Maintaining Your Double Hung Windows

Rob Sabo

Double hung windows are one of the most popular window choices because you can open one-half of the window to promote air flow and easier cleaning. With most newer windows, the sashes, or window panels, are built to tilt inward to allow for easy cleaning--a definite plus for second-story and hard-to-reach windows.

Double Hung Window Construction

Double hung windows have two sashes that slide vertically past each other. Newer double hung windows typically use compression weather stripping to hold the open window in place, but older and some custom windows use sash cords, pulleys, and weights. Over time these parts wear out and require replacement--a complicated process that might be best left to a professional. But, as a homeowner, there are plenty of minor repairs you can make to fix old double hung windows.

Fixing a Sticking Window

If your windows are stuck or won't open easily, inspect the sash channels where the lower window slides past the upper. Clean them, then lube with wax to get the windows working properly. If you live in a coastal area with high humidity, your window channels might swell--especially if they are made of wood--and cause your windows to stick. Your only real option is to remove the sashes and plane them slightly thinner.

If you live in an industrial or agricultural area with high levels of airborne particulates, accumulated dust and grime can keep your windows from working properly. You can clean the sash channels with hot soapy water and a soft-bristled scrub brush. Regular cleanings ensure you won't constantly battle sticking windows.

What to do if Your Windows are Painted Shut

This is a common problem in older homes--and one that can be quite vexing to homeowners. But with a little elbow grease you should be able to get windows that have been painted shut working properly. First, determine if the window has been nailed shut--common in older homes when sash cords break. If the windows are just painted shut, you can break the paint seal with a utility knife, putty knife, or chisel. You may need to use a rubber mallet as well, but take care not to damage the window frame or glass. Score around the edges of the window to break the paint seal, and use a pry bar with a block of wood underneath to gently open the window.

Taking the time to maintain your double hung windows can keep them looking good and lasting longer.

Double-hung window construction • • Old House Web

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