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4 Steps to Open a Stuck Window

stuck window

If you’ve got an old house then you’ve probably got a stuck window. Over the years, numerous coats of paint by lazy painters and slapdash landlords 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 don’t need a lot of tools for this project but here are the few that I use and recommend to get the job done right.

Step #1 Inspect Sash Cords

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 re-rope the sash after cutting it free. You can learn how to do that in this post, How To: Broken Replace Sash Cords.

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. Use the razor knife to draw a straight line between the sash and window stops on both sides. Then, hammer your 10-in-1 into the space along the line to gently break the bond wiggling it a bit.

You can avoid the cutting and prying by using a handy tool called a Sash Saw that is designed to saw thru the paint line and clear out this troublesome joint. You can see a Sash Saw pictured in the top picture of this post.

Next, 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. All these areas can also be cut using the Sash Saw as it’s designed to run flat against the surface while cutting the paint.

Step #4 Open Your Window

Open window

Now, head back inside and slowly try to wiggle the window open. If it is still stubborn, keep using your tools to clean out the remaining paint from the joints that present an issue.

Once you get it moving a bit, gently keep opening and closing the window. It will continue to slide easier and easier. You can also add some Window Wax to the sides of the jamb and sash to help it slide smoother.

If you looking to go further and remove the sash for restoration then check out the video below to watch how both the top and bottom sash can be removed and made to both operate smoothly.

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61 thoughts on “4 Steps to Open a Stuck Window

  1. We just restored our double hung windows in our 1939 Colonial Revival home. They were working beautifully but now one of the windows is hung up and the weight won’t drop. Is there anyway to fix this without taking the frame off and accessing the pocket to the weights?

  2. I have double hung windows manufactured by Royal oak Window Co. (1960s) pat 2761182,2586946, 2630090, My problem is I’ve painted and repaired them however, after putting the window back the aluminum springs I guess you would call them doesn’t allow the window to open from the bottom four or five inches . I can’t figure what I’m doing wrong. I can’t fine any pictures of these types of windows. It is hard to explain perhaps you help me.

    1. I don’t have an answer to your question, but I think I have the same windows as you based on the patents you shared. Can you give me some details about your experience with redoing the windows? I’ll be attempting this soon too.

  3. I have single hung wooden windows – 116 years old. The bottom sash was opening and closing fine two days ago – now it is jammed shut. It looks like one side is slightly higher than the other but it won’t budge no matter what. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Todd,
      Oh goodness, so sorry to hear your window is stuck! Honestly, our best recommendation would be to use our directory to find a licensed preservationist and old window expert in your area to come look at it in person if these hacks and tricks aren’t working. thecraftsmanblog.com/directory
      Best of luck to you!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  4. I have metal storms that were painted over as well as the screws. Any suggestions how to best get them off? Thanks!

  5. I have metal framed strom windows in a 1956 house. The strom windows are inside with handles at the bottom of them. I cant get them out of the window even though i have gotten them loose. Any ideas?

  6. I just moved into a house where the landlord had all the windows purposely sealed. How do I unseal the windows?

  7. I have metal storms over my 1885, VERY LARGE, Original windows. The issue is that they cannot be opened from the outside. I also have bars installed on the lower windows and the lag screws require a special (large anti theft tool) to remove them and they look to be painted and rusted. Am I going to have to cut these bolts off

  8. We are having our house painted. I was told that the windows are double hung but the tops don’t look like they have a way to grab to bring down. This causes an issue since some of the window can not be painted, where the locks are and they are going from burgundy to a light grey so when the window is open you will still see the original color since it will not get painted. Any ideas on how I may get them down?

  9. To un-stick window sashes that have been caulked or painted shut, I use an oscillating multi-tool with a fine tooth wood cutting blade. Harbor Freight sells an oscillating tool for about $15 (about the price of the window zipper tools) that will do the job. Other brands are about $40 and up. Just be careful to keep the oscillating blade flat against the face of the sash when cutting out the caulk and paint between the sash and the stops or parting beads. Also be careful to not cut any deeper than necessary, stopping when you feel less resistance. This method works like a charm and allows you to un-stick a sash in about 5 minutes.

  10. Thanks so much for both clear words and pictures. How can I tell if the upper sash is painted shut or if it is a single hung window? And how aggressive should I be on that upper sash to find out? This is an old (1950’s-ish) townhouse that I just purchased.

  11. My husband and I have a 1919 colonial revival home. All the windows are painted shut including the storms. I love my windows and plan on keeping them! We have begun trying to open them and they all need reglazing. Can we glaze them in place without taking them out. I hate to tear up the trim inside the house. Is there in hope?

  12. Ok, that didn’t work. I still have the the original windows, although not the original glass, in my 1900 house. Previous owners put storm windows up. The screens are between the window and storm window. After following all the steps, my window still won’t budge. There is no way to remove the storm window from the outside. I can either break the glass in my window in order to open the screen and storm window, OR, and this is a better alternative, find the previous owners and make them free all 15 remaining windows, after which we will re-enact a scene from “Casino”. This is so ridiculous and frustrating! Who paints windows shut????

  13. I have had to unstick several windows from the 1920s that are painted and siliconed shut. Hyde makes a tool for just unsticking windows that is very useful, but the best I find is the circular saw on my right angle reciprocating saw. You do need to be careful, but the blade is very thin and can be edged deep into the window channel, easily removing old paint. It will mar the window, so you will certainly need to re-paint when you finish.

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