A reader used the abrasive side of a kitchen sponge to clean the glass on this window, and in the process, scratched the panes. (Reader photo)

Q: I have a large kitchen window that was installed around 1986. I don’t recall the manufacturer, but it could be Andersen. The window is single-pane glass with 16 panes, eight over eight, with an overall size of about 5 feet by 5 feet. Two of the panes had stubborn stains, so I, unfortunately, used the abrasive side of a kitchen sponge to clean the glass. In the process, I scratched the panes.

Replacing the window would cost about $2,500, so I don’t want to do that. Is it possible to replace just the two panes? A few years ago, I had a company put medium-dark film over the 16 panes to reduce the strong sun that comes through the window, so I would have to replace that as well as the panes.

Is there a company that would be able to fix my window? If so, how much do you think it would cost?


A: Before you resort to replacing the glass, try rubbing the scratched area with paste wax — the kind you’d use on furniture. Rub on just a little, wait for it to haze over (a sign that the solvent in it has evaporated), then polish with a clean cotton cloth. If you’re lucky, the wax will fill in the scratches and make them far less noticeable.

A reader wants to know what caused this shutter paint to bleed onto the vinyl siding, and what to do about it. (Reader photo)

If you still see more scratches than you are willing to accept, the next step is to figure out whether your window consists of individual panes or whether it is one big sheet of glass with dividers on one side. If there are individual panes, a local glass company can replace them. Delray Glass in Alexandria (703-683-1114; delrayglass.com), for example, will send someone to your house at no charge to assess the situation and offer an estimate. Delray can also recommend companies that can match the tinted film on your window. Delray’s minimum charge for glass and labor to replace a single pane is $295, but the price per pane drops as you add more sections.

However, Tina Ray, an estimator, cautioned that the company does not replace glass on Andersen or Pella windows. “We can’t even get into the frames to get to the glass,” she said. “They don’t tell you that when they sell you these windows.”

If your window was made by Andersen Windows & Doors (800-426-4261; andersenwindows.com), one of the corners will have an upside-down triangle with the letters AW inside. Andersen has been marking its windows that way since the 1950s. Next to the symbol would be numbers or letters — a code for the year the window was made and the type of glass. Armed with the code, you can call Andersen and order what you need. A customer service representative, who declined to give her full name, said it would probably cost several hundred dollars for a window the size of yours.

Home Depot, which carries Andersen windows, can also order replacement glass through a different vendor, according to Grant Brauser, who works in the millwork department at Home Depot’s Alexandria store. He said that a window 5 feet by 5 feet probably has two framed sections, each about 5 feet by 30 inches. Replacing one section with double-pane glass would cost $398, plus $30 if you opt to have argon between the sheets to boost the window’s energy efficiency. You might also need a replacement grill that you could install on the inside to mimic the look you have now.

Whether you order from Andersen or Home Depot, you probably would also need a contractor to remove the old glass and install the new piece. Home Depot can refer you to licensed contractors who have experience with this, but only once you are placing an order, Brauser said. Home Depot does offer window installation directly, but only for replacing whole windows, not just the glass. The company offers free consultations for that, however, so you might want to arrange for a visit to explore your options. A new window the same size could cost as little as $350 or up to $800, Brauser said. “It’s often cheaper to replace the whole window,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy.”

Q: My red-painted shutters have bled onto our vinyl siding. The shutters have not been repainted in 20 years (at least). Is this the result of power-washing the vinyl siding? More important, how do I fix it?


A: Yes, the red stains on the siding are almost certainly coming from the red paint on the shutters, through a process known as chalking. Spray from power-washing undoubtedly played a role in accelerating this process, which was probably already occurring slowly on its own.

Chalking occurs because the resin that binds pigment particles in paint gradually breaks down over time. This frees the pigment particles, so they wash away. If you were to wipe a white cloth across a shutter, you would undoubtedly see some of the color on the cloth. Chalking, in moderation, is actually a desirable feature of paint; it means the house can eventually be repainted without adding so much to the thickness of the paint. That reduces the risk of peeling.

Chalking is just surface dust, so you should be able to wash it off using a little household detergent in water. Or, if it’s very stubborn, you could use TSP or a TSP substitute, said Joe Turkoc, a customer service representative for the paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams (800-474-3794; sherwin-williams.com).

Repainting the shutters will help keep the problem from recurring. Paint chalks more as it ages, so having a new coat on top should stop it for quite a few years. Also, oil-based paint, which was typically used on exterior trim 20 years ago, chalks more than latex paint, which is what you would probably use today. Just be sure to use a good-quality exterior paint, and follow the recommended prep steps listed on the label.

If for some reason you can’t remove the stains on the siding, it is possible to paint over them with latex paint matched to the color of the siding.