On this memorial day weekend, here is the last free excerpt from my new book Old Windows In-Depth that has just been released. Make sure to check it out in the store to get sale pricing before June 1st!
So, you’ve got old double hung windows with broken sash cords that no longer stay open. Don’t fear, it’s not the end of the world. Far from it! Learning to replace ropes on window sash with broken sash cords is one of the easier repairs you can make to an old window. And once you have that new sash cord in, you won’t need another replacement for a good 40-60 years.
In this post, I’ll show you how to re-rope your windows quickly and easily the way I do every day. Pay attention to not just the techniques, but the materials as well, because using the wrong type of rope can mean you will be replacing it in months, rather than decades.
No more sticks or rulers holding your window open this year. Grab your pry-bar and lets get to it!
How To Remove the Sash
To re-rope window sash you’re going to need to remove the sash from the window jamb in order to access everything you need to, so we’ll start with that process before we get into the specifics of accessing the ropes and changing them out.
I’ve got two options for you to learn how to remove and install the window sash. The best way by far is the video below which walks you through the whole process of removal, replacing sash cords, and installing sash. Or you can check out my previous post How To: Remove Window Sash. Follow the four simple steps in this post and you’ll have your windows out in no time. Once you have both sash out, follow the steps below.
How To Replace Broken Sash Cords
The video above shows you all the good stuff but there are a few notes I need to include to help you get the right stuff in place. The first thing is using the right sash cord. You don’t want to use any kind of synthetic rope on window sash. Synthetic ropes stretch out resulting in sagging windows and some materials do not hold up to the UV rays they are subjected to. Cotton is the best material for sash cord.
My favorite is Samson Spot Cord since it has been around for over a century and is extremely durable. You want to replace your sash cord once and not have to replace cheap substandard rope again and again, so get something proven to last 60+ years like Samson rope.
Next, the knots you tie are super important. Tying the wrong kind of knot can result in the weight sagging or it can eventually work itself open. There are several options for a good knot but my recommendation is a “Bowline” knot, which is sometimes called a simplified Figure 8. Click here for an animation of the knot or watch my demonstration in the video above.
Step 1 Open Pocket Doors
First, get your pocket doors open by unscrewing the set screws and prying them off with a 5-in-1. The parting bead will need to be removed first before the pocket door will come off in most cases.
Step 2 Remove Weights
Pull the weights out of the pocket and set them on the sill. Cut the old rope off the weight and pull it out through the pulley or out of the weight pocket and dispose of it. Make sure to keep the same weight for the same sash if you are doing multiple windows, because top sash may be a different weight from bottom sash.
Step 3 Run New Cord
Cut a length of rope the height of the opening and tie a simple knot at one end. Run the rope down the pulley so that you can grab the other end in the weight pocket. Sometimes the rope doesn’t want to make its way down to the pocket door. If that is the case, try one of the hacks in this post to resolve that. If you have a very short window (under about 36″ tall then you may need to add about 4-6″ to your rope length)
Step 4 Attach Weights
Starting with the top sash weight first, run the rope through the eye on the weight and tie a bowline knot so that when in the pocket the weight is floating just above the sill. Cut off any excess rope and re-install the pocket door. Test everything to make sure it moves freely.
Step 5 Hang Sash
Put your sash on the sill and install the new rope into the mortise on the sides of the sash. I like to put a small nail for security to hold the rope in place. Trust me, nothing is more frustrating than putting everything back together and a rope coming off! Test the balance of your sash and troubleshoot any issues.
Now you’ve got new ropes and if you used the right sash cord, you should never have to replace them in your lifetime unless your windows are attacked by a 4-year-old with scissors. Happy restoring!
Founder & Senior Editor
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.