Q&A / 

Window Glass Replacement

DEAR TIM: I have several cracked panes of glass in the drafty windows of my 70 year old home. I was thinking of changing out the single pane glass to insulated glass. Is this even possible? Is it cost effective and will it solve my draft problems? What would be the best way to preserve the look and maximize my energy savings? Todd S., Ogunquit, ME

DEAR TODD: The time to act is now since Old Man Winter is lurking right around the corner. Windows in the average home are by and large the weakest link in the energy chain. They typically have the lowest resistance to the transfer of heat and cold. Furthermore the weatherstripping, or lack thereof, can allow vast amounts of heating and cooling dollars to leak out into the atmosphere.

This is double pane glass, but the sash is designed to hide the spacer strip between the two pieces of glass.

This is double pane glass, but the sash is designed to hide the spacer strip between the two pieces of glass.

The idea of switching out your old single pane glass with newer double pane insulated glass is very good in theory. But in reality it can be almost impossible to do. Window sashes are built with a ledge or mortise that accepts the pane of glass. This part of your existing window was made to fit a pane of glass that is only 1/8 inch thick or so. If you put insulated glass that is typically about one half inch thick in this grooved space, there will be little or no space left to add your glazing compound.

You might consider making your existing mortise deeper to accommodate the insulated glass panel. This is not only very difficult to do without specialized tools, it will very likely ruin the interior profile of the window sash where the wood touches the glass. You will indeed remove some of this molded profile as you cut away wood.

The cost issue is also a factor. Clear insulated glass often costs about $10.00 per square foot. If you want higher performance glass that has the Low-E glass on it, expect to pay $14.00 or more per square foot. The Low-E glass is a very good choice because it helps save you money. This glass is covered with an ultra-thin coating of metal that allows the glass to repel radiated heat back to its source. This means heat stays inside your home in the winter but stays outside in the summer.

The average window in your home may have approximately 10 square feet of glass. You could easily spend $140.00 or more just for the glass. This will solve your glass problems but you haven't even begun to deal with the draft deficiency. Adding attractive permanent weatherstripping can be a huge challenge.


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I think you are a perfect candidate for the wood window replacement kits. These items allow you to get all of the benefits of a new window with less work than installing completely new windows or retrofitting your existing windows. The interior and exterior trim of your existing windows remains intact and a typical window can be completely redone in about 1.5 hours.

The window replacement kits solve the draft problems instantly. The modern form fitted jamb liners you see on new windows are included with the kits. These are cut to fit perfectly into the side jambs of your existing window frames. Not only do these jamb liners stop air infiltration into your home they also stop noise. I have installed hundreds of these kits. All of the homeowners have told me that exterior road noise has been significantly reduced.

Certain window companies that make these kits offer all sorts of fine options. If you have very old windows that have decorative horns you can often get these replicated. Certain companies offer discreet retractable screens that roll up out of the way. This is a very nice feature that simplifies insect screen storage. Decorative glass is often an option.

If you decide to tackle this project yourself, be sure to buy just one or two window kits. Do a smaller window on the side or back of your home. If you get the hang of the job and feel confident about doing the larger windows, then place the order for the additional windows. If you find that the job is simply too hard, ask the window supplier for a labor and material quote.

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