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How To: Remove Window Sash

Image Copyright: Scott Sidler
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

In my new book, Old Windows Made Easy, I outline the complete process for restoring wood windows. Today, I want to walk you through some of the content in the book for free right here and teach you how to remove window sash.

If you want to learn more about restoring your wood windows, you can Order Your Copy Now!

Step 1 Remove the Stop

The first thing you need to do in order to restore or repair your double-hung windows is get the sash out of the jamb. Depending on how much built up paint and caulk there is, this may be simple or difficult. Get both the bottom and top sash out before moving onto anything else.

The first piece to remove is the stop. This is a small piece of trim that is usually nailed in place along the side of the jamb. Some stops are screwed in place, which will have to be unscrewed and then gently pried off. You want to avoid breaking the stops since it can be hard to find matching profiles today, though if they do break, they can be replaced with stock moldings available to most lumber yards or home stores.

The window stop was designed to be removed to service the window, so don’t worry that you are doing something wrong by prying this piece off. What makes it difficult is usually decades of excess paint or unnecessary extra nails by an overzealous handyman.

Image Copyright: Scott Sidler
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

To get your sash out, you only need to remove the stop on one side, but you can remove both if you want to clean them up more thoroughly.

  1. Gently score the paint between the stop and, the jamb and the stool and the sash with a razor knife being careful not to gouge the wood. Don’t cut too deeply, just enough to cut through the paint bond.
  2. Using a trim pry bar or firm putty knife, gently pry the stop away from the jamb. Some stops will be installed using screws and washers instead of finish nails. These must be unscrewed.
  3. Remove any remaining nails from the stop with a nail puller by pulling them through the back side of the stop.
  4. Scrape the backside of the stop that runs against the sash with a carbide scraper to clean away any built up paint or caulk.
  5. Number the back of the stop to go with the corresponding window and set aside for reinstallation later.
  6. Pull any remaining nails that may be left in the jamb.

Step 2 Remove Bottom Sash

Image Copyright: Scott Sidler
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

The bottom sash is the most inside sash and so it must be removed first before you can gain access to the top sash. The bottom sash is usually much easier to remove than the top sash so it’s the place to start.

While you can cut the paint free on the exterior, it’s usually easiest to simply focus on the interior when it comes to the bottom sash and let the majority of the exterior paint buildup break off as you remove the sash.

If your bottom sash is not painted shut, then that eliminates all this cutting of paint and caulk and it is that much easier to remove.

  1. Cut the paint seal between the bottom sash and the remaining stop and possibly between the bottom sash and stool if necessary.
  2. Insert a firm putty knife in between the meeting rails and gently pry the sash loose to break the paint seal. Lift the sash above the stool to remove it.
  3. Swing the side of the lower sash where the interior stop was removed inward to access the rope mortise on the side of the sash.
  4. Remove the knotted rope from the rope mortise, being careful not to let the sash drop or the rope (which is attached to the hidden weights) fly out of your grasp. Sometimes the rope may be nailed into the side of the sash. This nail will require removal in order to get the knot out.
  5. Gently allow the rope knot to rest against the pulley. If the knot isn’t big enough to keep the rope from falling back into the pocket, tie a larger knot.
  6. Repeat the process on the other side of the bottom sash.
  7. If you are doing multiple windows, number the sash on the side so that it can be reinstalled into the proper window later.
  8. Scrape, slice or sand away unnecessary paint buildup on sash that may prevent movement.

Step 3 Remove Parting Bead

Image Copyright: Scott Sidler
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

Step 3 and 4 are pretty much done at the same time because the easiest way to remove the parting bead is to have the top sash lowered all the way to the sill. So, that means cutting it free of paint and caulk.

The parting bead may be painted and caulked so much that it looks like it should not be removed, but it is a separate piece that was designed to be removed in order to remove the top sash.

Parting bead can be eternally frustrating, but duck-billed vise grips are its nemesis. Some parting bead will be nailed in place and others will be simply pressure fit. Either way requires the parting bead to be pulled straight out of the channel it rests in and then removed (often in pieces).

  1. Cut parting bead free of paint or caulk at top sash using a razor knife or window zipper.
  2. Work the sash up and down until you can lower it all the way down to the sill.
  3. Starting at the top and working your way down, use duck billed vise grips to grasp the parting bead and wiggle it back and forth to work it loose.
  4. Cut and fit new parting beads if necessary.
  5. Scrape excess paint from parting beads.
  6. Prep parting beads for paint and reinstallation.

