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Recycling Salvaged Window Glass for DIY Projects

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

recycled window glass

recycled window glass

New Uses for Old Glass

Glass salvaged from old windows or mirrored furniture, with a little imagination, has many uses around the home and garden for any DIY and Woodworker Enthusiast.

This article explores some of these possibilities including the reuse of glass as windows in cupboard doors; in built-in furniture, and as windows and in doors in garden sheds.

The examples and tips in this article include:

  • Reclaimed plate glass for windows and doors in garden sheds
  • Decorative glass in a windowed cupboard door in a built-in kitchen Larder
  • Decorative glass reclaimed from an old porch for windowed doors in a Welsh Dress
  • Salvaging mirrors from old dressing tables and reusing as wall mirrors
  • Quick guide on cutting glass, and
  • Engraving glass for Art Décor

It doesn't matter what type of glass it is, whether it's frosted or clear, single or double glazed, plain glass or toughened glass; all sheet glass has a potential in future DIY projects. And if using a double glazed unit as windows in a new shed there's the option to keep it as double glazed or split the panes to create two single glazed windows in your new shed.

One option, not covered in this article, but which is equally beneficial, especially for the keen gardener, is the reuse of old window glass as cloches and cold frames in the garden.

Although I'm not a hoarder I do evaluate the potential of any material when dismantling old redundant furniture or gutting a room during any home renovations, including wood, glass, metal, screws, nut and bolts, and if I think it has any worth and I have the storage space in my home workshop for it then I'll keep it just in case I or someone else can make use of it in the future; and quite often we can.

Other articles of mine on HubPages cover the storage of recycled wood and their use in DIY projects. This Article demonstrates uses for salvaged window glass in various DIY projects with a brief reference of where the recycled glass originally came from.

Decorative Glass

Decorative Glass

Why Recycle Old Glass

Why not Just Buy New Glass When Required

A good question, and yes if you go to the right supplier small pieces of glass isn’t expensive to buy, provided you don’t need the edges bevelled e.g. for a coffee table; and if it’s not bevelled the glazier can cut it for you on the spot.

However, apart from the fact that I don’t like waste glass doesn’t take up much storage space and it’s too hand if and when needed so you don’t waste any time and expense going out and buying just a small piece of glass, which if you had to hand you could have just carried on cutting to size (if required) to fit into your latest Home DIY Project. Sometimes it’s a case of modelling your design to fit the salvaged glass.

In Britain, if you need to replace glass in a window or door, or conservatory, there are strict building regulations on the types of glass that must be used; in which case you would buy new to ensure the glass met the appropriate standards laid down in the regulations; but for other small projects around the home and garden it’s more of a case of using common sense.

Using Reclaimed Glass

Below are examples of where salvaged glass has been recycled around the home and garden which may help inspire you with ideas for your own home DIY Projects.

Glass Recycled as Windows and Doors in My Garden Shed and Workshop

Semidetached Shed

The above picture is of a semi-detached shed built at the end of the garden many years ago; one side being my DIY home workshop and the other half (with its own separate entrance) is an informal kitchen extension e.g. storage area for food and drink which includes a large chest freezer.

Brief History of Our Shed

All the doors and windows were made by me using pressure treated wood, with the doors being faced with exterior plywood. It was a shed with good fortune in that all I ended up paying for was the bricks and mortar, the slabs for the floor, roofing material, guttering, a few bits of wood, and 1 a sheet for five sheets of plate glass, so the total cost of the build was less than 700; if I had paid a builder at the time it would have cost about 5,000.

The reason for the bargain build was that not long after I'd started the build the owners of the local DIY store where I was buying most of my supplies decided to retire and as I was a regular customer offered to give me all the wood I required for the rafters and sell me five of their plate glass display cabinet shelves for just 1 each; and they were kind enough to deliver it all free of charge.

So I designed all the windows and doors (except one window) to fit around the five plate glass sheets that were originally part of a display cabinet in the local DIY store. The glass for the main window, looking out from the home DIY workshop bench, was one half of a double glazed window which a builder salvaged for me when we had our living room replaced with French Doors; the other half of the double glazed window was stored and later used as a window in the side of a small potting shed.

