How to Fix a Window's Spiral Balance

If your window isn't moving properly, the spiral balance might be broken. Here's how to fix it.

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.

  • Working Time 1.5 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1.5 Hours
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Easy

What you need

Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Zipper tool
  • Flat pry bar
  • Tin snips
  • Pliers
  • Paint scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Taping blades
  • Sanding block
  • Chisel

Materials

  • Caulk
  • Sash chain or cord
  • Wire
  • Spray lubricant
  • Paraffin block or candle
  • Finishing nails

How to do it

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.

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