How To Safely Remove Window Glass

Written by Elizabeth McGrath Posted On Sunday, 23 August 2020 05:00

Why would you need to remove glass from your window? In most cases, it's because the glass is cracked or broken, or it is an insulated pane that's no longer sealed properly. Or maybe it's time to upgrade your windows with tinted or smart glass. Professional glass shops can help you choose and size the right glass for the job, but first you'll have to remove the window glass and bring in the sash. If there is a break on a stationary window or the sash and it isn't budging, you may need to hire a professional glass installation expert.

Getting the glass out before you visit your glass installation shop can help save money and time, and it's not too complicated. The most challenging part is to avoid being injured by broken glass.

Taking the Proper Safety Precautions

The No. 1 rule in working around glass is to wear protective gear. If glass is broken or you accidentally break it, even smaller glass shards can cut deep and cause injuries. Wear heavy gloves with leather palms, thick shoes or boots and safety glasses when you're working around glass. Long sleeves and long pants are also highly recommended.

Safely Removing Broken Glass

You'll want to minimize the spread of glass pieces when you remove broken glass from a window frame, and get those stubborn pieces that don't come out easily without cutting yourself. Here's how:

Step 1: Use tape.

Apply masking tape over the window pane, including the broken area. Don't press hard against the glass, but cover it completely with strips of tape on one side. The tape will keep pieces of glass from flying away from the window as you work. You want to be able to carefully take the glass pieces off the tape, so don't use duct tape or something extra sticky.

Step 2: Protect the area.

Put down a tarp or dropcloth that you can dispose of if glass breaks over it. It's best to do this on both the interior area around the window and the exterior area.

Step 3: Loosen the glass with a hand tool.

Some people use the butt of a hammer, but a pry bar or other heavy hand tool will work effectively. Your goal is to loosen the glass pieces through gentle taps. Then you can remove those larger pieces and dispose of them properly.

Step 4: Remove old glazing from around the frame.

The last bits of glass will be stuck in the window frame. With the help of a chisel or even a stiff putty knife, clear away the glazing that is holding those stragglers in place. If caulk or tape was used to hold the window in place, you may need to use a slightly more flexible putty knife to cut between the frame and the glass. Cautiously pull the glass pieces out of the frame and dispose of them.

Safely Removing Intact Glass Panes

Window glass is typically installed in one of three ways: With caulk, with a gasket, or with adhesive tape.

Caulk

Removable stops, or very thin pieces of wood or vinyl, line the window. You'll have to get these out in order to make a bit of room where you can cut through the caulk seal. Unfortunately, often the stops get caulked a bit and can be hard to remove. Use a thin, flexible putty knife or utility knife to cut through any caulk you see and get the stops out. Then you can flip the window and slip the knife between the window and frame to loosen or cut through the caulk. You may have to break the glass out if this task becomes too difficult.

Adhesive Tape

Instead of caulk, double-faced tape is used to stick the frame and glass together and a removable stop is positioned on the other side. You'll be able to use a flexible putty knife to loosen the stop, starting from the top. Turn the window over and use that putty knife between the frame and the slightly loosened glass panel to cut the tape and release the glass pane. If you can't cut the tape, you may have to break the glass out.

Gaskets

The glass edges are held by grooves in the window frame and contained in a vinyl or thick plastic gasket. You'll need to disassemble the frame, which is held together with screws on each corner. This is good news because it will be the easiest to take apart; then you can remove the entire pane and replace it before screwing the frame back together.

Any glazing between the glass and frame can usually be scraped off or pulled off in small strips if needed.

Cleaning Up Broken Glass

If you have broken glass, be sure to wear safety gear before you try to clean up. Vacuum carefully around the window area and use duct tape or a lint roller to pick up tiny pieces. Put one thick black trash bag inside another so you have two layers, and use that to put your glass pieces into. Label the bag with a sticker or tag that says, "Broken Glass for Disposal" so any handlers know to use caution.

If you have any questions about removing glass, or you're simply not comfortable working with the glass in your window, call a professional glass installer to take care of the job. A pro can also advise you on the best replacement glass for your window and budget.

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