Step 4 Remove Top Sash

Image Copyright: Scott Sidler
Image Copyright: Scott Sidler

Ah, the top sash. Most people don’t believe that this part of the window ever moved, but on double-hung windows, they are most definitely mistaken. There are single-hung windows where the top sash is stationary and will not move so before you get too deeply into this work make sure that your windows are not single-hung.

Top sashes are usually so gummed up that they are almost impossible to move without major effort. When cut free of paint, the top sash will move all the way down to the sill, but getting it there is a challenge. If you have serious paint building up and the sash barely budges, keep working it up and down to try to gain as much motion as possible.

If the top sash absolutely won’t go down to the sill, it can still come out as long as you can have it lowered enough to reveal the pulleys. If the pulley is revealed and your parting bead is out, go ahead and try to swing the side out and remove the sash from the jamb.

  1. Cut all paint seals around top sash with a razor knife or window zipper. The window zipper is good because it has little files that sand away the paint buildup in the paint joint once the paint seal is broken.
  2. Move the top sash all the way down to the window sill. If the sash will not move due to paint build up, you can continue, but the parting bead will be more difficult to remove and will likely come out in pieces.
  3. After the parting bead is out of one side, swing that side of the sash inward and remove the ropes as with the bottom sash.
  4. Be sure to number the sash.
  5. Scrape, slice or sand away unnecessary paint buildup on blind stop and jamb that may prevent smooth movement of the sash.

That’s it! You’ve now removed your sashes and can work on them at your leisure and put them right back in the jamb whenever you are ready. Make sure you have some plywood cut to size to cover the opening or a storm window in case you plan to keep them pout for a longer time to do your work.

If you found this helpful, you’ll definitely want to order your copy of Old Windows Made Easy.  There are a lot more tutorials just like this to help you work your way through the restoration of your old windows.

Subscribe Now For Your FREE eBook!

71 thoughts on “How To: Remove Window Sash

  1. An old post, but perhaps someone will see this: I have brand new all-wood windows(!), and we’re building trim for them. I would like the inside stop (at least one side) to be removable so that I can get the lower sash out for cleaning, dealing with swelling wood that needs to be trimmed, etc. Is there a type of hardware out there for this?

    Internet searches just turn up sash stays, to keep windows without pulleys up, but that’s not what I need. I’m thinking I might want something like a little tube that goes into the vertical stop piece, with some sort of screw that is not ugly and easy to remove and where it can be done numerous times over the next several hundred years (because you never want to have to replace 37 windows with the real deal because someone “renovated” with vinyl ones!) Maybe it’s not a window-specific piece of hardware.

  2. Due to a cut channel on both sides of the upper sash’s lower rail, the parting stop cannot be “pulled” out. It would be helpful if you would address this issue as I think this is a common design for double hung sashes.

  3. Thank you for this blog — it is an inspiration!
    I am trying to remove the sashes to restore the windows. Wooden, double hung, believe they are original and house was built in 1952. The top and bottom sash seem to be connected to the parting bead (which is wood with an overlay of metal) via tracks (vertical). Meaning both the top and bottom sashes have a metal edge attached that fits into a channel on the metal overlay on the parting bead. I watched your video on working with integrated weatherstripping, but my windows are different enough that I can’t figure out my next step to get the sashes out. Note that the sides of the sashes move in a wood channel — only the parting bead has a metal overlay.

  4. My sashes sit in an aluminum channel. How do i get them out without having to tear the aluminum out? Thx!

  5. Ok, I did everything as described…until I got to the parting bead. It was terribly difficult to work loose, but when it was coming loose I noticed that the bottom rail of the upper sash extends forward, (a notch goes around the bead) and prevents the bead from coming out. I have no clue what to do next. I have inspected several of my 1913 windows, all made the same way, for either a telling seam on the front part of that lower sash rail which would indicate it could be removed or for a horizontal seam indicating a break in the middle of the parting bead, thus enabling removal of the bead in two pieces by jockeying the sash up or down. Nothing is there. I believe the windows were made this way to prevent rattling maybe, and the upper sash was put in from the exterior side…which would also require removal of the outer stop/rail. What can I do????

    1. This is exactly what I found with my 1930’s windows! I think it was an attempt to create a weather seal at the meeting rail, as this is where I’ve seen brass weather-stripping is often tacked in. My rail is at an angle that exactly matches the shape of that type of weather-stripping. What I did was chip out the wood on that section of the meeting rail on one side, so I could slide out the parting bead. This worked fine, and I figure I will just add a bit more backer rod to the gap, which I was doing for winter weatherizing anyway.

  6. These are very clear step by step instructions, but I have no clue what a stop, or a jab is. Photos pointing these things out in your instructions would have been better for someone like myself who has no clue what building terms are.

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