The window sills on the side of the shed (home DIY workshop entrance) are from several pieces of 50mm (2 inch) slate I found just laying around the garden when we first moved in; and for the front end facing the house I used a spare coping stone for the windowsill. The soffit is a more recent addition being an offcut left by a builder when we had our fascia boards replaced.

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Building Requirements

I get the impression from reading other articles that building requirements for sheds are a lot stricter in America than they are in England. Generally, in Britain sheds, greenhouses and summer houses, and often conservatories attached to the house are considered in 'Planning Terms' as temporary structures and therefore don't need any planning consent; provided these temporary structures take up less than half the garden space. I'd be interested to learn more about what's required in America.

Recycled Glass Used in Glazed Vent of Shed Extension

Small Garden Tool Shed

Always begrudging wasted space and looking for ways to better utilise space I saw an opportunity a few years ago to fit a small shed extension (at the back of the main home DIY workshop shed) which would be ideal for housing a few basic garden tools such as garden fork, spade, rake and hoe, and with a couple of side shelves space for storing the smaller garden tools.

It was while conceiving this idea that we had a couple of skylights fitted in the house to give extra natural light and better ventilation (in the summer months) to the upstairs home office and one of the bedrooms located on the side of the house where the roof slopes. After the builders had fitted the two skylights they kindly left the spare roof tiles which I thought would be ideal for the roof of the shed extension I was planning.

Also at this time I was helping a friend with some internal renovations in his house which included removing a pre-war (2nd world war) glazed pantry vent (no longer required) and then utilising the gained space to create shelving space for spices. For my help I was given the old vent which required some work to clean-up and a new piece of glass; but once restored would provide ideal ventilation for the shed extension. One thing about the British weather (as damp as it is) is that unheated sheds not properly ventilated will get damp, so when building a shed I always ensure there is sufficient ventilation to guarantee a good air flow to keep the interior dry; just as air vents below the DPC (damp proof course) help to keep the sub-floor of houses properly vented to avoid damp and leading to wood rot of the floor joists.

The vent was thickly covered with multilayers of gloss paint which had built up over the decades of repaints. Therefore, while burning garden waste I just threw the vent on the bonfire to burn off all the paint. The following day, once it cooled, I retrieved the vent from the ashes, gave it a good clean with a wire brush. Then I gave the vent a good coat of brown Hammerite metal paint before re-glazing it with a spare bit of previously salvaged plate glass and fitting it into the side of the shed extension. I can't remember where I got this sheet of glass from but obviously I had to cut it to size (with a glass cutter) to fit the vent.

Garden Tool Shed

Garden Tool Shed

Engraving Glass for Art Décor

Of course if you recycle old glass there may be occasions when you may wish to be ambitious and engrave a bit of Art Décor on some of your projects. If you’ve never done this before rather than pay out for expensive tools that you may never use again one option is to buy a Dremel and an engraving kit, and experiment on a few pieces of scrap glass.

If you then find you don’t get on with this then the Dremel itself is a handy little tool that has hundreds of other practical DIY uses around the home.

Simple How to Guide on Cutting Glass to Size

And Cutting Mirrors for Reframing

Cutting glass is so easy it's probably one of the simplest DIY jobs that most anybody could do:

  1. Measure and mark where you want to cut (usually just a little mark with a felt tip pen)
  2. Use a glass cutter and straight edge just simply score the glass once, in one clean but quite firm swoop; just like cutting tiles. You'll know when you've got it right because you'll hear and feel the glass being scored and you'll be able to see the scored line. If you make the mistake of going over the line a second time with the glass cutter then the glass is less likely to break where intended.
  3. Once the glass is scored place a piece of wood under the glass just in front of the scored line and give the far end of the glass a light but firm push with your hand, at which point the glass should snap cleanly along the scored line.

If you're resizing an old mirror after cutting it to size you'll need to frame it primarily because where the glass is newly cut although clean and straight will be slightly jagged and visually noticeable if not hidden by a frame.

When framing glass you need to make the frame 1/8 inch (4mm) wider and taller than the glass itself to ensure a good fit. The glass can be held in place with a couple of small panel pins either side over which you apply putty or with wooden beading.

