreover, this little gap will allow the wood and glass to expand and contract throughout the seasons.
Step 4: Buy and Cut the Window Glass
You will want to take the small piece of glass you saved, as well as the measurements you have made, to the home center or hardware store of your choice in order to purchase the properly sized replacement.
Step 5: Cut the Window Glass
If the store you purchased the glass from is capable of cutting it for you, then all you need to do is provide them with the dimensions and pay the fee.
However, since not all stores offer glass cutting services, you may need to bring the replacement glass home in order to cut it yourself.
How to Cut Window Glass Panes
The process of cutting a piece of glass is more like breaking it. Make sure to wear your personal protective gear for this, especially glasses and gloves.
- First, start by placing your new piece of glass onto a flat work surface and use a permanent marker to mark the dimensions of the final piece. Since you will need to cut straight lines, find the best corner to start from and measure only two cuts in order to fit the dimensions.
- With the help of your metal straight edge, roll the glass cutter along the length of your cut line in order to score the glass. Make sure that you are pressing down firmly and never make more than one pass.
- Slide your glass down to the edge of your work surface until the waste piece of glass is hanging over the edge. Remember to keep your glasses and gloves on for the next part.
- Line up your cut with the edge of your work surface and firmly hold down the main portion with one hand. With the other hand, press down in a sharp motion to snap the glass along the scoreline.
Step 6: Mount the Window Glass
Now that you have got your cut piece of glass, it’s time to mount it.
- First, you will need to create thin ropes of glazing compound. Do this by rolling it out, until it is about 1/8-inch thick. This will be your base sealant.
- Lightly press the ropes of glazing compound (base layer) into the window frame.
- Once the base layer is in, you can place your replacement glass into the frame and gently press it into the glazing compound. This will compress the compound and fill in the gaps between the glass and wood.
- With the help of your putty knife, you will then need to press several glazing points into each of the four sides of the window frame. In older homes that have been well maintained, the wood in the window frame can sometimes be very difficult to press these glazing points into. If this is the case, you can use your putty knife to press the points in, and if needed you can tap the putty knife with your rubber mallet until the edge of the point is flush with the frame.
Step 7: Glaze the Window
Now that your replacement window is properly attached to the window frame, it’s time to seal it. The glazing process is one of the most difficult parts of a DIY window repair.
- You will need to prepare more glazing compound, by rolling it into ropes. The thickness of the ropes should be such that you can press them neatly into the gap around the window glass.
- Press the ropes of glazing compound into the area around the window glass, in order to create a tight seal between the wooden frame and glass.
- Once you have created a nice seal all the way around the window, you can begin using your putty knife to flatten it out. With light pressure, you will need to hold your putty knife so that it sits at a 45-degree angle from the surface of the glass. Your ultimate goal is to match the wedge shape on the remaining panes on your windows.
- This compound will take a while to firm up, so be careful about touching it. It needs to be dry before you can paint it, and if you make a mistake, you will need to scrape out the glazing compound along one edge and redo it.
Step 8: Paint the Window Frame
It can take anywhere from 5 to 7 days for most glazing compounds to dry and properly harden. During this time. It is important not to touch it at all. Once it has completely dried, you can begin to paint.
It is important to use a proper grade of exterior paint and make sure that when painting the frame and glazing, you allow some of the paint to overlap onto the glass by a small amount in order to provide a better seal from the elements.
Video Demonstration for Broken Window (How to Fix & Replace Window Glass)
The following video gives a good demonstration of how to fix broken window and how replace glass window panes, so you can see how it is done. This video comes to us from Ron Hazelton on You Tube – thanks Ron!
Window Crack Repair | How to Fix Cracked Window Glass
Just because a window has a crack in it, does not mean that it needs to be replaced. It is possible for a crack to form in a corner, or along one of the edges of a pane of glass, in such a manner that it can be repaired using epoxy. The steps below outline how to carry out window crack repair using epoxy.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
In order to repair a crack in a window, you will need to have the right tools and equipment. Not only will you need glass cleaner and acetone, but you will also need the proper two-part epoxy and something to apply it with. It is important to remember, that epoxy is an extremely durable material once cured, and is very difficult to remove or smooth out after has been fully cured.
Step 2: Clean the Glass
Before you can do anything, you will need to clean the glass itself. Epoxy will stick to virtually anything except itself and oily surfaces. And that means, that if you leave any dust particles they will be permanently embedded in the proxy. To properly clean the glass, you just need a few drops of your favorite dishwashing soap and a clean rag. This will remove any fingerprints, dust, or oil from the cracked window pane.
Step 3: Prepare the Epoxy
Epoxy is a two-part polymer, that must be mixed in equal portions. While it is possible to find it available in two separate tubes, it is generally sold in a single dispenser that will automatically mix it for you once opened. Nevertheless, you still need to make sure that it is mixed well before filling in the crack. To do this, you will need a disposable surface to mix on, and a toothpick to mix with. But be careful, because the working time of epoxy is only about five minutes before it gets too hard to apply.
Step 4: Apply Epoxy
Use your putty knife in order to squeeze the epoxy into the cracks. Be careful not to press too hard, else you might damage the glass further. It will take between five and 10 minutes to start curing, and as it does you will begin to see the crack disappear. If, after it has fully cured, there are still some visible cracks, you may be able to repeat this process, but do not wait too long otherwise, the additional epoxy will not stick to the original.
Step 5: Remove Excess Epoxy
It will take several days for the epoxy to reach its full hardness. So, once the drying process has ended, you can then start cleaning the area around the crack. With the help of some acetone and a dry rag, you can remove any excess epoxy that may have been squeezed out of the crack during the curing process. Don’t forget to use a razor to ensure that there is no epoxy on the surface of the glass, because it will be almost impossible to remove once fully cured.
Step 6: Polish the Glass
Last but not least, you’ll need to polish the glass. This is an easy task because all you need is some glass cleaner and a clean rag. Once the epoxy has fully cured, which takes one to two days depending on the weather, you can place pressure on the glass in order to polish it with a rag.
Like many improvements to any home, it is completely possible for the average DIY homeowner to repair or replace the windows in their home. The limitations to one’s ability to fix their own Windows come down to the type of window. Energy-efficient, insulated windows which have multiple panes of glass separated by an inert gas like argon can generally not be repaired by the average DIYer. Instead, this type of window should be handled by a professional. Older homes that still have traditional wood-framed windows, can quickly and easily be repaired or replaced by any do-it-yourselfer.
With this article, you now have the knowledge for how to fix broken window at home, including removing old broken glass from the frame and installing new window glass panes. You also know how to carry out window crack repair.
However, before you get started on replacing your own broken window, you will need the right tools. Jump over to the next article in this series to learn more about the essential tools for fixing and replacing glass window panes at home, and how and where to source replacement window glass.