How to replace curved glass on an old china cabinet


A reader’s dog broke this china cabinet’s glass while chasing the cat. (Reader photo)
August 27, 2014

Question: My dog ran into my china cabinet while chasing the cat. No damage to the dog or contents, but major damage to the curved glass. The cabinet is oak and from an estate sale 35-plus years ago, so it doesn’t have any sentimental value, but it’s pretty. Any ideas where I might get new glass, or is it even worth it?

— Charles Town, W.Va.

Answer: Dodson’s Curved Glass in Frederick (301-662-0020) makes replacement glass. You can order it directly from the company or through a glass shop or an antiques restorer.

One advantage of going through a restorer is that someone else will take care of measuring for the replacement and installing it, a process that involves nailing thin strips of wood around the edges on the inside. “One little nail you hit wrong, and the glass breaks,” said David Wells, owner of Carrison’s Restorations, an antiques restorer in Manassas (703-369-6318; www.carrisonsantiquerestoration.com). He said replacement glass runs about $100 to $200 if it has a uniform curve, which is the kind of situation Dodson’s deals with. If the glass has a flat section and then curves, Wells orders it from a company in Michigan and the cost of one piece rises to $400 to $800. Wells charges $100 and up for installation, depending on how the furniture was designed. If the glass fits into a groove on one side and has a wooden stop only on the other side, the job is a lot quicker and less risky than when wooden strips secure the glass on all sides.

Ordering a new piece of curved glass involves determining not just the height of the glass and the length of the curve, but also the radius of the curve. B&L Antiqurie in Lexington, Mich. (800-840-1110; www.bentglasscentral.com), which bends glass sheets into custom shapes, describes the measuring process on its Web site.

Question: We have an old, wooden hot tub that we enjoyed for many years. We went on a foreign assignment about 10 years ago and, for insurance reasons, emptied the hot tub when we rented out our house. When we returned, the wooden planks had shrunk and the tub didn’t hold water. We tried to fill the gaps with epoxy, but that didn’t work, and we have been unable to find anyone in the area who either repairs hot tubs or carries and installs them. Can our existing tub be repaired? Or is there someone in the area who carries and installs new wooden hot tubs? We need one about five feet in diameter because ours is set into a small deck and there isn’t space for something larger. We also prefer to stay with a wooden tub.

— Cabin John

Answer: Assuming the wood hasn’t rotted, you might want to start by trying to coax the fibers to swell up again. It can take several weeks, but if it works, it’s essentially free.

Preparation includes scraping off any remaining epoxy, making sure any groove joints in the stages (sideboards) line up properly and tightening the metal band or bands around the outside, after first measuring the height to make sure each metal strip is level. Then moisten the tub with water and keep it damp. Jill Peck, customer sales associate at Snorkel (800-962-6208; www.snorkel.com), a Seattle company that makes wooden, wood-fired hot tubs, said one way to do this is to sprinkle the tub with water from a hose or splash on buckets of water, preferably warm. Wait half an hour, and do it again. Repeat several more times. Then spread sopping-wet towels over the sides of the tub. Keep those soaked for two weeks. Try filling the tub. If you’re lucky, the gaps will be swollen shut.

If that doesn’t work, or if you want professional help from the beginning for tricky steps such as knowing just how much to tighten the bands, try Jack Marshall of Marshall Pool and Spa (202-244-5005; marshallpoolspa@verizon.net), which is moving from McLean to Reston next month. Marshall still repairs and sells wooden hot tubs; one company that deals only in plastic tubs recommended him and said he’s the only one they know of who still does.

Marshall doesn’t charge to make a house call in the Washington area to offer advice and give an estimate. If the project is interesting or challenging, he’ll travel as far as the Eastern Shore, Central Virginia, eastern West Virginia or southern Pennsylvania. His guess, without having seen your hot tub, is that if it sat empty for 10 years, some of the wood might have begun rotting, and the wood fibers might be too shrunken to swell sufficiently.

If you do decide to order a new wooden hot tub, he can give you options for ones the same size. Hot tubs made of cedar or redwood cost least; ones of teak or jarrah (a tropical hardwood) are pricier. Expect to pay several thousand dollars.

If the existing tub can’t be saved and you need a less expensive option, Marshall can order a plastic liner sized to fit snugly into the tub. That might cost $750 to $1,000 plus labor for installation, which varies. Of course, that changes the texture you’d feel when you used the tub. “It gives the tub a plastic interior,” he said. “It defeats one of the reasons for wanting wood.”

Have a problem in your home?

Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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