If for any reason I need a small piece of glass for glass shelving or as a protective surface for a coffee table and I don't have any suitable glass available I'll nip up to the local glazier to get the glass cut to size. Ordinary glass isn't suitable for these purposes as its too brittle and fragile; for these projects I use plate glass with is very durable and safe. If I do need to buy plate glass for these it's not expensive and can be cut on the spot while you wait.

The expense comes if the glass is for a table top (coffee table) where the edges will need to be bevelled smooth for safety and visual effect; for shelving it's not necessary as the straight cut is safe enough and visually ok. If you're having the glass cut to size, or you're cutting your own plate glass, for a protective surface for a coffee table you shouldn't put the glass straight onto the wood. It should be supported with little rubber feet; which are readily available in most DIY stores and have a sticky back surface to stick in each corner on the underside of the glass.

Recycling Old Glass to Make Glass Door for Kitchen Larder

Built-in kitchen Larder Based on Design of 1950s Style Freestanding Larder

Like for like; the glass in the door of this built in kitchen larder originated from the glass door my grandmother's 1950s free standing larder; as does the fixed enamel bread board shown in the image below.

When my grandmother's 1950s free standing larder became mine we had nowhere to put it so I dismantled it for the wood keeping the glass and enamel bread board in the event that I could find a future use for them.

Years later, when we decided to renovate our kitchen I saw an opportunity to fit a built in larder in a corner of the kitchen between two doors. Therefore, after taking all the appropriate measurements I designed a new larder (to fit the available space) based on the style of my grandmother's 1950s larder and incorporated both the glass and enamel bread board from the original larder.

For the new larder door I used a sheet of pine cutting a rectangular hole in the middle to fit the glass and rebated the edge of the hole with the router, as shown in the picture above.

Kitchen Larder Door

Kitchen Larder Door

Glass Reclaimed From Old Front Porch to Make Glass Doors in Welsh Dresser

Glass Recycled From Original Front Porch

In this final example the glass for the two glass panelled doors was salvaged from the front porch when we renovated it and replaced the old small glass squares with larger glass windows; storing these small decorative panes in the shed in the event of possible future use.

Then just a few years ago we decided to remodel the dining room, and as part of the redesign decided to replace book shelves with a built in welsh dresser above an existing built in cupboard (set into the alcove); matching the design and colour of the Welsh Dresser (with the three drawers) to the built in cupboard below.

As part of the design I decided to use some of the small decorative glass panes and incorporate them into the two doors. Although it may not be obvious from the photo I used the same method as for the built in larder mentioned above; namely cutting three squares into a sheet of pine for one of the doors and then repeating the process for the other door, each hole cut to size to fit each pane of decorative glass. The pine was then stained with dark wood stain to match the existing built in cupboard.

Built into Alcove Welsh Dresser

Built into Alcove Welsh Dresser

Recycling Mirrors from Old Furniture

The picture above shows an old mirror I salvaged from an old dressing table and with the aid of modern mirror mounting clips rehung as a wall mirror in our remodelled bathroom.

Equally productive as salvaging glass is the recycling of old mirrors. Often mirrors in old furniture, such as old dressing tables, provided they are in good condition, can be salvaged for future use; even if you dispose of the furniture itself. It's often worthwhile salvaging these mirrors as with a bit of imagination they can be suitably remodelled for other uses e.g. wall mirrors.

The mirrors once removed from their original fittings can either be hung 'as is' straight onto the wall or a new frame (in any style, including contemporary); the frame can be made to fit the mirror or the mirror can be cut to size to fit the frame.

Bathroom Mirror

Bathroom Mirror

I don’t consider salvaging as hoarding provided it is eventually recycled and not just kept in the event that it may one day be useful. Obviously, it’s not possible to re-use everything that’s salvaged and put to one side in the shed but as long as most of it gets recycled then from a green perspective it’s serving a purpose; and it can be fun to be creative.

The Extent to Which You Recycle

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Arthur Russ

Your Views on salvaging and recycling glass - And any other useful tips

Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 15, 2017:

Thank you Cynthia and Nonya for your comments; greatly appreciated.

nonya222 on September 26, 2013:

Your recycled glass ideas are great. I also use old glass and mirror in mosaic pieces.

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 05, 2013:

You have some very good uses for recycling glass, I do stained glass work and it is difficult to find some types of glass to make repairs on antique stained glass. Unless I can find old glass I have to use new which never looks and good as the old.

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