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What’s the Best Replacement Glass for a Condo Window?

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The Case of the Cosmopolitan Condo


Dear Glass Detective,

I need to replace four window panes in a fifth-floor condo. The current glass is thermopane and I would like to replace it with tempered safety glass because it seems to be less expensive. Should I have any concern about falling glass or are both types relatively safe in that regard?

-Earl P. New York, NY



Thank you for making contact with the Glass Detective regarding the need to replace four broken insulating glass units in your New York Condominium. You used the term “thermopane” which is quite commonly used to describe insulating glass units. Because it is technically an actual manufacturer’s trade name, we will use the generic description of insulating glass unit, or IG here, I trust you are okay with this.

I, too, live in a condominium, Earl, in a large metropolitan area and because you state that you live on the fifth floor of a New York condominium, I am going to assume that it is a sizeable structure. I am also going to assume that there are certain rules and regulations that apply to the glass being used in the building so that there is conformity of appearance. I know that in my condo, I can choose the manufacturer of insulating glass units to be replaced in my unit and I can choose the glazing company that I would like to have do the work. But the glass must meet a specification put in place for the building so we don’t end up with a checkerboard look on the exterior façade of our property. The installer also must be licensed and show proof of insurance before starting work.

Assuming you have the same requirements (or something similar) for your building, I would suggest you contact the management team at your complex to find out what is, and is not, allowed. They may also have a recommendation or two for glass shops in your area that have been used successfully in the past to do glass replacement in your building.

Now, if by chance none of what I have stated above is an accurate description of the situation, we still are not off the hook relative to what we can and cannot use for glass replacement in your condo. Specifically, we still have to deal with your city and state codes for glass installations. For your sake, I am hoping that your condo association has some experience in these matters and can quickly inform you as to what might be allowed for glass replacements taking into consideration the condo rules and code requirements. I cannot tell you definitively what you should use in a New York condo to replace broken glass on the fifth floor. I think in a very short period of time, you will know more about this than I do, and if you would like to share what you learn with me, I would be most appreciative.

My last piece of advice is to always try to find and work with a reputable glass shop that is experienced in the work you are looking to have performed. If at all possible, check their references. I recently had a very large replacement/repair job done on my condo, and when selecting the contractor, I first got a recommendation from the condo management office and then talked with two other condo owners who had used this firm previously. Both of the condo owners in my building who had previously used this contractor were quite pleased with their work and pricing and not surprisingly, I was also quite satisfied when they were finished with my work.

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Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management. Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon. Find out more about Lyle on Linkedin.

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One Response

  1. Mr. Hill,
    I am searching for expertise on condominium window pane replacement. Any information you can provide will be most appreciated.
    I live in a high rise condo in Tampa, FL. The Condominium HOA wants to set up a reserve for window pane replacement. We current have insulated double pane tempered glass window panes and would like replacements to be of equal quality or better. Can you provide an estimated life of this type of window pane?
    The current windows are installed in aluminum window frames with inside and outside gasket material. The building has several different size window panes installed in the aluminium frame work to give the appearance of large windows. Most window sections are approximately two feet by four feet. Can you provide and estimated material and labor cost per square foot of window pane replacement? We have approximately 25,000 square feet of windows.
    Can you also provide and estimated life for the window panes described?
    Also, your comments on how a window pane reserve is usually set up, would be most helpful. Is it common to change out the windows after X years of life, or is it better to replace window panes as needed when the window seal is broken? In the case of changing out window panes when the seal is broken, how much reserve is normally provided to cover the costs?
    Thank you for any help you can provide.

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