Members’ Guide to House Numbers

Last year, our doors were replaced during HIP– and with the original doors, away went the historic, gold-on-glass numbers for our unit!  Those original numbers were both elegant and unobtrusive, and I decided to re-apply gold numbers on our doors. It’s not hard or expensive to do– and so much nicer than vinyl stick on numbers.

Before giving instructions for how to apply gold letters on glass, let’s examine the requirements for house numbers in general.  House numbers are a practical matter– most importantly, emergency service workers need numbers to find your house. Universal building code includes them, and individual municipalities regulate them.  (The GHI member handbook does not have any rules about house numbers.) According to building code, you must have house numbers on the side of your house that faces the street, and also on any side of your house that faces a fire road, alley or access lane.  House numbers should be 4-6 inches high, and should visually contrast with the surface on which they are mounted.  And, lastly, numbers should be clearly visible from the street– not hidden by overgrown shrubbery. (

So, how do these rules apply to houses in GHI, which often do not face the street?  Since the goal is to expedite identification during emergencies, and make sure that out-of-town house-guests end up knocking on the right door, entrances should be clearly numbered on the service, or driveway, side.  On the garden side, if your house does not face a vehicle access point, there is more flexibility. Houses that face the woods may not need a number but houses that face the inner pathway do pedestrians a big favor by having a number.  

Let’s get back to the gold-on-glass numbering.  They are an easy and inexpensive DIY project that replaces a bit of the original fabric of the neighborhood.  I encourage you to give it a try.  (See my garden side and service side doors at these links.)


  • Krylon Gold Leafing Pen (Amazon, $8.65)
  • printout of your unit number, 4-6” characters  (Hint: position the characters about 2” from the top edge of the paper)
  • tape, black sharpie, and ruler
  • glass cleaner and paper towel

Note about numbers: Choose a very plain font because it will be easier to trace and easier to read from a distance. You do not want a typewriter font with “feet” on the characters.


  1. Pick a sunny day.  Tape up the printout of your numbers on a window, and trace the outline of the characters on the back of the paper with a sharpie.
  2. Tape up the paper on the outside of your glass, with the edge of the paper even with the edge of the glass (or about 2” from the top of the glass). Use a ruler to make sure that you have it centered, right to left.  Tape down the corners so that it won’t move. Next, step back and look. Does it look centered and straight?  If not, make adjustments.
  3. On the inside of your door, wash and dry the glass thoroughly with window cleaner to remove any dirt and grease.  Otherwise, the gold leaf won’t stick to the glass.
  4. Make sure it’s perfectly dry before you go on!  On the inside of your door, trace the characters with the gold leafing pen.  Follow instructions for the pen, and begin in the center of a character rather than an edge so that you can get a feel for how it marks.  This tracing is the only tricky part because the glass is double pane. Concentrate on the outlines, and it’ll look great when you’re done.
  5. Let it dry completely (an hour is a good amount of time), and then carefully add another coat.  This allows you to correct any little errors and makes it opaque, but you also have to take care not to undo the first layer.  If you want it to be perfectly even, a third coat may be necessary.
  6. If you mess up, let it dry and then very gently scrape off the mistake with a straight edge razor. (You really don’t want to scratch the glass.) You can also wipe off the entire thing with mineral spirits if something goes drastically wrong.
  7. Once you let the ink set for 2-3 days, the window can be washed normally. Don’t scrub!  
  8. One pen is enough for both doors, with enough left over for a neighbor or two.

Good luck!  

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