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Double-hung window construction

The Old House Web

For more about reproducing historic windows, see The American Builder's Companion by Asher Benjamin (an 1827 book with line drawings). You can find the book by clicking on the related books link at the left of this page.

The double-hung window is perhaps the most familiar window type. It consists of an upper and lower sash that slide vertically in separate grooves in the side jambs or in full-width metal weatherstripping (see drawing). This type of window provides a maximum face opening for ventilation of one-half the total window area. Each sash is provided with springs, balances, or compression weatherstripping to hold it in place in any location.

Compression weatherstripping, for example, prevents air infiltration, provides tension, and acts as a counterbalance; several types allow the sash to be removed for easy painting or repair.

The jambs (sides and top of the frames) are made of nominal 1-inch lumber; the width provides for use with drywall or plastered interior finish. Sills are made from nominal 2-inch lumber and sloped at about 3 in 12 for good drainage (figure D). Sash are normally 1 3/8 inches thick and wood combination storm and screen windows are usually 11/8 inches thick.

Sash may be divided into a number of lights by small wood members called muntins. A ranch-type house may provide the best appearance with top and bottom sash divided into two horizontal lights. A colonial or Cape Code house usually has each sash divided into six or eight lights. Some manufacturers provided preassembled dividers which snap in place over a single light, dividing it into six or eight lights. This simplifies painting and other maintenance.

Assembled frames are placed in the rough opening over strips of building paper put around the perimeter to minimize air infiltration. The frame is plumbed and nailed to side studs and header through the casings or the blind stops at the sides. Where nails are exposed, such as on the casing, use the corrosion-resistant type.

Hardware for double-hung windows includes the sash lifts that are fastened to the bottom rail, although they are sometimes eliminated by providing a finger groove in the rail. Other hardware consists of sash locks or fasteners located at the meeting rail. They not only lock the window, but draw the sash together to provide a "wind tight" fit.

Double-hung windows can be arranged in a number of ways -- a single unit, doubled (or mullion) type, or in groups of three or more. One or two double-hung windows on each side of a large stationary insulated window are often used to effect a window wall. Such large openings must be framed with headers large enough to carry roof loads.

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