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How to Choose Glass Inserts for Your Front Door

How to Choose Glass Inserts for Your Front Door

Interior renovationsHow to Choose Glass Inserts for Your Front Door

When choosing a front door, one usually considers five essential factors: security, insulation, aesthetics, maintenance, and budget. However, there’s another factor that often takes precedence—lighting. And for that reason alone, more and more homeowners are opting for glass-panelled front doors.  

While you may think that a glass insert will hinder the other sought-after features you had in mind for your front door, think again. You simply need to know where to look and what to assess.

Given the near-endless models of front doors available on the market, variety means opening the door to a world of possibilities. So, let’s shed some light on the subject. 

Lite Front Door Characteristics

front door glass insert

Source: Canva

One thing’s for sure: a glass (or lite) front door doesn’t go unnoticed. Better yet, it rivals, at full force, the different models available on the market, like solid doors, even in terms of comfort and security. To help narrow down, and guide, your research, here are the main characteristics of exterior glass inserts:

A lite or half-lite door

Unlike a solid front door—whether wood, PVC, or aluminum—a lite door is made of, from top to bottom, a glass insert that sits between narrow lite door frames. Since it blends in seamlessly, it suits most architectural styles. This type of door can match the colour of the siding of the house or window frames. 

On the other hand, a half-lite front door strikes the perfect compromise between a solid and lite door. While these doors used to be made with a full panel on the bottom, and a glass insert on top, newer, more modern, models go above and beyond single-glazing, offering triple- or quadruple-glazing.

Standard or tailor-made glass

Currently, the market boasts a wide array of front door models, and that’s not to mention the companies that specialize in crafting exclusive, custom designs.

According to Stéphane Dubé, of Portes et fenêtres Lamater, glass inserts are categorized into two groups: standard shapes and tailor-made designs (non-rectangular shapes). 

“Typically, door glass is produced by three prominent companies: Novatech, Verre Sélect Inc., and Vitre-Art. Pricing [for front door glass inserts, Ed.] ranges from $300 to $1,000. The more intricate the glass design, the more costly it’ll be.”

Clear or acid-etched glass: All about privacy

Above all else, the main advantage of glass is that it allows natural light to stream in. However, to maintain a sense of privacy indoors, it’s best to carefully consider your door glazing. An acid-etched finish means concealing yourself from the prying eyes of passers-by while still enjoying ample daylight. 

You can also opt for semi-translucent or translucent glass, which allows light to stream in, yet subtly blurs what lies beyond. This optical illusion is achieved through various techniques such as sandblasting, frosting, etching, or texturing the glass surface. And, by favouring textured patterns, manufacturers give light to elegant, beautifully designed glass inserts.

Burglarproof glass: A must-have

This type of glass withstands impacts, fire, and warping, thus securing the home, and offering homeowners peace of mind, at home and away. Anti-burglary glass is often said to be layered. Security glass is made with two or three layers of glass. Each layer of glass is separated by a clear film (polyvinyl butyral). It’s the same technology used for car windshields.

Anti-burglary glass offers:

  • Better protection against burglaries;

  • Better thermal insulation (door glass inserts are a thermal bridge);

  • Better soundproofing;

  • Better resistance to fire and physical attacks.

Different Types of Glazing

front door glass insert

Source: Canva

Right off the bat, one might think that triple glazing is better compared to double, but that’s not always the case. Before choosing, consider the different factors involved. Here’s everything to know about the different types of glazing: 

Double-glazed

Double-glazing is achieved with two layers of glass, separated by a cavity filled with either air or gas inserts. Air, argon gas, or krypton (immobilized between two glass panes) are great insulation. Given that it’s more resilient than single-glazing, the latter can effectively insulate a home, thereby slowing down heat transfer and limiting heat loss. As such, cold air is retained throughout the summer much like warm air during winter, preventing issues like condensation. Additionally, the home isn’t affected by external noise pollution.

Triple-glazed

Triple glazing is the preferred option to optimize the energy efficiency of low-energy or passive homes. The detailed manufacturing process of triple-glazed windows provides excellent thermal performance, during both winter and summer

Windows are known culprits responsible for 10% to 15% of heat loss in households. With this in mind, one might assume that triple glazing, with air-, argon gas-, or krypton-filled cavities, is the way to go. However, this isn’t entirely true. While triple glazing is highly effective in cold, sun-sparse regions, it isn’t recommended for sunny regions. 

Decorative glazing

Although decorative glazing only accounts for a select portion of a front door, it’s often the main appeal of modern entry doors. This type of glazing, whether featured as an insert or applied to the panel, is typically translucent, coloured, frosted, or acid-etched. It comes as a single piece or an amalgamation of geometric patterns or abstract shapes that seamlessly blend together, reminiscent of a mosaic or stained glass window. 

