Changing Exterior Glass Door Inserts

Changing Exterior Glass Door Inserts

Table of Contents

Too often, homeowners consider doors as a single piece that needs to be replaced all at once. Interior doors aren’t too intimidating, but the idea of replacing an exterior door makes most people cringe. Luckily, replacing a pane of glass on a door is actually relatively easy, and something that any homeowner can do. Even better, there is no need to replace it with the same style of glass, which opens options of using clear glass, stained glass, or any other appropriately sized glass for the opening. Whether you have to just replace a pane of glass broken by a clumsy neighbor, or are looking to upgrade the looks of your house, replacing the glass inserts in a door is a great place to start!

Tool List:

  • Putty knife
  • Gloves
  • Utility knife
  • Tape Measure
  • Replacement glass panes
  • Glazing Caulk
  • Hammer
  • Finish Nails
  • Shop towel
  • A friend
  • Paint that matches door
  • Small paintbrush


  1. Take a close look at the door in question. On most doors, the glass panes are held in place by a wooden frame. These frames tend to be solidly attached to the door on one side, and nailed on the other. The nailed side of the frame is where we will be doing our work today.
  2. Use a putty knife to carefully cut the caulk and paint around the glass and frame. Gloves should be worn during this step, and care taken, as any loose pieces of glass can fall out at this point and easily cut you.
  3. Use the putty knife to carefully pry around the edges of the frame. These are called glass stops, or beads, and they help hold the glass in place. Pry off the beads, remove the nails, and set aside. These will be reused later.
  4. Now is the time to VERY carefully remove the glass from the door. Even if the glass isn’t broken, sharp edges are left when glass is cut, and they can easily slice through even the thickets work gloves. Before disposing of the old glass, ensure that you measure how thick the glass is. If you ensure that the replacement glass is the same thickness as the original, you can reuse all the original frame and glass bead.
  5. Measure the opening, then subtract 1/8 inch from each measurement (height and width). This 1/8 inch less ensures that there is room to safely mount the glass, but will still be close enough to the full width to ensure that the glass is covered by the frame and bead.
  6. Using a caulk gun, apply glazing caulk to the inside of the frame, and then carefully insert the new glass into the opening. Have someone else hold the glass while you complete the last two steps.
  7. Taking the glass stops that you kept in step three; reinstall them around the new glass with small finish nails. Ensure that the nails do not go into the glass (obviously, as it will break), but instead angle past the glass into the door frame. Be very careful on this step, as you obviously don’t want to break the new glass.
  8. Using a damp rag, clean any excess glazing caulk off the window and stops. If necessary, a little rubbing alcohol can be helpful to remove the caulk.
  9. Using the small paintbrush, touch up the paint around the glass that you replaced. It is not required to paint over the nail heads (though I prefer the look) but you do want to ensure that any mars or scratches you left in the wood are painted over, as the paint will help protect the wood.

Take a deep breath, step back, and enjoy the clean new glass on your door. As you see, this is a simple project that any homeowner can do. Whether it was to fix a broken pane or to add some new color to the front of the house, replacing glass is a simple, straightforward process, so don’t be scared.

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