What Kind of Sash Rope Should I Use?

By Scott Sidler • September 11, 2014

This week’s Ask The Craftsman question comes from Jeremy.

“What kind of rope should I use to restring my windows?”
sash rope
Copyright: area123 / 123RF Stock Photo

There are a lot of different kinds of rope on the market, but only certain types are appropriate for your old windows.

The best kind of rope for double-hung windows is cotton braided rope. Hemp rope isn’t appropriate. Full synthetic ropes tend to stretch too much and I’ve also found that they slide in the pulley tracks in awkward ways.

For the majority of windows a #8 (1/4″) cotton rope will work best. My favorite is Samson Spot Cord which has a 150 lbs. working strength which works great for nearly every residential window.

Anything larger than a #8 rope will bind in a lot of pulleys and is likely to have trouble fitting in the rope mortise on the side of the sash. Stick with the #8.

The Samson cord has a nylon core which lengthens the life of the rope and because of the cotton outer it doesn’t stretch like full synthetics.

A lot of folks will tell you you should swap out the rope for chain, but unless you prefer the look of chain, there is rarely a time when you need to use it.

Quality sash rope should last about 100 years and when you compare the price of rope to that of chain, rope tends to be a better value for a century worth of smooth operation.


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9 thoughts on “What Kind of Sash Rope Should I Use?”

  1. Scott, 5 out of 10 job I do had #9 cord originally because the windows were heavier than ordinary windows.

  2. I put the Samson sash rope in. This morning I opened one of my restored windows and heard the weight drop…..always double check your knots! :/ #LearningTheHardWay

  3. If you are having problems with synthetics you probably used nylon or polypropylene rope. These stretch more then polyester, especially nylon. Polyester should stretch as little as cotton and last longer in the sun.

  4. I am considering using chain for my own home’s windows. Even the best rope has an albeit long, but limited– lifespan no? My windows are generally in between the sizes of 32″x 32″ (per sash) and with the largest (one of them) being 48″x 32″. My fear is that some of my windows, southern exposure, get beat down by the sun. The rope I removed was so frail that some of it literally disintegrated in my hand.

    I am considering steel sash chain that is dipped in copper — it starts off coppery color but soon shows it’s true silver color after a few months.

    I am not set on this and am asking the expert: Scott any thoughts? I am really trying to do things right, and do them once. Thanks!

    1. I would go with bronze chain to avoid any corrosion problems in the future. Also make sure that whatever chain you get will fit with the pulleys. Often certain types of existing pulleys will not work effectively with chain.
      I really would stick with the Samson rope if you had rope prior.

      1. According to Richard Spigelmyer, who has been restoring windows since the Eisenhower administration, there us no added benefit to using chain over rope except for very large windows. And one fact often missed is that the chain makes makes a lot more no use than rope.

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