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How To Fix a Broken Window In 8 Steps

broken glass window

Having a broken window can be stressful. It is easy to panic or be filled with despair when it happens but, depending on the damage, a fix can be easy. Replacing a single pane of glass in a broken window is simple and with the right tools and preparation, it can even be easily done at home without having to consult expensive repair people.

Here is how you can fix a broken window in eight simple steps.

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Window Replacement Preparation

First, make sure you are not in over your head. Check to see that you have all of the tools you will need to attempt a repair. If you need to get any additional supplies it is good to make a list and get them before plunging into the repair. You will absolutely need a tape measure, glazing compound, new glass, a razor, and a rag. That is the bare minimum. If you do not have those things ready, or a plan to get them, you should do that before you start anything.

man repairing window
Image Credit: Elizaveta Galitckaia, Shutterstock

How Long Does It Take To Fix A Broken Window?

Experienced contractors or handymen can replace a broken window pane in an hour. For inexperienced homeowners or detail-oriented workers, the job can take up to 3 hours.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Broken Window?

If you have to buy everything from scratch the cost could be as high as $150. If you already have the basics and only need to buy a glazing compound and a replacement pane the cost could be as low as $40.

For comparison, basic replacement windows can cost anywhere from $250 to $800 and take months to arrive from the manufacturer.

Basic Necessities

  • Gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Tape measure
  • Razor knife
  • Glaze
  • Glass
  • Paintbrush/paint
  • Rag

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How To Fix a Broken Window (8 Steps)

1. Assess the Damage

man installing window
Image Credit: ronstik, Shutterstock

Halt! Before continuing it is important to carefully look to see that the window repair you are attempting is the correct type.

Not every busted window can be easily repaired by a homeowner. Assessing the damage and checking to see what is actually broken is critical to ensuring that you have a smooth and successful repair job. If it is only the glass itself that is cracked or broken then the following steps will work just fine. However, if any of the window’s mechanisms, frame or fasteners are broken then the repair changes from a simple glass change to a full-blown replacement.

Replacing the entire window unit is a different job entirely and one that often requires the help of professionals.

There are other kinds of glass such as double-paned, xenon insulated, round or shaped, and impact glass that can affect the ease of the repair. Knowing what kind of glass and pane you are working with is critically important to ensure a successful repair that sticks.


2. Remove the Broken Pane

crack on window glass
Image Credit: Lina Mo, Shutterstock

Carefully remove the glass being mindful of sharp pieces. Once the broken pane is out of the frame inspect the inside of the frame. Look for wear, cracks, or corrosion. If the frame itself is damaged the window might need to be fully replaced. After you are done inspecting the frame, clean it to ensure that there are no more glass fragments in the window. A clean pane is the key to an easy installation of any replacement glass.


3. Measure the Resulting Opening

measuring broken window
Image Credit: Photographee.eu, Shutterstock

Next, you need to measure the window. Carefully measure the length and width of the frame ensuring that you are measuring from outside to outside of the L-channels. That is where the glass sits. The channels where the glass sits are located on the inside of the window frame.  Do not measure the outer frame itself, which has no bearing on the size glass that is needed. It is advised to shave off 1/8 or 1/4 inch to give the window room to be installed and room to breathe during temperature changes.

Always measure twice, ensure that your numbers are accurate. As a general rule, take your measurement in inches. Taking a bad measurement can delay a quick repair. The glass needs to fit properly in order to be installed so your measurements are extremely important.


4. Acquire New Glass (Buy Or Cut Your Own)

windows installation
Image Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky, Shutterstock

There are two ways to acquire new glass for your window repair. You can purchase a piece cut to size or you can cut your own. Buying a piece of glass made for your window has the benefit of being cut properly right off the bat. You can take your measurements to a local hardware or home repair shop and ask them to order a replacement pane. Some companies can even source glass directly from the original manufacturer.

The only problem is that many window companies are running on extended lead times. A replacement piece might not be available for a week, two weeks or sometimes even up to six weeks. This can seriously delay any repair.

The other way to get your glass is to cut it yourself. Finding a full sheet of glass from a local supply yard might be easier and faster than getting a piece ordered but cutting glass can be difficult and dangerous to the unprepared. Window glass is specially made to be able to be scored and snapped cleanly so if you have experience cutting glass or are confident in your abilities this is another option that can save you time and money.


5. Mount the Glass

man installing window screen
Image Credit: Radovan1, Shutterstock

Before mounting the glass make sure to put a thin bead of glaze into the channels. This will bond the new glass to the frame so that it does not wiggle free over time. After you have the thin bead of glaze in the frame, it is time to put in the glass.

After you have the correct glass, it is time to mount it. Take the pane and slowly slot it into the window frame taking care to slide it snuggly into the inner channels. If the measurements and cuts were correct the glass should fit snugly. The glaze is going to ooze out of the frame, that is okay. Make sure to have your rag or razor knife handy to clean up the resulting mess.

If everything goes well the window should look almost back to normal.


6. Seal the Window

man glueing the window
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

The next step is to glaze and seal the window. While the glass is safely inserted you need to seal the borders to ensure no air or water gets through any resulting gaps. Take more glazing compound and begin to fill in the gap between the glass and the frame. Make sure to seal both sides keeping the bead tight and clean. If you get any glazing compound on the glass simply clean it off and keep going.

Sealing the window properly is very important to get a solid repair. If any gaps are left in the window moisture will cause fogging, heat loss, and drafts all of which will undermine the point of repairing a broken window in the first place.


7. Clean Up and Let It Set

woman cleaning glass window
Image Credit: Khaligo, Pixabay

Almost done! Now, clean up the window. Make sure there are no smudges or glaze on the glass. Reinspect the frame checking for new damage or damage you might have missed in the past. Now the window is ready to paint and touch up to make it look good as new. Some people suggest adding a final layer of exterior caulk to the outside of the window for additional sealing, that is up to you.

The glazing compound takes up to 48 hours to fully cure so be careful with the window in the meantime but it should simply cure on its own over time.


8. Check the Window

windows roll blinds
Image Credit: kunmom, Shutterstock

Lastly, check the window. But first, make sure you have let the window sit for a few days. Let the glazing compound settle. Let the sun hit the window for a few days. Now, check it one more time. Make sure nothing changed, make sure nothing shifted or settled weird. Check the seal and make sure everything is working properly. If the rest of the steps went well then this should be a cursory check meant for peace of mind. Everything should be in good working order.

And there you have it, a broken window repaired and put right.

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Window Repair vs Window Replacement

Not every window can be repaired or even should be repaired. Windows are important parts of every home and having a bad window can cause lasting headaches for homeowners. Windows with a single broken or cracked pane can easily be fixed but sometimes windows need a full replacement. Window replacement often needs to be done by a professional due to permitting, siding concerns, and the higher level of difficulty.

As a general rule, if you have any doubt about doing a window repair, you should go straight to a replacement. Broken frames, leaky windows that won’t get right or busted mechanisms all often require a full replacement, full stop. Know your limits, do what you’re comfortable with.

Window repair is often faster and cheaper than a replacement but sometimes the differences can be negligible. Due to ongoing glass shortages, getting replacement glass can sometimes take as long as getting a new window. If time, labor, and money are not an issue, a new window might solve more problems than a repair. But each situation is unique to each homeowner.


Featured Image Credit: Skitterphoto, Pixabay

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