Homemade Double-pane?

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Old 01-20-03, 03:25 AM
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Homemade Double-pane?

My wife and I bought a fixer-upper a couple of months ago and now that I've gotten the house operational, it's time to start the fixing-upping and because I'm going to take advantage of both the Home Depot and Lowes 10%-off, one time deals; I intend to buy most everything in two monstrous trips, therefore I could use a little help with my timetables and getting a better understanding of the projects;

So, if some "experts" could take the time to express opinions on a few subjects, I would be forever grateful...

My home was built in the fifties and it is equipped with steel casement windows; The kind with a dozen or two small panels in a steel frame that is embedded into the concrete block walls...

I realize that most folks would advise me to jerk them out and replace them with Pella's or something; But according to the state, they are historically accurate for New Mexico; Probably 80% of the houses in town have the same windows and they are such odd-sized, that replacement would be much easier said than done; So, I'd like to keep them, but make them more energy efficient because right now, they are all single-pane;

There's enough room in the frame to double-pane with what I've been advised should be a half-inch space and still glaze them in; All of the manufacturers I can find would make custom windows, but I could do that myself, onsite; If I could determine the best way to go about it;

My understanding is that the spacing material would effect the amount of coldness that would wick in through the frame; The easiest method that I can determine would be to build little mini-frames for each square out of half-inch square moulding strips, glue the frame to one layer of glass and glue another pane to the outside; Does this sound reasonable and would it be effective? Or, is there another spacing material which I could buy in bulk that would be less expensive, more effective and easier to use?

Also, I've read that the panes should be no less than half an inch apart and no more than five-eighths for the maximum return; Was this just nonsense and I could make them smaller and still be effective, or is this half-inch idea correct?

Also, I guess that I should consider condensation, even though 60% is considered a humid day in the desert; Or should I not really worry about condensation? Or would the wood or alternative suggestion cut down on this worry?

I've considered drilling a small hole in the bottom corner of each frame and sucking the air out with a handheld aquarium vacuum, or possibly replacing the air with argon gas; Is condensation enough of a worry in this environment to go the extra step of creating a vacuum, or the added expense of getting a cannister of argon? Any thoughts on this subject would be appreciated;

Or would I be better served, if I were to forego the double-paning altogether and simply replace the windows with thicker glass?

Any ideas on this topic would be appreciated;

Thanks in Advance;


Last edited by magister; 02-10-03 at 02:47 AM.
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Old 01-20-03, 05:17 AM
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You are not going to be successful or happy with homemade double panes.
"be better served, if I were to forego the double-paning altogether and simply replace the windows"

How about one large 'insulated' double pane with muttons added for the pane effect?

Old 01-20-03, 06:26 AM
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Fewalt is right. You would be investing a lot of time and money in trying to make your own double panes, and you would not be happy with the results.

Your windows are "historically accurate for New Mexico", but I don't see that as a reason to not replace them. Your current windows are costing you a fortune in utility bills, year 'round. I see that as a good reason TO replace them.

"They are such odd-sized, that replacement would be much easier said than done". Bunk!! Retrofit windows are made to order, and sized to fit whatever hole you need to put them in. There are limitations as to how small the mfgr's equipment will allow them to be made in certain styles, but that can ususally be gotten around by simply going to a different style if need be.

Big box stores like HD and Lowes make their money on volume -- by turning their inventory over several times a month. They will only stock merchandise that will allow them to do that. So, when it comes to the windows they have in the store, they are going to be the most common sizes of new construction windows. Your house is not new construction. You can MAKE the windows they offer work, but it will take a lot of time and effort on your part. Or, you can go through a local glass shop or contractor who does retrofit windows, have them made to exactly the size you need, and you could have them all replaced in a day. If you opted to replace them yourself, it would probably take several days, but nothing like the project of trying to get new construction windows to fit.

And your last question -- "would I be better served, if I were to forego the double-paning altogether and simply replace the windows with thicker glass?" That would accomplish nothing for you. It wouldn't save you a dime in energy costs. You would simply be wasting your time and money.
Old 01-20-03, 11:50 AM
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Leave the sheep out of this. Muntins.
Old 01-20-03, 02:04 PM
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Making double pane glass is NOT something the average person can do.....it takes a special high temperature sealant to join the two panes and the aluminum spacer used between them is filled with dessicant beads to absorb any moisture in the air trapped when the unit is sealed.....it's a REAL trick to do this correctly, you won't pull it off at home, trust me......

