The Case of the Wind Blasted Glass
Dear Glass Detective,
High winds caused by a wildfire blew sand against my windows and pitted the glass. I don’t want the same thing to happen when I replace my windows. Will installing windows with “impact glass” mitigate this issue?
Let me begin by thanking you for contacting the Glass.com® Glass Detective with your question regarding the problems you now have with pitted glass after high winds from a wildfire blew sand against your windows. Before we dive into this issue, I want to express my well wishes for you and hope that no one was harmed during the events you experienced. I have been caught in sandstorms, and I know they can be brutal. I have not had the fire issue to ever deal with, and I genuinely hope to avoid it going forward. Please accept my best wishes as you deal with the aftermath of this. Now, back to the possible answers you are seeking.
First, without actually seeing or inspecting the damage, I want to let you know that, quite often, minor pitting or scratching of glass can be repaired and does not need to be replaced. There are scratch polishing machines that deal with damaged glass, and they are incredibly effective. However, before you try to find and hire someone to work on your glass, you may want to try to tackle this yourself. If the damage is not too severe, you may surprise yourself with what you can achieve on your own. Here is what I’m going to recommend if you want to take a shot at this:
Buy some cleaner used for glass cooktops or a product such as Barkeeper’s Friend® and follow the instructions for cleaning glass stovetops. This may prove effective for what you are referring to as pits. It may also prove effective on minor scratches. If the scratches prove too deep for this approach, buy some cerium oxide powder (or paste if you can find it) at your local hardware store. Cerium oxide, a rare earth compound, can be used as a polishing agent on glass and other ceramics. Polished and beveled edges on glass mirrors and tops have long been fabricated using cerium oxide (in a liquid slurry type mixture) as the polishing or grinding agent. The professionals who do scratch polishing on glass will typically use cerium oxide mixes and felt polishing wheels to get rid of scratches.
Two more things on this:
- If the scratches are too deep and you get overly aggressive in your polishing work to get rid of them, distortions can be created within the glass. This is because you are going to create multiple surfaces/uneven planes on the glass.
- This is where the pros with their polishing machines really come through. They can leave the glass they work on smoother and flatter than might otherwise be achieved by hand. But again, it may be worth your time and effort to give it a try. It will certainly be less costly for you if you can accomplish what you want on your own.
You also stated that you “don’t want the same thing to happen again” to your glass. If this is a real concern, you can apply a protective film to the exterior of your glass, which may prove quite helpful, especially in sand storms. It is called “Graffiti Film,” and it is regularly used on glass in business storefronts with concerns about having their windows etched or painted on by those nasty graffiti purveyors. The film is easily installed and can be removed and replaced just as quickly. A good window tinter (filmer) can provide and install this film for you with little hassle. It will leave your window a little less clear optically, but not by much if put on properly. The idea, of course, is that blowing sand or floating embers damage the film and not the glass. Indeed, the film is much less expensive than the glass and able to be easily removed and replaced. If you have done any window shopping at big-city downtown retail areas such as those in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, I am sure that you have looked through windows that have graffiti film on them; I doubt that you even noticed it. This type of film is also used in many fast-food restaurants on their doors, particularly on their washroom mirrors—seemingly a prime target for graffiti taggers.
Lastly, you asked if using what is known as “impact glass” might be a solution for you. It would not. Impact glass, typically used in hurricane zones or for other security concerns, is made with what I will refer to as “ordinary glass.” It is just layered (multiple pieces of glass) with PVB interlayers to hold it together. For comparison, think of your car windshield made with four or five thicker glass layers instead of the two thin pieces with an interlayer used now.
I hope this information is of some value to you. I have tried to stay on topic while keeping the response easy to understand. I do wish you good fortune going forward, and if you care to, please let us know what you ended up doing and how it worked out. We always like the feedback so we can learn from it and help other Glass.com® visitors in the future. Thank you again for contacting Glass.com®.
– Glass Detective