Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Fixing a Single Pane Window

“How do I ‘affordably’ replace one cracked window panel/part on a true divided light historical window?

Tuni, Wickford


Tuni, you have touched a nerve that drives me nuts about modern building parts and misconceptions of all things old. Single pane windows are one of the simplest things to fix but it does take time and some skill.

I can go on about how things have become way too complicated and wasteful, but the modern window industry by far has the biggest waste and tells the biggest lies in the building industry. Yes, a well manufactured AND properly installed windows can vastly improve the efficiency of a home, but so can a storm window. And what about a high performing house with triple paned, low-e coated, argon filled windows? Great, until they fail in 20 years and let more air in and provide more heat loss than a single pane window.   These insulated windows are only as good as their installation, where many are poorly installed allowing air to fly around the frame and when the glass fails or breaks, the whole sash needs to be replaced

The first step is to assess if the window’s sash (the moveable part with the glass in it) can be easily removed. If it can be removed, you have two choices: fix it yourself or send it out. You can easily take it to a local hardware store, glass shop, or one of several window restoration shops in the state. If it has old glass, one of the restoration shops can replace it with similar glass. They can replace a broken single pane glass for around $50.   Painting is extra.

You can do it yourself for about $10, although it takes more skill than you may think. The hardest part of replacing an old window pane is the glazing. Glazing is a skill to be admired and not everyone is good at it. You can do pretty much the whole process and then get suck at the glazing. If you have never done it, you will spend $10 and 4 frustrating hours until you hate the window and want replacements. Hold tough though, it’s still will be more expensive to replace the unit.

Let’s assume the window is not easily removed. Years of paint can make the window frozen in place and depending on which sash it is (upper or lower) can make the process a bit harder. Keep reminding yourself, fixing it is still cheaper than replacement. Then there is the style of window, which is either a plank frame, with a moveable lower and fixed top sash, or a double hung window, with a parting strip and the upper and lower can move. All of these old windows have parts that can be removed and replaced.

If you are mechanically inclined, you can break down the window piece by piece. And once you get to the sash with the broken pane, you can do it yourself or send it out. Or, you can call a house painter, handyman, or window restoration shop to free up the window. And, if the window is really frozen, they can give you a price to replace that window-pane right in place. And they may be able to replace you broken glass with some wavy glass for an additional charge.

Once you have replaced the glass and re-puttied it, the glaze must be finish painted. If not, then it will get spotty and moldy. Read the directions for the putty in the best way to paint. The window restoration shops and painters will be able to finish the whole job for you, and the cost depends on how far you go. A single pane replaced, glazed, and painted, may cost about $75. The whole sash stripped and reglazed is a lot more, but is also a lot better since you will get a like new window, that can last another 100 years.

I know this all sounds like a pain, but repairing things is not always easy but it is better than the consuming, breaking, replacing cycle that never stops when we do not invest in repairs.


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