Breaking My Broken Windows

I’ve had two cracked window panes on my front porch since I moved in. They’ve both grown a bit, likely due to freeze/thaw cycles. I always thought replacing a pane of glass would be expensive, so I put off repairs. Plus, since both affected windows are on the porch, there was no direct effect on the interior of the house itself, though certainly a colder porch does lead to a colder house.

But they’ve always bugged me. So when I was in Lowe’s in early October and saw that you could buy sheets of glass cut to size, I jumped on it. Sure, it was only single pane glass, but for the porch, that suffices. Lowe’s didn’t cary glazing putty, but Ace did.

I brought my measurements into Lowe’s and after a search for an employee who actually knew how to use the glass-cutting machine, I had my sheet of glass. Well, actually, the first one he cut broke while he was wrapping it up, but the second one made it home unscathed. I spent an hour carefully prying the window frame apart – several coats of paint served as glue. Finally, I release the lower pane and laid it out on the floor.

That’s when I realized I had mis-measured the glass. So I re-measured – thrice, this time – and trotted back to Lowe’s.

This time, we went through two broken sheets before coming up with a third one cut to my new and improved measurements. We wrapped it carefully and I brought it home.

This time, I carefully taped an X across the old glass and gingerly tapped with a mallet until it broke. I scraped out the decades-old, dried-out putty and started putting new glazing compound into the groove. When it came to lay the new glass in place, it didn’t fit. I flipped it around, and it still didn’t fit. Annoyed, I couldn’t understand how my new measurements – taken three times – could be wrong again! So I measured the glass and compared it to the scrap of paper still in my pocket. The measurements in my pocket didn’t match the glass. I had been very careful to throw away the old, incorrect measurements to make sure I gave the right ones to Lowe’s. But the guy had cut it wrong.

By this point, it was about 6:30 on a Sunday night. I called Lowe’s and learned that they closed at 7:00, so I hopped in the car and ran back to the store. At first, the bored high school student working at Customer Service didn’t want to allow an exchange, saying that custom-cut pieces can’t be returned. I was welcome to buy another sheet, though. Luckily, the employee who had cut the piece wrong happened to walk by, saw me with the glass, and intervened, shrugging when he realized his mistake. After two failed attempts (there’s got to be a better method that doesn’t cause breakage 2/3 of the time!), I got my piece cut – and verified its dimensions myself – and left the store.

By the time I got home, it was good and dark. I massaged the glazing compound a bit to soften it up and lined the window up – it was ready to go. I started to slide it into place and then asked for Don’s help. It fit perfectly. But then, in the process of filling the groove with more glazing putty, it cracked. We laughed. It was 8:30 on a Sunday night. All the hardware stores were closed. I was booked on a flight to DC at 6 AM the next morning and hadn’t started packing. So we used packing tape to seal it up.

So, eight panes of glass later, my window still has a packing tape bandaid. I’m very hesitant to try again. At this point, I could have just paid someone to do it for the amount of time I’ve spent.

And that’s the thing about home ownership. You have to figure out the value of your time. Sure, on paper, replacing a broken window pane would take $20 and an hour. But inexperience and working with fragile materials may mean that it’s worth hiring a professional.

Next step: I’ll investigate the cost of bringing the whole sash into a glass place and leaving it to the pros. And hopefully I can get rid of the packing tape once and for all. Heck, I might even fix the second window, too.

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