People who live in glass houses...

...think a lot about glass.

Our house has 96 panes of glass. It actually used to have more, sadly, some were sacrificed in the renovations of previous owners.

These panes of glass are contained in a variety of windows and doors, some original, some brand new, some in between. We were lucky that none of them had been painted over or blocked in with wood or siding, which happens a lot in MCMs. But all were coated with adhesive, dirt, and specks of paint, which I (Geek #2) have been scraping clean with a straight razor and rubbing alcohol.

I still have two rooms to go.

It took several conversations with people pointing at things before it sunk in that our original windows are not normal. At least not like a traditional window that has a frame that is seated into a square hole in a wall.

Denver is a city that had its first housing boom in the early 1900s; it's full of lovely Craftsman-style brick bungalows and wood cottages with sash windows, fairly basic square windows that open by sliding upward. The second big boom was in the mid-70s, where brick ranch and split-level homes began dotting the close-in suburbs. All of these came with metal single-pane windows that slide open horizontally. These are the same windows that are found, mostly in white vinyl, in the new two-story frame houses built during Denver's third housing explosion in the 1990s and 2000s.

In the midst of that, a couple of small pockets of homes in Denver were built in the 1950s and 1960s by a few architects and builders who studied, and adored, Frank Lloyd Wright.

They didn't just love windows, they built houses around windows.

Specifically, they took a single pane of 1/4" thick plate glass and sandwiched it between pieces of wood trim, decorative hardwood on the inside and a wood stop (a long piece of wood trim) on the outside. And then connected those windows with other windows, and occasionally an actual "wall".

Yes, plate glass. I know this because it is supposed to be tempered glass. And I know that because of the people who have been in the house pointing at things. Apparently, new houses are not built with plate glass because it can slice you into a thousand bloody pieces if you so much as breathe on it.

I've been stripping layers of paint from the window trim in one of the rooms - I'll rewind to that shortly - but after learning this I was stuck on a decision point: should we replace the glass before finishing and re-sealing the trim? A quick call to a glass shop for pricing helped: the largest pane (approximately 82"H x 36"W, using the cheapest glass type) would start at $350 before installation - just one of six panes in that room.

Installation isn't exactly easy, the window stops need to be removed and the glass needs to be cut or broken so that it can be removed. The old sealant is scraped away, then new adhesive is applied and the new pane of tempered glass is glued into place. Finally, the window stops are nailed back into position. (History geeks at the 1949 Philip Johnson Glass House offer a very deep dive into this glass replacement process.)

We have bigger fish to fry, so we moved that down the project list for later. Then this morning, I was looking at the window stops on the outside and found this little gem etched in the corner:

It's the only one of the six that is tempered, but it represents a huge green light to move on...one piece of glass at a time.


Last built: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 6:32 PM

By Betsy Kimak, Friday, July 26, 2013 at 6:08 PM. Ask not what the Internet can do for you.