How to Repair a Double Hung Window

IMG_4412I love old houses, I love redoing old houses and I love the amazing things I find when I do it. Today it’s about the windows.

What is a double hung window?

Double hung windows are a classic style window that consists of two operable sashes, one on the top and one one the bottom.  To open the window you either raise the bottom or lower the top… or put both in the middle if want.

Most newer production homes have aluminum single hung, with one upper fixed panel and one lower operable sash. I like the double hung, it gives more options for letting in the fresh air.

The majority of the windows in the  little house are wood frame double hung windows. Some are operated with weights on sash rope and some by jam pins. ALL of them have been painted shut over the years.

 Un-stick the windows

In a lot of older homes you will find that one or even both window sashes have been painted shut.

The first step in repairing these windows is to get them open and my favorite tool for that is an oscillating multi tool. This cool little tool has several different attachments for any number of projects, but more on that later in tool talk. For this project I used the scraper attachment to cut through the caulk and paint that had the windows sealed shut and then carefully worked them open with a stiff puddy knife and small prying tool.

 Inspect the sash rope / replace sash rope




Double hung windows that operate with counter weights will have sash ropes run through pullies to hold the window in the open position. Over the years, these ropes can dry rot and break, leaving the weight at the bottom of the weight well.






How to replace the sash rope

To replace the sash rope you will need to remove the window sashes.




First, carefully remove the window stop that holds the interior/bottom sash in place. These are typically held in place by three or four screws.






Next, to remove the sash, slightly open the window, holding it firmly, pull one side toward you. If this side has a sash rope, holding the rope firmly, carefully remove it, and gently guide it up until the weight rests in the bottom of the well.

CAUTION, Sash weights weigh as much as the window sash does and if you do not have a firm grip on the rope the weight can/will drop and may pull the rope back into the weight well.







Remove the interior stop; This is the strip of wood between the two sashes.  Lower the upper sash to the bottom of the opening. Starting at the top gently pry the stop strip loose and lift out of the recess and notch on the sash. Once you have removed the stop strip, remove the sash the same way as you did with the first one.









Next open the weight well access. On each side of the window frame you will find an access panel held in place by two screws.  Remove the screws and gently pry out the cover.





Inside the access panel you should find 4 window weights, two on each side. Remove any weights that need new sash cord.



Determine the approx length of sash rope- if you are not sure, a bit longer is better, you can always cut some off.

If you are using a poly rope with a cotton cord, it is helpful to melt the ends of the rope; this stops them from fraying and makes it easier to thread through the pulley.

Next tie a knot in one end of the rope, then feed the other end through the pulley at the top of the window frame. When the rope reaches the access, pull the end through the opening and tie on the window weight.

Do this with each sash rope that needs to be replaced.






Once you have tied off the weights and put them back into the well you can re-install the sashes.

To do this reverse the procedure for removing them. As you are replacing the sash, slide the knot/rope in the channel on the side of the sash (in some cases, where the sash is very warn,  you may need to run a small finish nail through the knot and into the sash frame).









Be sure to hold the sash rope as you slide the sash into place.










Now that the sash in back in place you may need to adjust the length of the rope.  To check this raise the window to the top, if the weight is resting on the bottom of the weight well and/or the window does not stay in the fully raised position your rope is to long.









Shorten the rope just enough so the weight hangs freely slightly above the bottom of the weight well.


Once all the weights are adjusted, re-install the access cover and the interior window stop and you are ready to caulk and paint!





split double hung window

Now the fun stuff…

On the living room windows I found a really cool feature. These windows use sash pins instead of a counter weight system. They were designed to retract up into the wall above the window and are held in place by the pins.  This photo shows the upper sash retracted. There is also space for the lower sash to retract up as well, allowing about three quarters of the space to be open.


On to the next project…




Until next time…


Life is simple…Enjoy the fresh air!