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Glass-Only Replacement vs Whole Window Replacement

If the glass in your windows is broken or foggy, you’ve probably asked yourself this question: Can I just replace the glass in my window, or do I need to replace the whole window?

Whole Window Replacement, Before & After

The answer is really quite simple – would you prefer a short-term or long-term solution?  The decision between glass-only vs. whole window pane replacement is largely one of preference and budget.  Both will provide a solution to the problem, but the end product can vary quite drastically.

There are a few instances where a window is not worth saving and we highly recommend replacing the entire window or door (see below for examples).  Before you do anything be sure to see if the damaged window is under warranty by contacting the manufacturer or installer – by replacing the glass you could unintentionally void the warranty!

Glass-Only Replacement

Glass-only replacement is most often the simpler fix.  The advantages are lower cost, the ability to keep the window in question the same aesthetically as the others in your home, and typically a fairly quick installation time.  For someone with a window that has been the victim of a golf ball or stray rock flying through the air, glass-only replacement usually makes quite a bit of sense.

Depending on the problem, you have a few options for replacement window glass.  If the pane of glass is cracked, the broken pane can be removed and replaced with an IGU (insulated glass unit).  With IGU replacement, the broken pane will be removed, the frame cleaned up, the IGU popped in and then sealed in place with caulking or weatherstripping added to block drafts.

You can remove and replace broken glass yourself if you are on a tight budget, however it can be tricky and we recommend using a company or individual who specializes in residential window glass replacement.  There are several options for replacement glass, but your window will perform best if you replace the broken pane with the same type of glass. If you need special glass (such as glass with low-e coating), you’ll need to special-order it from a manufacturer.

Whole Window Replacement

Complete window replacement tends to be the best solution when looking for a long-term fix.  One of the greatest benefits is that in addition to adding energy saving glass, you are also adding energy saving framing.  Most people do not realize this, but quite a bit of the efficiency that’s realized in a quality window has just as much to do with the framing as it does with the glass.  Poor framing material can result in excessive heat/cold transfer as well as expansion and contraction which will ultimately lead to leakage. This results in those ugly foggy window panes.  If only the glass is replaced, this problem could potentially resurface, since the ultimate cause has not been fixed.

Costs associated with whole window replacement are usually higher than glass-only replacement, yet present a nice solution if you are interested in a longer-term fix and greater energy savings over time.  Be sure your replacement windows come with a quality warranty that covers your windows in the event of future damage.

When is a Window Not Worth Saving?

  • ● If the seal on your window has failed, you are best off replacing the window.  Defogging services exist, but they are a quick fix for a problem that will recur until the windows are replaced.  The telltale sign of a broken seal is condensation between the panes of glass, which makes the glass appear foggy.
  • ● If the muntins or mullions (dividers in a window)  are also broken, you’re best off replacing the entire window and not just the glass.
  • ● With wood windows, whole window replacement should happen if the wood frame begins to rot.  While some rot can be remediated with a patch, severe rot compromises the integrity of the window.
  • ● If your existing windows are nearing the end of their lifespan – for instance, if they will need replacement in three to five years – replacing them when the glass breaks may save you money in the long run.
  • ● If you’ve got low-quality windows that just don’t seem to do anything about those hot summer days or cold winter nights, it might be best to consider this your chance to replace the inefficient windows with energy efficient ones that meet your needs.

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