In our ongoing efforts to spruce up our home's curb appeal, I decided it was about time to take care of that broken glass in our front light. Ever since last winter when a neighbor's kid broke it with a snowball, I've been looking at it with disgust every time I go in or out of our front door. 

Last week I looked at that broken glass one time too many, and decided it was high time to get that item marked off of our to do list. Besides, the potential Rapture was scheduled for the coming Saturday, and if it happened, I didn't plan on going out with a broken front light.

First, I needed to get the dimensions of the glass, so I removed the broken piece from the fixture where it was held in by a few small metal tabs. I would have loved to just cut a new piece of glass using some of the salvaged wavy glass I have in the basement, unfortunately this wasn't an option because this light fixture's glass has beveled edges, which meant I would need to get a piece custom cut.

As you read more of our posts, there is one thing you will surely learn about me: I LOVE the Internet. Without the Internet, I don't know how we could have accomplished what we've done thus far on our home. More specifically, I love being productive and using the Internet to make my life easier (or at least I like to feel  like I use the Internet to make my life easier). 

With the measurements and broken piece in hand, I took a few minutes to conduct some online research and quickly found a custom glass website that I could order a replacement pane of glass from. The website seemed perfect and allowed me to specify every aspect of the glass that would allow me to match what had been broken. Height, width, thickness, color, and width of bevel were all options in the selection process. This seemed perfect and oh so easy! There was even a note on the site that said "We can cut to 1/8" so please be as precise as possible." I plugged in all of the numbers, even the width of the bevel, and ordered. 

A few days later, through the magic of the Internet and FedEx, the glass was waiting at our back door. I was excited that we would be finally fixing this issue and quickly opened the excellently packaged box. (I'm a house nerd, I get excited for this sort of stuff!)  

Expecting no problems, I went to the fixture to insert the new glass, and expected to be able to admire my relatively simple handywork before moving on to the next project. Famous last words. The new piece didn't fit becaue it was both too wide and too tall! <sigh>

"Wait a second," I thought to myself,  "I'm pretty sure I triple checked those measurements?" After a handful of measurement mishaps in my past, I am super anal about checking measurements before I order things now. I went back to the invoice and checked what I had ordered, and sure enough, the glass we received was about 3/16" too tall and 1/8" too wide. Upon comparison with the old piece, the bevel too was even much larger than I expected (about 1/8"). 

Here's the new glass next to the old glassfor comparison purposes. A careful look reveals it is ever so slightly larger.

I was bummed to say the least. The Internet had let me down, and I felt as if the Rapture had arrived early. But at least it was too large rather than too small. There was little room for error on this fit. A little too small and the clips couldn't hold the glass, too large, as was the case, and it wouldn't fit in the area it was supposed to.

Dejected, I started to think of where I could take the glass to have it trimmed. Possibly our local Ace Hardware, maybe a glass shop, or maybe send it back (but the idea of return shipping and waiting was more annoying than anything). Then it dawned on me -- I could probably us our tile saw to trim the edge. If it can cut stone, porcelain, and even glass tile, why not this piece of glass?

I quickly setup the saw in the basement, put on my safety glasses, and ran a quick test cut to trim the edge of one of the broken pieces...success!

With the test cut done, I lined up the old piece to get the width perfect, and stacked the new piece in front of the old one to act as a guide. Here is my first cut on the new glass (my apologies for the shaky video):

So easy, and a pretty good cut. The blade on my saw is a little dull, and I didn't cover the back with tape, so there was a little bit of chipping on the edge of the glass. Luckily that's not an issue for this project because it would be concealed by the lip of the fixture. A couple more cuts with the saw and I had a properly sized piece of glass. Here's the old piece laying on top of the new piece showing the correct height and width.

I went back to the fixture, popped the glass in, and it fit like a glove. With the newfound knowledge that our tile saw can cut glass when in a pinch, the problem was solved. 

While I would have preferred that this post was as simple as "ordered glass from the magical Internet -- glass arrived -- installed new glass and it fit perfectly," house projects, large or small, rarely go as expected. What we've learned throughout the years is that the unexpected road bumps, such as leaking pipes, cracked walls, incorrect Internet orders, or any number of other annoying problems that can crop up, are merely opportunities to use a little troubleshooting and creative problem solving. 

It isn't often convenient to work through problems when you don't expect them, and it is typically more frustrating than than I'd prefer, but with a little patience the end result is usually satisfactory. Add to it that the experience gives you a little more know how to tackle a planned project in the future, or maybe even helps to sprout an idea where you can use the experience on something new. The minor road bumps that we face while DIYing end up fueling our addiction for renovation.

I'm actually quite glad the Rapture never occurred. Now we can appreciate our repaired front light for a little while longer, knowing the time and effort we put into making it work.

Have you had any seemingly simple projects turn into a minor ordeal? Perhaps it even led you to using a tool you had on hand for another purpose (i.e. cutting glass with your tile saw)? I know we've had our fair share, but we'd love to hear your stories.

Comments 5


Josh Shaffer
5/23/2011 at 10:55 AM
In case you run across this again, they make tools that score the glass and then you just snap it off. That would reduce the chipping and less likely to scratch the glass sliding it on your tile saw. (Source: I worked at a tempered glass factory one summer) :-)
Thanks for the tip Josh. Sounds like a much better way to go if we run into this issue again!
Old Town Home
5/23/2011 at 11:05 AM
Josh, what a coincidence, I worked in a glass and window shop one summer back before college. We enjoyed getting pieces of tempered glass that was not the right size or had a flaw in it, because then we could make them explode. We have one of the scoring tools, but I've never had any luck with just trimming the edge of the glass. Should it work for small amounts like 1/16" - 3/16"?
Josh Shaffer
5/23/2011 at 11:10 AM
That small of an amount would be harder as it would be harder to get a grip on the piece you are snapping off.
2/11/2016 at 2:14 PM

Hi there - great article.. BUT you didn't give the most important piece of information - what website did you order from? Alt smile

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