If you’ve got old wood windows they are often stuck shut from years of paint or caulk. That doesn’t mean the window needs replacing. It just means you need to hire better painters in the future.
In this post, I’ll show you an easy way to get almost any stuck window moving again. There are just a few simple tools I use to do this every week at my restoration company Austin Historical.
Here is your tool list:
- Sash Saw
- 2” putty knife or trim pry bar
Pretty simple, right? I’m telling you anyone can get old stuck windows moving again so let’s get to it.
Step 1: Work Lead Safe
Paint (and sometimes caulk) is almost always the problem with these old windows. Decades of old paint can be difficult to cut free, and you also have to consider that if the house was built before 1978 it likely has lead paint.
If you are dealing with lead paint then you need to follow the steps in my posts about Lead Safe Work Practices to keep yourself and your family safe from the hazards of lead.
Step 2: Cut the Paint Line
From the inside of the window you’ll need to cut the paint that has flowed into the joint between the sash and the stop. The easiest way to do this is by using a Sash Saw which is a tool specific to window restoration that is designed for just this job.
Place your Sash Saw against the face of the sash with the teeth aimed into the sash/stop joint. Slide it in a sawing motion up and down working it into this joint and move along the perimeter of the sash until the joint is cut free on all sides.
Step 3: Separate the Meeting Rail
Once you have the sash/stop joint cut free then grab your putty knife or trim pry bar and hammer it into the meeting rail joint between the top and bottom sash to free that joint as well.
You may have to do the same thing on the joint between the sash and stool at the bottom with the putty knife as well.
Step 4: Go Outside (maybe)
Once the interior of the window sash is cut free your stuck window should be able to get moving again with a little rocking back and forth. That is of course, unless that same evil painter caulked up the outside of the window as well.
If that is the case then you need to go outside to do the same work with your Sash Saw as well. Most times this isn’t necessary, but if you can’t get it moving again then it may be that you have a tougher case than usual, but it can still be done.
If it still isn’t moving double check for some hidden nails or screws that someone may have installed to hold the sash in place. It’s rare but it does happen.
Once you get that stuck window rolling again make sure you’re careful to clean up any chipped paint or dust with the lead safe work practices we talked about earlier.
If you want to go further and actually restore your old windows you can check out my more comprehensive post DIY Window Restoration or sign up for my teachable course for the ultimate training in window restoration.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
2 thoughts on “How To: Open a Stuck Window”
I live in England ,I’ve been restoring sash windows everyday for the last 30+years ( probably done over 10K now !!) when we take the old sashes out , we throw away the old staff and parting beads and replace them with new timber beads that have brush pile in them , we also strip all the paint off the sashes and box before repainting them
You can also get a cheaper sash saw at Ace for $13. I routinely find nails and screws that have been installed as security, so I always check that first. I am a painter, but not evil!