If you’ve got old double-hung windows then you likely need sash cord. Sure you might be one of those fancy-schamncy homes with sash chain that us poor folks with ropes hanging from our windows aspire to, but the majority of us are squarely in the rope zone.
Sash rope only lasts so long. Don’t get me wrong, quality sash rope can last a long time (in most cases 50-70 years!) so you’ll likely only re-rope a window once in your lifetime. The cheap rope will likely give up the ghost in less than a decade. It’s important to pick a winner here because you don’t want to replace these ropes more than once.
Picking the Right Sash Cord
Sash cord, sometimes called sash rope, is historically made from braided cotton because the material and design resists stretching and holds up better than others to UV exposure. Fully synthetic ropes are notorious for stretching over time, resulting in window sash that won’t close or operate properly.
Some of these synthetic ropes also quickly disintegrate and turn powdery with extended UV exposure which makes them a really bad choice for windows which get just a bit of sunlight, right?
Today the best sash cord retains the braided cotton exterior with an extra nylon core for added strength. This combination of materials give excellent performance and extra long life compared to the original ropes.
Samson vs Buffalo
Since the beginning of my career in window restoration in 2010 I have searched for the best and most cost effective solution for sash cord. That has led me to testing of various brands and strengths over the year before settling on these two favorites.
Samson Sash Cord
Samson has been making its famous red “spot” cord for over 100 years. Strangely the color has changed over the years from a bright red back in the day to an almost orangish color about 15 years ago and now a faded red that is almost pink.
My recommended size is #8 spot cord which is 1/4” thick. This rope is extremely strong. With a working strength of 150 lbs. you’d be hard pressed to find a window sash that is too heavy for it. Samson rope is very stiff compared to other options on the market which can make it difficult to tie small knots for people unfamiliar with it, but I actually prefer the stiffness. The rope creates an excellent knot size for tucking into the side of the sash without requiring a nail to secure it in place.
It’s immediately recognizable to anyone when they see the reddish/pink spots, which is their trademark to let you know you’ve got a quality rope. You can buy Samson sash cord here. If the spots bother you then keep reading.
Buffalo Sash Cord
Buffalo sash cord is the same 1/4” size and cotton braid with nylon core as the Samson rope above, but with two little differences. First, no pink dots so you get a clean off-white color that is non-descript and blends in with just about any installation.
The second difference is the stiffness. Buffalo sash cord is softer and does not feel as significant as the Samson cord. Even cutting the ropes is completely different with Buffalo being extremely easy to cut with a razor knife and Samson needing a very sharp knife or a pair of end nippers (see the video below!).
That softness leaves a rope that is still sufficient for most installations, but with a working strength of 100 lbs it is considerably weaker than Samson rope. Considering that most residential window sash weight around 12-16 lbs. I don’t think this is a major problem. You can buy Buffalo sash cord here.
Picking the Right Sash Rope
If you pick either of these sash cord you really can’t go wrong. It just depends what you are looking for. Both ropes are available in 100 ft. hanks, but Buffalo has the advantage of also being sold in 1200 ft. spools which Samson has only recently stopped producing.
For me it usually comes down to preference. I have been using Samson rope for a decade as my standard sash cord, but some clients despise the red dots (or are they pink?) so I switch to the Buffalo in those cases.
Both companies make other size ropes as well like the smaller #6 rope or larger #10 rope, both of which can work in most cases. Though #8 size sash rope has been the standard for most residential and even commercial applications there are times when a larger rope is called for with extremely large and heavy windows typically found in commercial or institutional applications, but those also depend on having a pulley that will accommodate the larger rope.
What other sash cord have I missed that you feel should have been included? I’m sure people have their favorites and I’m ready to hear what you think of my suggestions in the comments below.
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.