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Replacing Glass From the Inside

An inaccesible window can cause some "pane" when broken

Ask This Old House Crew
Photo by Matt Kalinowski

I broke a pane in a window of our 1976 house, but because of the way our lot slopes, I can't reach the window with a ladder. I was able to pick out the glass pieces and remove the glazing compound from inside the house, but I can't figure out how to put in the new glass. Any ideas?
— Zan, Sykesville, MD


Tom Silva replies: If you can't reach the window from the outside, then the only way to make this repair is to remove the sash. On some windows, flexible tracks called jamb liners allow you pull the top of the sash into the room and then rotate it off the jamb. On other windows, the sash is held in place with strips of wood trim called stops, which are usually nailed around the inside of the window opening. These have to be removed before the sash can come out.
First, you'll have to pry off one or both of the inside stops fastened vertically against the inside of the window opening. (Before removing a painted stop, use a utility knife to slice through the paint that covers the joint between the stop and the window casing—that will prevent the stop from breaking as you pry it.) Once one stop is off, you should be able to pull the lower sash toward you, take it out, and make the necessary repairs. The upper sash is held in place by stops called parting beads, which are embedded in the jamb. You'll have to pull out one or both of the vertical beads in order to take out the top sash.
While you're replacing the glass, you might as well inspect the rest of the sash and make any repairs or touch up the paint. Then, when the repair is complete, put back each piece in reverse order; the last one removed is the first one back.


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