And "historicaly correct" includes things like unpastuerized milk and outhouses......."old" and "good" don't often go together.

Get your windows replaced with custom sized vinyl windows....you'll save enough money on energy to buy some real antiques.
Old 01-20-03, 03:04 PM
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But the 'sheep' worked fine in my Google search:

Restoration and Fine Window Specialist
... medium restoration on site drop clothes, plastic coverings and ... and bottom sashes are
removed; the window stops set ... Loose corners, joints and muttons are rebuilt ...
www.clearyandson.com/Services/ServiceDetails.htm - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

The Town of Mount Pleasant | Meeting Minutes
... Board had approved clad true divided lights, with muttons going all ... The plastic tracks
are very visible. ... Discussion: Mr. Huey stated that a wood window is nice ...
www.townofmountpleasant.com/Meetings/ Minutes/TAC/100801.shtml - 21k - Cached - Similar pages

Old 01-20-03, 04:18 PM
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OK, so the discouragement commenced and I'm being told that I'll probably run into too many problems, if I try to double-pane myself and I should just forget about half-inch thick glass;

But some of the other responses confused me, so I'm going to take a minute to make certain ya'll understand what I've got;

Each window is comprised of between a dozen and three dozen little squares that are approximately 12"h x 16"w; Each square is separated by a steel frame that is 13/16ths of an inch wide and 13/16ths of an inch deep; Each window has two sections which swing out and the mechanisms are on the inside, plus everything is embedded into the block wall.

There are also two corner windows in the house; Basically, two windows meet to form a corner which is obviously supplying some support to the structure because there isn't anything else in those corners holding up the roof;

Although the rooms with two windows have a matching number of squares; No two rooms have the same number of frames as the windows in any other; Apparently, the windows were most likely custom-built to start; Plus, there are no window contractors, other than auto glass for at least a hundred miles and all new construction uses windows from Lowes or Home Depot;

I can see replacing the picture window with a custom-sized sheet of glass, but to replace the other windows would take some really odd-sized creations and most likely, I'd have to reduce the window size and fill-in with cement and stucco and obviously, I'd have to do away with the corner windows at great expense;

Apparently, there's a reason that 80% of the homes in town still have the steel casement windows and folks just duct-tape plastic over their windows every winter instead of double-paning the glass;

I thank you for your responses and though I'm discouraged about making double-panes myself; I can't really say that I've given up on that idea altogether, quite yet; But based on your replies, I do find the idea very doubtful; I can think of another possibility that I'll post later in an attempt to get your input; But that would make this response too long and would confuse the matter, somewhat; So, I'll give you a chance to rant with my added information and I'll post another follow-up later this evening;

Thanks again for the responses; Any other opinions or ideas would be very welcome; I'd love to make the windows more energy efficient; Possibly is there another material which I could use as a replacement for the single-glaze, single-pane glass that would help accomplish my goal?
Old 01-20-03, 04:57 PM
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Apparently you're the last place in America the "window replacers" haven't yet discovered ......but surely if you have a HomeDepot, somebody there does vinyl replacements.....

As to your windows being custom....I doubt it....I've done some just like what you describe including the corner windows....what I do there is take one out, make up a wood support post in that corner and put a new window in on each side.

The nice thing about vinyl replacements is the frame is 3 1/4"
deep and you can generally cover any "boo boos" made in take the old steel unit out.....but you're right, it will do some damage.....but since the frame is fairly shallow, you have room for coverup. Nice thing about custom sizing vinyl windows, you can get them to fit tight right back in the masonary opening.

The frames also aren't set in the masonary very deep...there is a flange about 3/4" into the masonary is all....if you've ever noticed a the groove cut in one end of square corner cinder or cement block, that is what that groove is for....when using this type window, the grooves are lined up and the windows installed as the block are laid. Then stucco or whatever is applied up to the window.

To remove this style window is a bit of a pane (heh...heh)....I first open the casements, and take a sawsall w/metal cutting blade to the hinges.....saw 'em off and remove the sash....then you have to remove any fixed glass, like the center units or lites over the casements.....then pry the frame up out of the sill masonary and saw in two with sawsall....then the rest of the frame will come out without too much trouble.....but these ARE the worst type of window to come out.....I hate to see them coming.

