This repair is easier than you think. It's time to fix that pesky window once and for all!

January 26, 2019

If you're using a scrap piece of wood to keep your double-hung window open, it's time to face your problem head-on. A window that just won't stay open often requires repairs to the chain or cord connected to the weight. The pulley mechanism holding the window is just under the stopper to the side of your window, and, once accessed, is easy to fix. Follow along with our steps below to get your window back in working condition as soon as possible.

Getting Started

A double-hung wood window typically has two sashes that move up and down. Many people nail and paint shut the upper sash. This makes it easier to seal but will make cleaning the window difficult if you cannot get at it from the outside.

If a sash will not stay up, the chain or cord connecting to the weight is probably broken. Replacing a chain or cord can be accomplished in an hour or so.

To make an older unit work more smoothly, a bit of detailed work is often required. If the window has been painted many times, you may need to scrape or even remove paint from sashes or stops in order to free the action. A balky pulley may also need to have its paint removed. Often a spray lubricant will help as well.

A drafty window can be sealed by adding weatherstripping. A storm window will help greatly as well.

Newer windows have a variety of mechanisms to keep sashes up when raised.

What You Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Zipper tool
  • Flat pry bar
  • Tin snips
  • Pliers
  • Paint scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Taping blades
  • Sanding block
  • Chisel
  • Caulk
  • Sash chain or cord
  • Wire
  • Spray lubricant
  • Paraffin block or candle
  • Finishing nails
  • Perhaps repair parts for newer windows

Where Problems Develop

An older wood sash window may have a sash cord that is painted stiff or broken. The pulley may be rusted or painted shut, or it may be broken. Stops that have been painted may bind against the sash. The joints of a sash may come apart and need to be reinforced.

Step 1: Remove Stop

If a sash cord or chain is broken, cut through the paint and pry out one or both of the stops. (If one cord is broken, it is a good idea to replace both at the same time.) Start prying in the middle and bend the stop out. (To do this for an upper sash, you will need to pull out the parting stop using pliers.)

Step 2: Remove Lower Sash

Lift the lower sash and pull it out. To fix only one cord, you need only pull the window out on that side. (If the window has metal channels attached to the jambs, you will need to remove one or two nails or screws, and remove the channels along with the sash.)

Step 3: Remove Access Plate

To remove the access plate (which may be painted over and difficult to see), you may first have to remove a screw, then pry with a chisel. This gives you access to the cavity where the weights are.

Step 4: Pull Down Chain

Insert one end of the sash chain into the pulley and thread it down until it reaches the bottom of the cavity. Some pulley mechanisms have a cover like this; others are open.

Step 5: Remove Weight

Pull the weight out through the access hole, cut the old cord, and remove it. Run the chain through the weight's hole and secure it with wire.

Step 6: Cut Chain

Put the weight back into the cavity. With the sash resting on the stool, pull on the chain until the weight lifts nearly to the pulley. Cut the chain right at the hole at the end of the groove.

Step 7: Secure Chain

Place the chain in the groove and drive two or three short screws to hold it in place. Make sure the screws are not long enough to hit the sash glass. Do the same on the other side when replacing both chains.

Step 8: Test Sash

Set the sash back in place and test to see that it slides smoothly and stays open. With the sash fully closed, the weights should be at least 2 inches below the pulleys.

Step 9: Return Stops

Reattach the stops. Drive slightly larger nails into the old holes, or drive 3d nails into new locations, using cardboard shims to keep the stop slightly away from the sash.


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