How To: Open Stuck Windows in 4 Easy Steps

Historic WindowIf your house is old enough to have needed a new paint job in its life then you might have a couple windows that have been painted shut. If your house is as old as mine (1929) you’d be lucky to find a window that still opens. Over the years numerous coats of paint by lazy painters have typically sealed shut most windows on a historic home. But you don’t have to live with that anymore. If it’s just a few coats of paint standing between you and some fresh air then I can show you how to get things moving again.

The Tools

You’ll need a putty knife and a box cutter (razor knife), or a Window Zipper (If you’re planning to work on more than a couple windows you’ll want to get one of these tools. They make cutting the windows open a million times easier).

Check sash cordsStep #1 Inspect

To determine if it is paint that’s the cause of your problems we’ll need to check a few things. First, make sure the sash cords are still in working order. Pull on them to see if they are still attached to the sash weights in their pockets. If the pulleys turn and you can feel the tension from the sash weights then you’re probably in good shape. If the cords are missing or they are no longer attached to the weights then you’ll need to follow a more involved process which I’ll be outlining next week right here. So stay tuned!

 

 

 

Cut Int paintStep #2 Free The Interior

Most old windows have been painted shut on both the exterior and interior, so let’s start with the interior. Be very careful not to cut yourself or gouge the wood while cutting the windows open. Use the razor blade to draw a straight line between the sash and window stops on both sides. Then push your putty knife into the space along the line to gently break the bond. If you’re using a window zipper simply cut this line in one step. Split meeting railNext do the same at the meeting rail (where the top and bottom sash meet when in the closed position) you’ll need to have the sash lock unlocked in order to separate the two sashes.

 

Cut Ext paint

Step #3 Free The Exterior

Do the same thing as the interior except this time you’ll be cutting between the sash and the parting bead which is the square trim piece just outside of the sash. Then move on to the underside of the meeting rail. After that don’t forget to cut the paint and use your putty knife at the bottom of the sash where it meets the window sill like in the picture at the top of the post.

 

 

 

 

Open windowStep #4 Open Your Window

Now head back inside and slowly try to wiggle the window open. Even if you have cut all the paint out of the seams the window will most likely be very stubborn. *Don’t be too rough on the window! You may break the glass or bust the mortise and tenon joints that hold the frame together. It will take some elbow grease, but you should not be straining to make it open. If it is still stubborn keep using your putty knife to clean out the remaining paint. Once you get it moving a bit, gently keep opening and closing the window. It will continue to slide easier and easier. If you need to you can also add some dry lubricant like a graphite spray to help things move a little smoother. Now you can enjoy a little fresh air all thanks to your own effort and at no cost!

 

Here’s some other posts about windows you might find useful:

All About Historic Windows

Preserving Historic Windows

How To: Restring Old Windows

How To: Glaze Old Windows {Video Tutorial}

 

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by Scott Sidler

Scott is the owner of Austin Home Restorations, a company that specializes in renovating and restoring historic homes in Orlando, FL and the creator of The Craftsman Blog. When not working on, teaching about or writing about old houses he spends time fixing up his own old bungalow with his wife Delores and son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

4 comments

  1. Jennifer Santos on said:

    Well it sure helps to know how to open up those paint sealed windows. A friend of mine had to hire professionals to do all of these for her but it sounds pretty simple so thanks for the tips. Nothing can enhance a home more than having pretty windows that you can actually use.

    • Jennifer – Glad to help! Yeah, if you’ve got a DIY spirit you can tackle most of the smaller historic window repairs on your own. Which is probably best because unless you find a historical specialist in your area most contractors don’t have a clue what to do with these windows. Send us some pictures when you finish!

  2. Charles on said:

    This window likely has lead-based paint. Be safe and follow epa.gov/lead instructions so you don’t poison pregnant women, kids or pets with toxic dust or vapors.

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