How To Fix A Broken Window

The Handyguys discuss fixing windows, specifically answering a question from a listener regarding the repair of glass on a modern vinyl window. But before dealing with that issue, the Handyguys discuss covering the glass with window films.

There are two major window film products. Many of you have probably seen the product that covers the entire window unit to block air leaks during the cold winter months. You put up the plastic sheeting with double-sided tape and heat it up with a hair dryer to pull it taut. These work fairly well for older leaky windows. Another product is the Gila window film that is applied to block UV rays and to provide interesting decorative looks for your windows. The Handyguys understand how the Gila film could aid a home in the heat of the southwest, but does this product really pay off in the north? Let us know what you think.

Bob from Tacoma, WA, asks the Handyguys how to repair a modern vinyl window that has been broken from an unknown projectile. Fixing a new vinyl window is a lot different than replacing the old wood windows we grew up with. You can’t just go down to the hardware store and get a new piece of glass. The new windows typically use a double (or triple) glass window unit with faux dividers that snap in between the glass or on the surface. Some older vinyl windows are not repairable when broken. Your only option is to completely replace the sash. Fortunately, with most newer windows, the glass is removable by removing the stops. The pictures below document this process. Listen to the podcast for more details.

Modern Vinyl Window Repair

Remove sash

Remove Sash Removing the sash part 2

Remove the stops

Removing the Stops continued Stops coming offRemoving the Stops continuedRemoving the Stops continued

Replace the glass

(Handyguy Paul is showing us on a window he already fixed, so no pictures of this part.)

Reinstall the stops

Replacing the stops

Wood Frame Window Repair

As far as fixing glass on a older windows, Brian gives us a lesson in glazing windows:

Gather your tools — a 5 in 1 tool, utility knife, scraper, heat (maybe).

Getting Ready

Remove old glazing

You may need to apply heat to get it out. A 5-in-1 tool is also helpful.

Remove old glazing

Remove glazing points with utility knife or needle nose pliers.

Remove old glazing points

Remove glass; scrape and remove glazing that glass was set in.

Frame clean and ready

Prime any bare wood with oil based primer or boiled linseed oil.

Prime the frame

Get new glass from hardware store, measured to size. You want glass to be about 1/8″ smaller than the opening to allow for expansion.

Now do everything in reverse.

Put a thin bed of glazing compound on sash to set glass onto. Brian always uses Dap 33. You must knead it to warm it up. Get your hands into it.

knead the puttyPut some putty on the frame where the glass will sit

Put glazing points around glass.

For smaller panes, you only need about one or two points on each side.

Insert glazing points


Reach into the can of Dap 33 and pull out about a golfball-sized wad of glazing; roll it into a ball and knead it around a little so that it is more workable. Then roll it in your hands to form a long snake.

Knead and roll out a worm of putty

Run the glazing around the edges of the of the glass.

Press putty into frame

Draw off excess.

Use a 1-inch stiff putty knife to draw off excess putty and make a smooth bead of putty around edges of the window mutton and the pane of glass. This takes a little practice.

Draw putty smooth with knifeRemove excess puttyCorners are hardestDone

And Brian has another story about a funny incident at the hardware store… fortunately there is no blood in this story.

18 thoughts on “How To Fix A Broken Window

  1. OMG, I was seriously about to post something about repairing old windows. Mine was more posing the question of HOW?! …and is it worth it?! I’ve got some beautiful old windows in my new [old] house, but many are in dire need of some love. I bought new locks to install, but some need new glazing too. Anyways….once I’m ready to really get started I’m going to be checking back in on this page. In the meantime, I’m also having Anderson windows come out and give me an estimated cost on a few replacements.

  2. Dear HouseObsession – Handyguy Brian here, I do think its worth it. The look of the old windows is very expensive to replicate in a modern window. If you live in a climate where super effeciency is not a major concern then I would go for re-glazing. If you need to cut your heating bills, are not concerned with keeping the original fabric of your house and can afford the investment then the Andersons may be the way to go. There are other brands too, Pella and Marvin come to mind (for wood on the inside). Make sure you shop around and compare prices.

  3. Well, I’ve decided to do a little of both. On the side of the house (upstairs) where I am dealing with rotten headers & sills…I’m going to just replace them with vinyl double hung windows. You can’t see these windows from the street so it won’t infringe with the curb appeal of the house. It will however help out on heating costs…and of course I’ll be able to replace the rotten wood at the same time. I’m keeping the nice looking 12 over 1 windows downstairs and on the front. They’re less damaged and over time I can re-glaze them as necessary.

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  5. Hi, My husband and I have been searching the net looking for an answer. Our home has vinyl windows they are probably at least 15 yrs. old. So this year in the last 4 months they have started to literally explode. So far 4 of them. We were actually home when one went tonight, it sounded like an explosion, we thought someone threw a brick at our house. After looking around sure enough it had happened again. We can’t figure this out. They are double pane, argonne gas filled. No real pattern, sometimes its the inside pane (1) and sometimes the outside pane (3). Can you by any chance tell us whats going on? I am going to call the insurance agent tomorrow but I don’t know if they will cover something like this. any ideas would be most appreciated. Thank you Bonnie

    1. Bonnie – That’s very strange. I would contact the manufacture of the windows and see what they say. Many windows have lifetime warranties on certain parts. My best guess would be that the house has settled and the frames are out of square putting pressure on the glass. You can confirm this by measuring the frame diagonally corner to corner. The numbers should be exactly the same in each direction.

    2. I have been hunting for others who have experienced exploding windows. I have 3 identical windows in a row, double hung Marvin. One night in Nov/Dec. (2012) after midnight, we heard a noise like a large pop. Nobody was outside, the night was calm, we checked all over the house, including the all electrics as we thought something had blown. Found nothing until one day we noticed that the upper sash of one of those windows looked like a cob web. Nothing had hit the window – the screen was in. Marvin replaced the sash for us. Now, 2 months later, the inside pane of the lower sash of the same window has just exploded, leaving shards of glass over the floor and the window sill. The other two indentical windows have not been affected , yet! Have you been able to figure out the cause? Marvin had no answer. So what can I do to prevent something similar happening again and possibly injuring someone?

  6. Hi Guys,

    Just wanted to comment; great, really great source of info. I have been rehabbing for about 14 years and came across something I can’t figure out. I bought an older home with newer windows, so I don’t want to replace. About 7 of them have fog in between the panes. I know I can call a company and spend tons, but I don’t want to. It can’t be that hard. So far I know I have to drill small holes in the top and the bottom, spray something and put the white “absorb” beads on the bottom to help prevent future issues. Can you give me a detail on what to do and which products, or, if you can’t give a specific name, where I can purchase such items.


    1. Sue – There was a lengthy discussion about DIYing this over at
      i haven’t read every comment but I do not think there has been overwhelming success. Some of these windows have a lifetime warranty. See if you can contact the manufacturer before you do anything. If they are not warrantied they may be able to supply you with the glass units (IGUs) and you can replace them like we describe in this show. Just replacing the glass is a lot cheaper and easier than the entire window. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

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  8. I noticed this is an old post, but I find your topic very helpful especially for DIY-er like me. Being a home-owner can be both a blessing and a curse since you will have a lot of maintenance to do especially if you own an old home. Thanks for sharing this gem! I also love that you added pictures as an additional reference.

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