Replacing Damaged Glass in an Entry Door

Scott Gibson, Contributing Editor

We have a solid wood (probably fir) entry door at our home. When someone refinished the front of the door entry door glass scratchedrecently, the sander got away from him and every section of glass is badly scratched. I'd like to replace all of it. A local glass shop wants a lot of money to replace the glass and won't guarantee that the wood won't crack or break during the process. I thought to myself, what the heck am I paying these guys for then? Any tips?

It's no small accomplishment that your refinisher managed to scratch every single pane of glass. Anyone could get a little careless and buzz one pane. Even Norm Abram probably has an off day now and again. But all four panes? I hope you took his sander away from him before he found another project at your house.

Assuming the refinisher has disavowed all responsibility here, you're stuck with the repair. And you're right: why pay a shop for work they're not ready to guarantee?

In conventional wood window sashes, individual panes of glass are separated from each other by muntins. These slender pieces of wood are mortised into the sash frame. On the inside, the muntins get an attractive molding profile. On the outside face, they get a rabbet--an L-shaped recess to hold the glass.

Window glass is installed from the weather side of the window and held in place with glazing points and sealed with glazing compound.

It's hard to tell from the photographs how the muntins in the door were made. But if they follow the entry door glass scratched insideconventions of window sashes, one face of the muntins is rabbeted to hold the glass. Instead of glazing putty, it looks like the door maker capped the glass with narrow strips of molding.

A very close look should reveal which side of the muntin has the applied molding. This is what you need to pry off to free the glass.

You might gouge or break the molding getting it out but that's not the end of the world. You can make or buy new pieces of molding when it's time to reassemble the window.

It also doesn't matter much if you break the window glass getting it out. The important thing is to protect your eyes and hands during the process. Wear gloves and use safety glasses (goggles would be even better) to protect your eyes.

With the recesses cleaned out, make a cardboard template of each opening and take those to your local glass shop. Leave a little wiggle room in case the glass isn't cut perfectly. That also gives the wood parts of the door a little room to move around seasonally. A gap of 1/16 in. or so between the edge of the template and the wood should be plenty.

Glazing putty is another option to seal the new glass in place. It would be simpler than cutting and applying the curved sections of molding, and you could paint it the same color as the door. This is a less attractive option, of course, if the glass happens to be inserted from the inside.

Unless the door is completely protected from the elements, getting a reliable weather seal around the glass is important to guard against leaks and, eventually, rot. Glazing putty takes care of that. If you go with wood molding, you might want to add a bead of silicone caulk first.

About the Author
An accomplished woodworker and carpenter, Scott Gibson is the former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, and a former editor at Today's Homeowner and Fine Homebuilding magazines. He also is former managing editor of the Kennebec Journal, a daily newspaper in Maine.

Search Improvement Project