It showcases all the appeal of front doors. Whether modern or classic, it comes in a variety of textured backgrounds, granite-textured, bevelled glass pieces, and gray-toned glass, interspersed with nickel or patina cames…

Custom-made designs

Ornamented glazing is a bustling new trend that came about with the onset of undeniably talented manufacturers on the market. Their designs allow for tailoring front doors to showcase a unique and distinctive look. And, architects and designers are having a blast with it. 

There are countless combinations to be made: stainless steel or resin inlays, copper or aluminum plates, etc. 

How to Replace a Front Door Glass Insert

front door glass insert

Source: Canva

More and more homeowners are going the DIY route when it comes to home renovation projects. So, here’s a guide to replacing your front door’s glass pane. 

First, here’s a list of tools you’ll need:

  • Drill and bits

  • Lever bar scraper

  • Painter’s tape (strong enough to hold the frame but not too sticky as to not damage the paint on the door)

  • Gloves

  • Suction cups (optional—if proceeding without one, have help and work with a partner)

Note that the service life of a door is roughly 20 years. If your door is bent, distorted, or warped, it’s probably best to replace it altogether, rather than just the glass.

Few precautionary measures before starting:

  • To prevent mismeasuring the size of the glass pane, measure all around the outside frame of the opening, from top to bottom, then left to right. 

  • When removing the existing pane, hold on to the screws. Since they’re not entirely threaded, they can be used to tighten the window seal without crushing it.

  • Beware of the weight of the glass, it can easily weigh as much as 40-50 pounds.

  • Even if the glass is resilient, the corners and edging are still fragile. Glass is sharp; so wear gloves and handle with care.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Apply painter’s tape to the outside of the frame to temporarily secure the glass pane in place.

  • Using the scraper, carefully remove the pane moulding to access the assembly screws.

  • Unscrew each screw, starting at the top, and working your way down, but leave the middle screws to hold the glass.

  • Remove the bottom screw first, then the top one, while preparing for the pane to shift in the frame. Gravity will help the glass insert detach itself. If needed, use the scraper to gently remove it. 

  • Remove the painter’s tape, take out the frame, and place the glass on a mat or piece of cardboard.

  • Position to the new frame (always from the outside) while using some painter’s tape to hold it in place.

  • Clean any dust and dirt inside the frame using a dry rag.

  • Insert the new glass pane going in from the outside of the frame ensuring it’s oriented correctly since it isn’t interchangeable. (The manufacturer’s label on the glass will indicate this.) 

  • The clearance around the glass, and the door frame, is meant for the expansion joint.

  • Reposition the frame and start tightening the assembly screws, starting with the middle one, then the top, and finally the bottom.

  • Continue with the screws located in the corners, and then secure these last ones ensuring they compress the window seal properly. 

  • Reinstall the glass pane moulding to conceal the screws, starting with the corners and then pressing down toward the middle.

No surprise here, but hiring a professional has its advantages. As mentioned by Stéphane Dubé from Portes et fenêtres Lamater, “Having your glass pane installed by a contractor ensures the work is done according to industry standards and warranties.”

PRO TIPS, courtesy of Stéphane Dubé’s, from Portes et fenêtes Lamater

If you decide to replace the glass insert on your door yourself, at least do it with a partner. It’ll minimize any risk of breaking the glass. First, remove the screw caps on the inside of the door, then unscrew the moulding to take out the old pane. Consider applying Adseal, a sealant, in the corners before reattaching the moulding to conceal the screws. Gently screw in the moulding to not overtighten.

Cost-Effective Solutions

front door glass insert

Source: Canva

Here are three cost-effective solutions:

  • To save money, consider opting for a half-lite door rather than a full-lite one. In some cases, prices vary based on whether the pane is translucent or semi-translucent.

  • Remodelling is also a worthwhile option. If your current front door is still in good condition, a glass insert is definitely worth considering. The variety of glass pane styles and sizes retail for one-third of the price of a new front door and can revamp just about any door.

  • Albeit it’s not as energy efficient as double-glazing, improving single-glazing with a secondary pane can still offer added comfort and lessen outdoor noise pollution.

What about energy efficiency?

To reduce costs, choose high-quality double or triple glazing. You'll save energy and ensure a comfortable indoor temperature, year-round.

Another option is to rely on current industry standards for front door glass inserts. These standards ensure ceiling temperatures during periods of intense heat, reducing the need for air conditioners and limiting energy consumption in new buildings. Note that triple-glazed panes offer the best thermal and sound insulation.

Get 3 quotes for your front door glazing replacement

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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