I think these were popular during and right after WW II from what I've been able to gather......wood windows were hard to come by and these were kind of the "low maintenance" model of the day....but they sure are leaky, energy in-efficient dogs for my vote.
Old 01-20-03, 05:32 PM
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If you install storm windows you can reduce the infiltration (drafts) by sealing them tightly. Infiltration around older windows is the big heat/cool loss.
Old 01-20-03, 10:26 PM
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Brickeyee; You anticipated the follow-up which I alluded to earlier; One of the reasons I had considered homemade windows was cost in addition to the "historic integrity"; I had to replace a single pane in my daughter's room and because I wanted to get it done quickly, instead of driving the 100 miles to the home improvement stores, I bought the glass from the most expensive place possible, my local Ace...

Even with the franchisee markup and taxes; This single pane cost $2.79 and if you were to multiply this out for the fifteen panes in her window, even at the higher price and without any discounts, the cost would be quite reasonable to double-pane, myself.

Would I get a reasonable and cost-effective benefit, if I were to design some kind of mounting system for custom-sized storm windows that because of the mechanism would have to be installed on the outside of the house? With the storm windows in place, the casements wouldn't function but in effect, I'd be double-paning the entire window rather than each individual pane...

Most storm windows that I've ever seen had a little insulated, aluminum frame around the edge of the glass; Can you buy these in odd sizes or cut them to fit and also, where would you get the little frames?

Also and I realize that I'm probably in the best position to answer this question myself, but I'm going to throw it into cyberspace, anyway...

A friend of mine owns a resturaunt in a southern resort community; Every fall, we'd mount the numbered "storm" windows over the screens on the porch by screwing the wooden frame of the window to the wooden screen porch;

I don't really want to drill holes in the existing steel, plus the windows would probably be too close together to do any good; My initial thought would be to contact a local machine shop and see what they might be able to figure out for a mount; But does anyone have any other suggestions as to mounting single-pane storm windows on the outside of casement? Possibly could you get some kind of mounting bracket from the same place you'd get the little aluminum frames.

I'll be going to Albuquerque next weekend and I could ask the kid at Lowes, but in the meantime are there any thoughts from the helpful experts who frequent this board?

Has anyone ever installed storm windows over steel casement? All of my neighbors and as far as I can tell, every house in town is just using the 70% see-through plastic from Walmart; Though a couple of folks have told me that they use plain-old saran wrap so that they don't lose any of their view; What's the opinion of the experts concerning storm windows and their installation?

Any thoughts, ideas or experiences would be greatly appreciated?

Thanks again;

PS) I blame most of the coldness around the windows to what I've learned is called diffusion; The glass and the frames are cold to the touch, but I wouldn't say that my problem is drafts because the windows are pretty much in there and as I said, a couple of them are even holding up the roof...

I don't know if this would make a difference as to the functionality of storm windows, but I thought that I should make his clarification.
Old 01-21-03, 05:18 AM
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Your Ace bought window pane was much cheaper than the 'big box' pane. And the 'kid' at Lowes doesn't know squat!

PS; Your windows aren't holding up the roof. The headers above the windows are handling that task.

Old 01-21-03, 08:43 AM
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Like Andy, I am a little surprised that you can't find retrofit vinyls locally, whether it be from a contractor who replaces windows or a glass shop. Be that as it may. If you are going to Albuquerque next weekend, shop there.

Fewalt is right -- your window frames are not supporting the corner of the house. It may appear that way, but what I have found in this syle of construction was a steel post in the corner that the frames were attached to.

and fewalt, the comment about "But the 'sheep' worked fine in my Google search" -- shows you how much the computer and internet whizzes REALLY know about windows -- well, GLASS windows, anyway!! Search "windows" and see how many sites about operating systems you have to scroll through before they get to the glass ones!

Personally, I wouldn't put my time and money into the storm windows. As you pointed out, you lose the function of the windows with them in place. And while they will reduce the air festation, they will do very little to reduce heat transfer in the winter -- nothing like Low E glass will. And they wouldn't be in place in the summer, so your solar heat gain will still be something in the order of .7 or .8. Sure makes life tough on your cooling system!
Old 01-21-03, 12:21 PM
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Thanks - You've saved me money

Lefty; As you've seen me from other forums, I'm about to completely redo the plumbing and electrical, plus several other "smaller" projects like insulating the house, fixing the roof, raising the height of the wall which surrounds the property and cutting a gate into the back so that I can get the materials inside, among other things.

