Ideas From Ed: Glazing in the Glass (It’s a Gas, Baby, Can You Dig it?)

Ed is a do-it-yourselfer who is happy to share some of his ideas and experiences in this monthly column.

Glazing in the glass (it’s a gas, baby, can you dig it?)

While doing unrelated work in the attic, I saw that the glazing at the bottom of an attic window was coming off. Not an end-of-the-world situation, but this is a west window, and gets a lot of weather, so I wanted to take care of things quickly.

It was a hot summer night. Actually, an August afternoon, but I knew that the way to survive was to remove the window and work on it in the basement where temperatures are more tolerable. If you’ve seen an earlier issue of “Ideas from Ed” about replacing sash ropes, you’ll know how to remove the window. (If you didn’t see it, go back and read it now!) Removing the window took less than five minutes. It’s a small window, and only the bottom glazing was in need of work, so this, I knew, would be an easy fix.

Here’s how the glazing looked, and why the work was needed:

The first step is to remove as much of the old glazing as possible. You can use a screwdriver, putty knife, or whatever helps to get the job done, as long as you’re careful to not break the glass. I like to use a medium-stiff putty knife of about 1 ½” width while working on glazing issues.

Here’s how the bottom edge looked after removal of the old glazing:

You need to be careful around “glazier’s points”, usually small metal diamond-shaped pieces jammed into the wood to hold the glass in place. These are covered over by the glazing compound, and there could be just a few, or a lot, depending on the size of the window and the ambition of the previous repairman or builder. If they are very loose, you might consider pulling them out carefully with fine pliers, and re-installing them in a close-by location so they’ll have “bite” into new wood. Otherwise, just work around them. Here’s a closeup of one:

One important step often missed is the cleaning of the glass with a good glass product. I like “Invisible Glass” and purchase it at auto-supply stores. Having the glass clean makes all the difference in how well the new glazing compound adheres. Don’t worry about cleaning the whole pane, as you will undoubtedly need to do so again a time or two later — just clean along the channel where the new glazing compound will be placed.

Glazing compound can be purchased in small plastic containers on up to large tubs if you like the putty-type material (and I do). You can also use glazing from a caulking gun cartridge, but I haven’t mastered that yet, and the material seems to me to be too soft. I guess it must be to squeeze out of a tube… Here’s what I use:

Of course, I am not compensated for the use of any particular product, and you might find and like different brands than what I’m used to. I only show you what I use, and you can go from there. The important thing is that it must be warm, and relatively fresh. Then, spend some time exercising your hands by kneading a pretty good-sized lump of the compound, almost as though you’re working up a dough mix for some pizza. You can’t overwork it, so take your time and get it nice and pliable.

Now comes the fun part — actually applying this to the window. I use the putty knife to push (hard!) the putty into rough shape, working across the bottom from left to right, knife-ful by knife-ful. There’s no need to get too fancy at this point. It just needs to be firmly pressed into position in a continuous bead to seal things up.

Then, I actually use the right SIDE of the putty knife, and draw it back from right to left, across the newly-placed compound. The leading edge must be raised up just a bit. It’s important to push hard again, and to try to keep the knife at a uniform position. That way, the final product will have a even bevel to it:

The top edge of the knife will slice off any portion in excess of what’s needed, and then all you need to do is push those pieces carefully out of the way and discard them. You may be able to just roll them off using your finger, gently smoothing down the beveled glazing at the same time. Minor imperfections can be repaired with the addition of a bit more compound, and then running over it with the knife again. You will likely have to do some “sculpting” in the corners, where bevels meet at right angles.

When you’re satisfied with the appearance, all that’s left is to carefully paint the glazing or the whole window, as necessary. Don’t do this for at least a week, though, so the glazing has time to “cure”, or the paint won’t be well-accepted. Here’s my finished product, ready and waiting for paint.

Happy restoring! Ed