Window repair done right

Window Glazing Compound

The Natural Handyman

Dear NH,
You said in one of your articles not to use latex window glazing in a caulk tube. Why? I have used DAP33, available only in cans, and I hate it. It takes forever to develop a skin so it can be painted. And it takes even longer for it to harden enough so it doesn't dent when even slightly touched. I used it on a window last fall, and when I removed it this August, it still wasn't hardened. A DAP representative suggested the tube. Is there another brand that's easier to work with and will harden more quickly?

I would appreciate your help as I need to start glazing immediately. I have an eight-paned sash and a plain sash to do before it gets cold in Illinois.
CK from Kankakee, IL

You can use the latex glazing product if you want to experiment. I have just found it to very sloppy, sticky and difficult to work with. However, if appearance is not as important as drying time, the latex glazing products win hands down!

Let's talk a little about window putty. First, regarding window putty drying time, it is definitely very slow drying. Even after weeks of remaining unpainted, putty in a cool, shady area will remain soft. However, believe it or not, this is a good thing!

Glazing putty is a mix of boiled linseed oil, calcium carbonate and probably other additives that remain the secret of the conspiratorial, world-dominating putty industry. It is mixed at the factory to a consistency that can be worked to a smooth surface without excessive sticking to the tool, or putty knife. Other putties, such as painter's putty, are chemically similar but often have a creamier consistency more suited to exterior hole filling. They are stickier and thus are difficult to use for window glazing.

Predating caulk by decades, window putty was designed to make a seal between dissimilar materials (glass and wood), to remain flexible for a long time, and to be paintable. This is a tall order, to say the least!

Putty's slow drying time is a byproduct of the way it dries, which is oxidation. The linseed oil reacts with oxygen in the air to harden the putty. Once the surface hardens slightly, called "skinning," the rate of drying decreases as the source of oxygen is diminished.

You mentioned that the putty took "forever" to skin over. Skinning is in the eye of the beholder. Skinning is surface hardening, not the type of rubbery layer that is typical of caulk. Skinned putty will no longer stick to the fingers, even though it may still be soft to the touch.

Putty that is painted very quickly, say within a day of application, may take years to harden since the paint (oil only) will further diminish the supply of oxygen.

Putty is not an adhesive, but does exhibit adhesive properties for much of its useful life. Then, as it becomes totally dry, it cracks and loosens, needing either touch up or replacement.

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