Of course, thanks to you, Ron, Mike and Ragnar; I now have the existing plumbing completely working, so I'm halfway considering only expanding the plumbing system at this time and doing piecemeal replacement until I'm ready to redo the baths and stick the addition onto the back, primarily because the unpredictability of cutting the cast iron frightens me, somewhat and I'll have to reroute some pipes at that time, anyway. But of course, my plumbing plans don't really belong in this forum; I only include this info as an example of the "prioritizing" which I referred to in my initial post and as a personal plea to you because you cross-pollinate between the forums; Please don't hate me when I post a similar "request for comments" about some of my plans in the plumbing forum, later this week.

What I've learned from this thread is that my idea of buying a glass cutter and making double-panes myself as an indoor project on extremely cold days would be a waste of time and effort and it seems that the consensus opinion is that installing storm windows would also be a waste of money; So I'd be better served, if I simply directed all of my window resources towards retrofitting the house with Anderson's, Pella's, or the like.

That was the idea behind my initial post and I thank those who contributed to the discussion...

I have limited resources and a big, multi-year project ahead of me; We bought the house with the idea of selling it in three years and though there are some issues which'll need addressed sooner, rather than later; I'm trying to finalize my timetable, priortize the projects and maximize the benefit from the moving coupons you get from the box stores by purchasing most of the known supplies in two big, shopping trips.

(Though also it should be noted that a couple of weeks ago, someone broke into a habitat house which was under construction in Albuquerque and de-installed the appliances in order to steal them; Not only that, but they came back the next night, de-installed and stole the furnace, also. If you add that to the several houses here in town who had their furniture stolen over Christmas, you'd understand why I'm also reluctant to fill my storage areas with several thousands of dollars worth of construction supplies for long periods, but that's another story, altogether)

Fewalt; My comment about the kid at Lowes was made tongue-in-cheek; Although the kid might know what is in his catalog; I treat them the same as the folks at my local Ace; You walk in the door and you're bombarded by at least five greeters who apparently won their position in a beauty contest; But out of the ten people who are working at any time, those in the know seek out Rudy for help with the plumbing and electrical supplies and Xavier for hardware and tools; Everyone else, don't have a clue what they are talking about and unless I'm armed with an Ace product number, some of them don't even have a clue as to what they sell.

The windows have been a source of contention since we bought the house; I wanted to save them and my wife wanted to rip them out and she seems to have some kind of visceral reaction to the corner windows, specifically. It looks like she has won based on the information gathered from this RFC and that's probably a good thing, because I did note that the form done by the appraiser had a box for vinyl replacement windows and no place to really give credit for homemade double-panes or storms and since the purpose of this exercise is to increase the appraised value; I'd probably be better served by replacing the windows, anyway you look at it.

Once again, I thank those who contributed to this discussion; It may not have been pretty, but it accomplished my goal of not wasting any money and deciding upon a realistic course of action.

But if you don't mind, I would like to wrap this thread up with one final question...

There are Lowes and Home Depots about a hundred miles from here; We don't have any local window contractors because there's nothing for them to do. Does anyone have any online sources for custom built windows they'd like to suggest, so I might save a few dollars? As it stands right this minute, based on the information gathered in this thread; I'm figuring that I'll be putting off the window purchase until we can rip out the antique heater museum and replace it with a modern heat pump; Buying spree, number two; Which'll most likely be in mid to late spring after the weather warms, but before the bugs come out in force...

I'm still figuring on installing the windows myself; Fixing-up the house is supposedly my primary occupation behind being a stay-at-home dad; Though, I do have a couple of other "jobs" which I work at for a couple of hours a week, but they are all virtual and I set my own hours which are generally in the middle of the night.

Based on my research thus far and Andy's comment about taking out the corners, I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do the work myself; But that may be a topic for another day; In the meantime for the purposes of making up my shopping lists and maximizing my investments/discounts; If someone would like to suggest an alternative to the box stores, I would appreciate the input; That of course are alternatives, other than the ABQ yellow pages which I consider a given...

