Read our guide on window tinting and learn how to tint your own windows and give your home a whole new look. When people think about window tint, they usually think about vehicle windows. Window tint has many uses beyond your car windows. Most stores and buildings with large plate glass windows use tint to keep the Sun at bay. The primary benefit of using window tint in your car or your home is to reduce the damage the sun does to your furniture and cut down on the heat windows let into your house.
If you decide to tint your windows, the first step is learning about tint. Each version of window tint comes with pros and cons. We won’t go into too much detail on their pros and cons, so you need to do a little research on your own before you settle on a type of tint. However, we will give you a brief rundown of each type to get you started.
Window tint versions include:
- Dyed Window Film: this is a cheap film and uses dye to reduce the amount of light that passes through the film. It will fade over time and turn purple, but it's cheap, and you can find it in any automotive parts store.
- Ceramic Window Film: this is relatively new window tint material. You may need to order it online since it’s unlikely any local retailers carry this type of film. It's expensive, but it reduces the amount of ultraviolet light and infrared light that enters your windows.
- Carbon Window Film: this is often called carbon fiber window tint. This tint is rather expensive, but it doesn't fade quickly and blocks most ultraviolet rays.
- Metal or Metalized Window Film: this tint isn’t cheap, but it gives your windows a mirrored look. It blocks most exterior light while giving you a view from the inside. However, due to the type of material used in the film, it may cause issues with radios, digital TV antennas, and phones.
- Metal Dyed Hybrid Window Tint: this film is less expensive than the other except the dyed film. It’s a combination of metal and dyed films intended for automotive use originally.
Consider using a tint that doesn’t block anything but harmful light rays. Like us, you probably hear window tint and think of darkly tinted windows, but some modern window tint is invisible yet still blocks most ultraviolet rays. If you’re aiming to cut down on harmful light and want to get all the available light you can, consider buying an invisible tint. Be prepared to pay well for it.
Do your homework and find out all you can about local laws and regulations that govern window tinting. We usually think about car windows when we consider legal issues, but some homeowners associations and local municipalities don’t allow tinting residential windows for various reasons. Their reasons may be silly, but you must follow the rules.
Gather the Right Tools for the Job
Before you begin a tinting project, assuming you know what kind of tint you want to use, you need to put together a basic toolkit. Your window tinting job will be easier, and you’ll be prepared to correct any mistakes along the way. We recommend buying a simple kit like this one. You’ll need a few other items as well including:
- Clean spray bottles
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lint-free rags
- Extra razor blades (yes, more blades)
- A heat gun or hair dryer
Applying Window Tint to Any Glass Surface in Four Steps
These steps work on most types of flat or curved glass surfaces. However, do not attempt to apply tint to frosted windows, texted glass, or insulated windows. It probably won't stick to frosted or texted glass for very long, and it's hard to get it on there anyway. You'll need to heat the tint a lot which may ruin it.
Check with the manufacturer before tinting any residential windows, especially insulated windows.
Clean the glass surface where you plan to apply the window tint. Use a good quality window cleaner or rubbing alcohol. If the window has pine tar or an adhesive on it, clean it with any decent commercial gum or adhesive remover then wash it again with alcohol. You're going to soak it again in a minute but dry the window thoroughly to ensure any contaminants are gone.
Do not work in direct sunlight or the window tint will rapidly become a sticky nightmare. Spray the window with water and plan to keep it wet while you work with the window tint to get it in position correctly. The water keeps the adhesive layer on the back of the tint from drying and sticking to the glass, so you have more time to work it into place.
Using your razor blades or razor knife, trim the film to fit your window. If this is your first window tinting project, buy extra tint because you won’t get this first cut right. Try to follow the edge of the window to keep the cut precise. Take your time and keep the window wet. Rushing may cause more mistakes, and you're using a very sharp razor blade.
Use your heat gun or hair dryer to heat the window tint gingerly and shape it to the window. You don’t need to get the curve perfect during this step, but you must make sure the window film is cut exactly right. Once you’re satisfied with the cut and shape of the tint, remove it from the window and set it aside for now. Put it on a soft, clean surface and keep it wet
Remove the backing from the window tint to expose the adhesive layer. Wet the window and the film thoroughly before you try to place it on the window. We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep the window and the film wet while you work with it. If you get it wrong or fold the tint somehow, start over instead of wasting time trying to fix it.
Once the window tint is back on the window and positioned correctly, start in the middle of the window with your squeegee and work your way, slowly, toward the edges until you move all the air and water out from beneath the window tint. Don’t use a rubber squeegee or anything that causes friction during this process. Carefully, use your heat gun or hair dryer if you need help shaping the tint.
Bonus Window Tinting Tips and Tricks
It’s pretty easy to put tint on a small window, but large surfaces may prove difficult. Once you cut the tint to the desired size and shape, get a friend to help you roll the tint onto the window and remove the backing at the same time. This method is complicated, and you must push the air out as you go instead of working from the middle of the window.
Never clean the tint right after you apply it to the glass. Do not open or close the window for at least two or three days either. Cleaning or subjecting the window tint to friction may ruin it or cause it to bubble up while you aren’t looking. For instance, bubbles that appear overnight are challenging to get rid of and usually leave a blemish on the window.
Keep the window glass and the tint cool except for shaping it with your heat source. Window tint stretches easily, and it won’t take extra heat or pulling to ruin the piece of tint you’re working with at the moment. It may be possible to correct a minor oops here and there, but a big stretch from overheating is something you can’t come back from usually.
If you manage to stretch tint and it doesn't want to lay flat any longer, the best option is to discard that piece and start over. You’ll waste a lot of time trying to fix it and probably end up throwing it away in the end. The same goes for folding, creasing, or overlapping the adhesive layer since any of these actions practically ruins the window tint.
Avoid tinting over old window film. Professionals may pull this off without problems, but it’s unlikely you will get the same results. Instead, buy tint that is the degree of darkness you want instead of layering the tint. Don’t forget our earlier tip about checking into invisible tint if your goal is just blocking out ultraviolet light.
Do your homework and make sure you have all the tools necessary before you begin a window tinting project. If this is your first-time tinting windows, buy extra tint and be prepared to mess up a few pieces. That might get painful if you opted for some of the more expensive types of window film. However, it’s better than an ugly window tinting job.
Window tinting for the first time may not as easy as we make it sound if it did sound easy to you. There’s a lot of tedious work and aggravation involved getting it cut right and positioned correctly on the window. However, it's a useful skill to master, and it might save you a few hundred dollars. The real secret to getting window tinting right is merely patience. Take your time and don’t rush it.