Double Hung Window Anatomy

By Scott Sidler • July 29, 2019

Double hung window anatomyDouble hung windows are pretty simple and that’s why I love them and love restoring them, but there are a lot of questions as to the many pieces that make up the anatomy of a double hung window. There are weights and pulleys, parting bead and stops (interior and blind), and mostly there are just a ton of terms for these simple elements that most folks don’t even know.

Did you know that likely what you’ve always called a window sill is not actually a window sill at all? Most people don’t, and I wanted to walk you through all the bits and pieces so you can understand your windows a little bit better. Whether you are planning to restore your windows using one of my books Old Windows Made Easy or Old Windows In-Depth you need to know what is what.

I’ve included diagrams in the books, but what’s better than a guided video tour of a double hung window and how it works? In my shop we built a working unit that we can use for just this purpose as well as for training our new employees. And in the video below I’ll walk you through all the elements and explain how they work and how you can work with them.

Granted this is much easier when your windows aren’t gummed up with decades of paint and caulk, but this will show you how they were supposed to work and, once restored, how they can work again. I hope you enjoy!

If you need help restoring your old wood windows please visit my resource page How To: Restore Old Windows and swing by my store to pick up all the tools and supplies you need to get the job done right! Old windows can almost always be restored to their former glory with a little knowledge and a lot of elbow grease.

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7 thoughts on “Double Hung Window Anatomy”

  1. I just got finished glazing new glass into my 1931 wood windows with Sarco Multi-Glaze Type M, and have waited five days now for it to skin over. I just realized that I forgot to put in the glazing points! Should I rip out the putty and start over? The top edge of the sash has a slot that the glass fits into, so it’s not totally without support. This is in the greater Seattle area. What do you think?

  2. Scott. I just bought your kindle version of Old Windows Made Easy in hopes that it would explain how to dismantle the type of double hung counterweight system I have on my 1804 house’s front windows. I have the two sashes out, and have been able to pull out the stops. However these windows seem to have been fitted with a brass strip that attaches to the sashes and goes up and over a pulley. There are no weight pockets at the bottom of the casing. The vertical wood that the sash rides in, seems to be made in two pieces, the outer has the rabbited area for the stop, and the inner is a somewhat square shaped piece that seems somewhat loose, but is joined together with the pulley face plate (which I can’t seem to get off) and some metal pieces that were used as stops for the lever type height locking devices. Have you seen these sashes counterweighted with brass strips before? How can I get at them?

    1. Scott – I did get one of the pulley plates off, and it looks like it is a spring type of thing. It was patented in Oct. 30, 1888 according to its casting. Some of the paper for installing was still on its side, although mostly unreadable. It does say its a “Caldwell Sash ……”

      Any experience in replacing or repairing these, once they’ve broken off from the sashes?

  3. Hi Scott! I’ve been restoring my old double hung windows. 3 kids later, still not done. Thinking about having someone help me move the project along. What should I reasonably expect a person to charge? Flying blind on this one.

  4. The precursor to the horror of vinyl replacement windows is surely the aluminum storm/screen systems which Alcoa Aluminum made a hard sell for in the 1950’s. That is what our 1929 house has, and it is painful to think that the house was barely thirty years old or so when some previous owner went along with the plan to crap out America’s windows and had all the original cedar storms/screens scrapped. So now our double hung windows function as single sash windows, and if that isn’t bad enough, the darn aluminum cuts your hands, scratches the woodwork, and really diminishes the look of the house from the outside. Yet, everyone in America went along.

    Anyway, in the interest of safety and not having children fall out the windows, etc., my husband years ago repaired all the weights and with a lot of force, unstuck the upper sashes. By reversing the triple-track storm/screen system, we could open windows from the top. Later, I discovered that the local hardware store would make a second screen for me and lo! many of our windows now open top and bottom. I have one or two made a year, and while it’s not cedar, it is a thrill to have the windows function as they should. It is like heaven here, even on the hottest days and nights. I have probably written this same missive before. Because windows are my thing. Air and light are life itself.

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