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. Fixing one isn't too difficult—it only takes an hour or so—but accessing the parts can be tricky. 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 is a Spiral Balance?
A spiral balance is encased for most of its length in a metal or vinyl tube. Twisting the bottom of the balance will increase or reduce the tension.
A block-and-tackle system has a nylon string line that attaches near the top of the window frame and runs into a spring that is encased in a metal sleeve. The spring connects to a sliding bracket that connects to the window. If problems develop, remove and replace the assembly.
A clockspring balance looks like a sash pulley but has a metal tape coming out of it; a spring inside the device provides the tension. If the spring or the metal tape breaks, replacing it is easy, but you may have a hard time finding the part itself.
A head jamb spring has a pair of springs at the top of the window. Two strings lead to the sashes, where they connect via pins. You can access the unit by removing a vinyl cover. Again, replacing it is easy but finding the part may be difficult.
What You Need
- Utility knife
- Zipper tool
- Flat pry bar
- Tin snips
- Paint scraper
- Putty knife
- Taping blades
- Sanding block
- Sash chain or cord
- Spray lubricant
- Paraffin block or candle
- Finishing nails
Step 1: Gain Access
If the window has a spiral balance that is not holding the window, tilt out the sash to gain access to the slide where the bottom of the balance attaches. On some models you will need to remove the entire sash and disconnect the balance from the sash itself. Pry off any pieces that cover the balance.
Step 2: Adjust Tension
Unhook the bottom of the spiral balance. Use a spiral balance tool to adjust the tension—usually it needs to be stronger in order to hold the window up.
Step 3: Replace, If Necessary
If the balance is broken and you are unable to tighten it, remove and replace it with a balance of the same tension. If your home center does not carry the model you need, check specialty window stores or online sources.