I have a beautiful big bay window in my living room. I love it. It was one of the reasons I decided to take the flat.
It’s also disgusting.
I’m not sure exactly when my flat was last shown some structural or decorative love, but it was definitely several decades ago. The windows are representative of this problem.
You see, they’re single glazed. This in itself isn’t an issue: it’s not an especially cold flat, and I tend to feel too hot most of the time anyway. However, at some point someone apparently decided they wanted double glazing instead. All well and good, you’d think, except that instead of replacing the single glazed windows with double glazed ones, they just added an internal set of ugly plasticky windows.
I’d never seen anything like it before.
There are several problems with having internal secondary glazing. One of the main ones is hygiene. They’re very hard to keep clean.
In order to clean between the panes of glass, you have to remove the internal glazing. This is not a quick and easy job. But you’ll probably want to do it anyway, because disgusting things happen when you have secondary glazing. For example, small insects fly through the little gaps between the internal and external glazing, and then they die there, making your windowframes into an insect graveyard.
This then encourages spiders to move in, so when you finally get around to removing the secondary glazing entirely, you will discover several large arachnids, along with their nest of eggs and babies. This is not a pleasant thing.
Unless you have excellent ventilation, the windowframes between the internal and external glazing will get damp and humid and begin to flake and rot.
Your windows will look truly awful, in other words. So what you’ll probably want to do is get rid of the internal glazing entirely. If you have enough money, it’s probably worth getting a professional to come out and replace the windows with entirely new double-glazed ones. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind single glazing, though, you can do it yourself.
Removing the panes isn’t too difficult.
First: the ones that don’t move. If your windows are anything like mine, you’ll probably have some that slide up and down, allowing you to open the outer windows, and some that don’t move at all. Oddly enough, the ones that don’t move are the ones that are easier to take away.
Along the bottom of the pane, you’ll see a sticky-outy bit of metal. In the picture above, this is just to the left of the screwdriver.
Place your hands under this little metal bit and push upwards. Theoretically the pane will lift up a bit, at which point you should pull it gently towards you and wiggle it. It’ll slide out. Make sure you don’t do this too quickly: panes of glass weigh quite a lot, especially when you’re lifting them from the bottom.
If nothing happens when you push up on the metal bit, you may need to give the pane a bit of encouragement. I used a screwdriver for this. Insert the screwdriver into a corner and wiggle it forcefully until you feel it moving. At that point, grip the metal bit at the bottom of the pane with your other hand and lift. The pane should now come free.
The panes that slide up and down are a little more complicated. You can’t just lift these out, because if they were made that way then they’d pop out every time you tried to slide one up, which wouldn’t be very helpful.
You will need to unscrew these bits, which will be situated about halfway up the full length of your window, at the place where the slidey-uppy pane meets the stationary one. Once you’ve unscrewed them, you should be able to swing the window pane down towards you.
As you can see, the pane is still attached at the sides, so you’ll need to locate those screws and unscrew them too.
Once you’ve done that, the pane should just lift out easily.
Repeat until you’ve removed all the internal glazing panes and you have a nice pile of dirty, slippery glass in your house. You’ll probably also have a small pile of dead insects on the floor from where the insect graveyard cascaded down from between the panes.
“Great,” you think to yourself, “job done.”
Now the hard bit begins: you have to take away the surroundings. In my house these seemed to be made of metal and plastic. There were also several large spiders living behind and around them, one of which nearly dropped on my head. You may want to keep a can of Raid at the ready, or whatever you use to kill or relocate spiders.
For this bit you’re going to need a screwdriver, a crowbar and a ton of elbow grease. Also, if you’re an arachnophobe like me, you’ll need nerves of steel. Did I mention the spiders?
First of all, take a look along the insides of the windows. You should be able to see large screws going from the sides of the internal glazing surround into the actual windowframe itself. If you can’t see any screws, they’re probably hiding behind paint. Use your screwdriver to gently knock some paint away until you can see where they are. On my windows, the screws were situated at the bottom, in the middle, and at the top, so six screws per window in total: three on either side.
The best thing to do, if you can, is to unscrew the screws. If possible, manoeuvre your screwdriver into an uncomfortable position and loosen the screws. If that’s not possible, you’re going to have to crowbar the window surrounds out and just fix the holes later. For me it was about 50:50 – some were unscrewable, some required brute force. The latter option will leave holes in your masonry.
Focus on one side at a time: if you don’t care about leaving a mess to clear up later, you may be able to just free one side using the screwdriver and crowbar, then free the other by simply pulling it toward you.
Eventually the window surround will come free with a satisfyingly loud cracking noise. Be ready to catch it, and be aware that a spider may drop on your head. I actually climbed a ladder to detach most of them after the spider incident, but that’s probably not recommendable because I think it’s technically unsafe.
Repeat this process on all your windows until you have a stack of surrounds to go with your stack of panes.
Now go and have a nice cup of tea. You’ve earned it.