How To Clean, Prep, & Frost An Exterior Window

We’re back to share a quick and easy window-frosting tutorial as promised last week. We knew our basement windows were completely devoid of privacy and therefore could use a bit of cover, but we didn’t want to hang heavy blinds that we kept perpetually closed since that would definitely rob the room of tons of light. Enter the idea of window film. We actually used it to frost the original master bathroom window after we moved in. Then we later replaced all of our windows and realized our private backyard didn’t provide a good view of the bathroom since it’s up so high, so we opted not to redo the frosting treatment afterwards. But the basement is certainly a lot easier to peer into than the bathroom, so out came the idea of window frosting film again.

We snagged a roll of it at Home Depot for $18.98 (we needed just one to do both windows and the large pane of glass in the door). Oh and the brand was called Gila if that helps anyone. We also grabbed a spray bottle of film adhesive along with a a tool kit complete with a squeegie-ish device and a knife to help with the application for seven more bucks. So for $26 we added privacy without blocking all the light that filters into the room and makes it feel less cave-like and dungeon-esque.

But before we got to the frosting fun we had some seriously dirty windows to deal with. Not only were they coated with dust and grime, they actually had Drylok spatters all over them (both inside and out- go figure!) so first we had to get them cleaned up and ready for their close up.

All the splatters were no match for a straight edge razor, which we always recommend using with extreme caution. Fingers are kind of important when you’re as obsessed with painting and projects as we are, so we guard ours with our life. Grippy gloves can help as long as they’re tight enough to feel snug and not cumbersome, and the best approach is always slow and steady. Of course you can grab a utility knife holder for even more control (which we recommend for your safety- this photo is just a pic of our process, not our suggested approach for others). So be extra safe, take a deep breath, channel the tortoise (as opposed to the hare), and watch that paint come peeling off!

You should be left with pretty darn clean windows, and following your little razor session with a glass cleaner wipedown should be all the prep you need. Basically you know you’re ready to frost your windows when they look so sparkly that it almost seems wrong to cover them up with anything. They’ll gleam like diamonds I tell ya.

But frost them you must (well you don’t have to, but in our case it was definitely the way to go). So the next step is to carefully measure each pane of glass that you want to frost. This is important because you’re not measuring the entire window if it’s made up of two side by side panes (like ours is above), so be sure to measure each glass pane individually, no matter how many there are in each window.

Then add an inch on each side of those measurements, so if your window is 15″ wide by 20″ tall you will write down 17″ by 22″ (an inch on each side means adding two inches to each measurement). Then it’s time to whip out the roll of frosting film from the box. It’ll look like a long roll of white wrapping paper with a shiny clear side and a more matte frosted side. Now’s the cutting and measuring part. Grab a ruler (or a t-square if you have one on hand) and measure and cut boxes out of the film that meet the measurements that you recorded (the ones with extra inches on each side, not the exact measurements of the windows). You can either use a pencil to trace each box out onto the matte frosted side and then cut them out OR just cut without drawing anything out (being sure you end up with a box that’s pretty close to the larger measurements you recorded).

After you cut out a slightly oversized square of window film for each pane you’re ready to separate the film from the glossy plastic backing, which can easily be done by placing a piece of tape on each side of a corner (being careful not to let the tops touch or they’ll just stick together completely). They should each adhere to their respective side so you’ll be able to use them to separate the frosting film (seen below on the left) from the clear plastic protective backing (seen on the right) which won’t be applied to the window in the end.

So go ahead and pull those two layers apart about halfway down the square until it looks a little something like this:

It definitely helps to have two people for this job by the way. That way one person can hold the half-peeled film up while the other sprays the window and then both sides of the frosted part of the film with the application solution (ours was called Gila Window Film Application Solution by the way). Note: we’ve heard you can forgo buying the application spray and just fill a spray bottle with water and a drop of dishwashing liquid, but since we didn’t have an empty spray bottle and use eco-detergent (which we weren’t sure would work since it’s plant based) we opted to just buy the Glia solution for $3.50 since it was cheaper than buying a spray bottle and more mainstream dish detergent). We have also heard that some frosting films only require water to adhere them, so be sure to read the directions included with yours.

Once the window and half of the back side of the frosting film (as shown in the image above) is adequately misted (along with the entire front part) it’s time to apply it to the window pane. Thanks to the inch of leeway on each side of the film there’s no worry about placing it perfectly and you can easily trim things down to a perfectly snug fit once you get them more securely in place.

The film should stick pretty well to your window, but won’t look seamless at all at this point. Oh and you can pull off the other half of the clear plastic film (while someone else holds the frosted piece in place from the top two corners of the window). Now the only layer on the window is the frosted film with about an inch of overlap on each side. You’ll see tons of bubbles and streaks but fret not.

Here’s where the fun plastic squeegie-thing comes in handy. Just glide it across the window film to push all those dastardly bubbles out to the edges of the film (where they’ll magically disappear). Do this for as long as it takes to remove all the bubbles for a near-perfect and seamless look (except for that extra inch of film around the edge of the pane). It’s worth noting that the edges of the film might look a bit bubbled and won’t form a tight seal on the window until they’re trimmed down to fit, so don’t worry about a little imperfections around the perimeter of the pane, just get the rest of the window looking great.

Then take an exacto knife and carefully place it firmly between the edge of the window pane and the window trim (our exacto came in the kit with the plastic squeegie thing that we grabbed for $4- so worth it just for that yellow squeegie thing). Hug the window frame tightly as you slowly pull the knife, using the edge as a guide for a perfectly trimmed piece of frosted film that ends right where the window frame begins.

And that my friends is how it’s done. Really, it’s easy! As long as you have an extra person on hand (and aren’t trying to cut your frosted film exactly to the size of your windows- the inch overlap and trimming method really results in the best fit) it should be relatively straightforward.

It probably took us less than eight minutes per pane, so we did the entire basement in under 40 minutes. And for $26 we were left with a soft frosted look that gives us privacy without blocking all that pretty daylight that comes in handy when we’re down there looking for something (or, let’s be honest, just standing there admiring our new room).

Oh and it bears mentioning that the frosted film is 100% privacy effective. As in, no matter the time of day or the light level inside or outside, you can’t see through it. Which is definitely nice (how annoying would all that work be if it was only semi-effective?). But as you can see from the photo below, the light still streams into the room right through the film.

Which is really quite amazing since we worried that it might get dark and spooky down there with the addition of the frosted film. Not the case! So we can still easily admire all the other projects that we’ve completed along with our new “privacy please” windows. Like the paint storage station, the vertical bike rack, the carpet square area rug

… the new overhead light fixture, the DIY screen, the see-through armoires that we obscured with wrapping paper, and all the other undertakings we’ve slowly accomplished over the last one and a half months.

So that closes the door (har-har) on the window-frosting tutorial and the room’s overhaul as a whole.

All that’s left is a little basement roundup post full of photos from start to finish and an always-fun budget breakdown that details the entire cost of our latest major makeover. So as we say so often around here, stay tuned…

Oh and we’d love to hear what window-related projects you guys have recently taken on or put on your to-do list. Any fellow frosting film fans out there? Do tell.

Psst- Want to look back on our big basement makeover from start to almost-finished? Here’s the first post, the second post, the third post, the forth post, the fifth post, the sixth post, and the seventh post and the eigth post. Good times.






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