Once again; Thanks to those who contributed; You've helped me accomplish my immediate goal and you've helped perpetuate the reasons these forums are such a valuable resource.

Keep Passing Open Windows;
Old 01-21-03, 03:03 PM
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I "cross-pollinate between the forums" -- It's never been stated that way before. That's good! I like that!!

I understand at least part of what you are up against -- the 100 mile trip to buy materials, the lack of services (like a good glass shop!) being readily available just down the street, being able to store things like appliances and have them still be there when you get ready to install them, etc. And, the more posts by you I read, the better I come to understand the situation. I'm looking forward to your "requests for comments" in the plumbing forum. We both know that you will be getting lots, and not all of them will agree. But that is mostly because there are so many different plumbing codes in force in various places.

As far as replacing the windows, (which now seems to be what will occur), I still think the "best" approach would be to contact a glass shop or contractor in Albuquerque and have them come do the final measuring for you. That way, if a mistake is made, it is THEIR mistake, not your's, and they would be the ones eating the mistake, not you. You should measure the windows and be able to tell them "I have this many and this is the size of the openings." They can tell you what the cost of the windows is based on that. You can get estimates from several that way and have something to make comparisons with. But once you make the decision that you are going with "ABC Window Co.", let them come and make the final measurements so they can order exactly what you need. You dealing with masonary or block wall construction. There is no forgiveness there, and "making it fit" isn't as simple as it is in wood construction.
Old 01-21-03, 07:03 PM
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Lefty's right - get three, four, or five estimates if you like.
But don't make the mistake of playing one against the other.
Get everything in writing and your decision will be based on material, timing, labor, bottom line, and competence.
good luck,
Old 01-22-03, 01:59 AM
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Thanks again for everyone's help; Though, I may end up going with Lowes, HD or possibly Sears in order to take advantage of one of those zero-percent, no-payment until, 10%-off offers; I'll also seek bids from some little guys and throw everything through my computer to determine the best deal;

But needless to say; I'm going to go with the consensus of this forum, my wife and I have already discussed it and she got a chance to remind me how she knew the answer, all along.

Whenever possible, I try to spread my money around and the big stores are getting quite a large percentage, however you look at it; But, I have to approach this project as I am all my other home improvement projects and that's to consider the best return on my investment and the most efficient use of my resources.

But anyway you look at it, the overwhelming response of this board convinced me that though I'm going to tackle plumbing, electrical and build an addition myself, among other projects; Windows are best left to the professionals, especially considering Lefty's reasoning and taking into account that the Family Room doesn't have any drapes because we mis-measured the windows when the perfect drapes were on sale.

Thanks again for all your help;
Old 01-04-14, 04:35 AM
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Okay...here is what I am attempting to do;

I have (54) 1/4" x 4'6" x 6"8" sheets of tempered glass. With them I would like to make (25) "dual/thermal pane" windows (I'll have 4 extra sheets left over for future damage).

My construction (but not glazing) experience tells me to use treated lumber for frames. I will pre-rout all of the treated lumber framing out about 1/2' deep for each of the two panes of glass. Each premade groove will be 1/2' from the other creating a 1/2" separation between the two panes. Before I insert the wood onto the glass I'll add a bead of 100% clear silicone caulk within the router groove. I will also use silicone caulk along ALL (interior and exterior) edges of each pane of glass thus creating a somewhat hermetically sealed unit. I will join all the treated lumber frames together at their mitered corners with screws and construction adhesive (Pl 400, etc.). I am considering pumping in argon gas to displace any moisture and then seal the hole(s).

Any suggestions?

Old 01-04-14, 06:29 AM
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Please read the first 2 replies to the person who asked this question 11 years ago. (Don't do it.) There is a reason that all IGU's incorporate some type of dessicant in the spacer materials.
Old 01-05-14, 06:27 PM
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+1 to XSleeper's comment.
Old 09-16-14, 11:06 AM
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I've been researching the same thing. What I've found is that if you're interested in building your own double pane windows your best bet is to seal the interior pane and then vent the space between the panes from the outside with small holes drilled into the frame. This is not as good as a professionally made double pane window but it's better than a single pane, especially for noise reduction. everything I've read about making your own fully sealed double pane windows is discouraging.
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