How to Glaze a Window (Single Pane)

Updated: Dec. 22, 2023

Tighten up drafty old windows with new glazing putty

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A full day




Less than $20


Single pane windows can last for a hundred years or more if properly maintained. Learn how to preserve your windows and keep them draft-free by replacing the old window glazing putty.

Tools Required

  • Heat gun
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife

Materials Required

  • Acrylic caulk
  • Glazing points
  • Glazing putty (oil or latex)
  • Window glass (if necessary)

Comparatively, double-paned windows (also called double-glazed windows) provide up to twice the energy efficiency of single-paned windows. This is because these windows have double the number of glass panes- two. These panes create an air cushion between them, providing better insulation and preventing drafts from entering and leaving your home. However, if you have an old home, like mine, you likely have single-pane windows.

On older single-pane windows, the glass is usually surrounded by putty called “glazing compound,” which holds the glass in place and seals out the weather. This putty often lasts decades, but over the years it becomes rock-hard, cracks and even falls off the window. Loose or missing compound lets wind and rain leak in around the glass.

Replacing the window glazing putty around one pane of glass will take 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the pane and the stubbornness of the old putty. Replace broken glass while you’re at it. This adds only a few minutes and a few dollars to the job—much cheaper than calling a glass repair service.

It’s possible to replace glass and putty with the window in place, but you’ll save time and get better results if you can remove the window and clamp it down on a flat surface.

If you have a broken or cracked window pane, get it out of the way before you remove the old putty. Put on heavy gloves and eye protection, place a cloth over the broken pane and tap it with a hammer. With the glass thoroughly broken up, pull the shards out of the frame by hand. Pull out the old glazing points with pliers. If the old glass is in good shape, leave it in place.

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Remove the old window glaze putty

remove window glaze puttyFamily Handyman

The next step is to get rid of the old wndow putty. If the putty is badly cracked, you can pry away large chunks quickly with a putty knife.

Putty in good condition takes longer to remove. With a heat gun in one hand and a stiff putty knife in the other, heat the putty to soften it and gouge it out. Wear leather gloves to protect your hands from burns. Keep the heat gun moving to avoid concentrating heat in one spot. Otherwise, the heat will crack the glass.

If your heat gun doesn’t have a heat shield attachment, protect the glass with a scrap of sheet metal. When the window glazing putty is removed, prime any bare wood inside the window frame. A shellac-based primer such as Zinsser BIN is a good choice because it dries in minutes.

Step 2

Old window panes: Replace the glass and putty the window

If you need new glass, accurately measure the opening, subtract 1/8 inch from your measurements and have the new glass cut to size at a full-service hardware store. Take a shard of the old glass with you to match the thickness.

Also, buy a package of glazing points to hold the glass in place while the new compound hardens. Glazing compound is available in oil-based and latex/acrylic versions.

The latex products, which usually come in a tube, have a longer life expectancy and you don’t have to wait days before painting them as you do with oil-based putty. But they often begin to dry before you can tool them smooth. If neat, smooth results are important, choose an oil-based putty.

Step 3

Old window panes: Set the glass in place

Replace the glass and putty the windowFamily Handyman

For installation of new glass, the directions on glazing compound may tell you to lay a light bead of the compound inside the frame and then set the glass over it. That works well with soft latex compound. But if you’re using stiffer oil-based compound, lay in a light bead of acrylic latex caulk instead. Set the glass onto the caulk, then wiggle and press down to firmly embed the glass.

Press glazing points into the wood every eight inches. Let the excess caulk that oozes out under the glass harden and slice it off with a utility knife later.

Step 4

Old window panes: Spread the compound

spread the compoundFamily Handyman

Cover the perimeter of the glass with a heavy layer of window glazing compound. Be sure to completely fill in the recess; don’t leave any gaps or hollow spots.

Step 5

Old window panes: Smooth the compound

smooth the compoundFamily Handyman

To complete the job, smooth out the new window glazing compound. Dip a putty knife in mineral spirits to lubricate it and smooth out the compound. Wet the knife again and run over the compound as many times as it takes to create a smooth surface.

Oil-based putty is easier to work with when it’s warm. To heat it, set the can in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Remember that oil-based putty remains soft for days, so be careful not to touch it after smoothing. You’ll have to wait several days before you can prime and paint oil-based putty; check the label.

Step 6

Old window panes: Clean the excess

Clean the excess puttyFamily Handyman

Drag the ridge of excess compound away from the finished joint and scrape it up. Be careful not to touch the smoothed surface.

Step 7

An alternative to putty: Mitered moldings

Mitered Window MoldingsFamily Handyman

Applying a smooth, perfect bead of window glazing compound is fussy, time-consuming work. So when good looks matter, consider wood moldings rather than putty to hold the glass in place (1/4-inch quarter round works for most windows).

Set the glass in place over a light bead of latex caulk. There’s no need for glazing points. To nail the moldings in place, you can carefully drive in tiny brads with a hammer or carefully shoot in brads with a pneumatic brad nailer.

But the safest method is to use a brad pusher. A brad pusher is simply a metal tube with a sliding piston inside. Drop a brad in the tube, push hard on the handle, and the piston pushes the brad neatly into the wood—with little danger of breaking the glass. Most hardware stores and home centers don’t carry brad pushers, but you can find them at woodworker supply stores or online.