It may seem like a daunting task to restore your own windows, but I’m here to tell you that just ain’t the case. If you’ve got two thumbs, then you can scrape paint and that is the hardest part of any window restoration project. Learning how to restore window jambs, while the most physically demanding part of any window restoration project, is the least technically difficult.
I could write out all kinds of instructions for you on the topic like I used to do before the days of video streaming on the internet, but today I figure a video is the best way to show how to restore window jambs since a picture is worth a thousand words and video, well, that’s worth a thousand pictures so you do the math!
I will give you guys the materials and basic steps below so you have the right order of operations, which is immensely important. This post will also contain a primer video that shows you removal of the sash and all the mechanical work involved in a jamb restoration. I tend to think of the mechanicals as a separate item, that’s why I’ve broken them out into the other video.
The first step is getting the sash out so the jamb is exposed and ready for restoration, you’ve gotta pull the parting bead and stops off to ready for the repairs you need to make. Sure you can leave them in, but it often makes it easier. The video below will show you exactly how to get the sash out and also covers the mechanical elements of the window like ropes and pulleys. Check this video out to get you started and prepped to begin your jamb restoration.
Restoring Window Jambs
Okay, the sash are out and your jambs are ready and waiting for you. What on earth are you supposed to do to get these jambs ready for those beautifully restored sash you’re going to put back in them? First, you’re going to need some supplies to make sure you are setup for success. Below is the list of everything I use in my jamb restorations.
- ProScraper Vacuum Scraper
- Festool Midi Dust Extractor
- Festool ETS 125 Sander
- Marpels Wood Chisel
- Purdy 2″ Sash Brush
- Abatron LiquidWood
- Abatron WoodEpox
- Ben Moore FreshStart Moorwhite Long Oil Wood Primer
Once you’re stocked up with supplies, you need to prepare your work area for some lead safe work so that you don’t end up dying an early death or killing those around you. It’s not as scary as it sounds. Check out this post to get the 411 on how to do it right. How To: Lead Safe Work Practices
Step 1 Paint Removal
Grab your scraper and take all that excess paint off of the jambs. This built up paint makes it extremely difficult for the sashes to slide smoothly, so removal really is necessary. You don’t have to go all the way to bare wood, but the build up definitely needs to be brought back down.
Step 2 Repair
You may have larger repairs that require some more complex carpentry which happens from time to time, but usually it’s nothing a little epoxy can’t take a care of. I’m a big Abatron fan, so I use their epoxies listed above. Clean out the loose wood, apply your LiquidWood, then fill the voids with WoodEpox. If you’re nervous about using epoxy, don’t worry, the Abatron system is extremely simple and I’ve got a detailed post on doing these epoxy repairs right here.
Step 3 Sand
Can’t leave everything rough and ugly, so I give everything a good sanding with an 80-grit paper to make sure it’s all smooth. Then clean off the surfaces with a tack cloth or damp rag and you’re ready for the next step.
Step 4 Prime & Paint
Put on a solid coat of primer and once that is dry, finish the jambs with a good enamel paint. It doesn’t matter if it’s oil-based or water-based, as long as you’re using a paint with a hard finish that’s meant for exterior conditions.
Below is the video to show you those 4 simple steps in action. While the video below is only 2 minutes, the whole process takes a couple hours of work, not counting drying times, so, do plan accordingly. It can easily be done in phases if your schedule requires.
That’s it! You’re now ready to restore the jambs and mechanicals of almost any double-hung window with both of these videos in hand. If you’re planning on tackling this yourself be sure to pick up a copy of my book Old Windows In-Depth that covers everything from A-Z about restoring your windows. It’s the perfect companion for anyone looking to restore wood windows.
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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.
15 thoughts on “How To: Restore Window Jambs”
Any tips on how to remove the sash pulleys in order to clean them and get them functioning again? Mine are “drop in,” but appear to maybe be attached somehow on the inside?Don’t want to force ‘em out, but that could potentially be an option if I were to then replace them with a larger screw in option. Thoughts?
Hi Scott I am a fan of the site and we are fixing our windows with your info. We have very large double hung windows and the parting bead was bad. Now we need to replace and we are having a hard time finding a place that has this. Any suggestions? The windows are 10 feet tall.
You can usually make your own if you have access to a table saw since it is just a simple rectangle. That way you can make the exact size you need.
Thanks. What would be the best wood and should I prime before or after putting them in? I also heard soaking them in linseed oils before putting them in?
Pine work fine most times and I prime first.
I’m hearing the sash rope should be treated with wax or oil. Is this correct and what should it be? Worried about degrading the material.
No treatment needed. Cotton rope is the best way to go though. Stay away from the synthetic rope.
I have a cloth rope and its fraying a little, although it does look like it has been replaced at least once. I was recommended something like an oil or wax to keep it from fraying. https://imgur.com/P4Pik30
I have a 1948 cape cod house that has aluminum jamb liners. It here are no pulleys, cords, strings, springs etc that I can see. I have removed the sash just by tipping the jamb liner in a little on one side. However a few of the sashes are not tight and some of the top sashes slide down. Since there are no weights, springs, etc, what can I do to repair these? I can’t find any information about these aluminum jamb liners. The liners are attached by 3 screws at the top, middle and bottom. I have pictures if needed.
I’ve just discovered your great site. I look forward to spending more time exploring. I do a lot of restoration of brownstones in NYC.
There’s one cool things about old windows that I enjoy to this day: the weight pockets and the clever access panels to get at them to re-attach weights when needed. And sash chain is still available (though these days I use it more as a door swing limiter when door stops would be in the way).
If you are able to remove enough paint between the stops and the bead, and cut the paint seal enough to get the top sash down to the bottom, you can pull the parting bead up and out while the top sash is all the way at the bottom.
Yes you sure can.
Any tips on how to remove the sash pulleys in order to clean them and get them functioning again?
Mine are “drop in,” but appear to maybe be attached somehow on the inside?Don’t want to force ‘em out, but that could potentially be an option if I were to then replace them with a larger screw in option.
Hi Scott, the primer you referred to is Ben Moore Fresh Start Long oil wood primer. I see it’s a Alkyd type of primer. What does that mean? Is this an oil based primer? Is it acceptable to use an oil based primer for this application?
Glad to hear you advocate 100% removal of the decayed material. Simply “consolidating” rot is a mistake.