Repairing Sash Windows

This story shows you how to free a stuck sash.


A double-hung wood window typically has two sashes that move up and down. Many people nail and paint shut the upper sash. This makes it easier to seal but will make cleaning the window difficult if you cannot get at it from the outside.

If a sash will not stay up, the chain or cord connecting to the weight is probably broken. Replacing a chain or cord can be accomplished in an hour or so.

To make an older unit work more smoothly, a bit of detailed work is often required. If the window has been painted many times, you may need to scrape or even remove paint from sashes or stops in order to free the action. A balky pulley may also need to have its paint removed. Often a spray lubricant will help as well.

A drafty window can be sealed by adding weatherstripping. A storm window will help greatly as well.

Newer windows have a variety of mechanisms to keep sashes up when raised.

Prestart Checklist

1 or 2 hours for most repairs

Screwdriver, hammer, utility knife, zipper tool, flat pry bar, tin snips, pliers, paint scraper, putty knife, taping blades, sanding block, chisel

No special skills

Place a drop cloth on the floor by the window.

Caulk, sash chain or cord, wire, spray lubricant, paraffin block or candle, finishing nails, perhaps repair parts for newer windows

Freeing a stuck sash: Step 1

If a sash is painted shut, score the line with a zipper tool. You can use a utility knife, but the zipper cuts through paint with less chance of making a ragged edge.

Freeing a stuck sash: Step 2

If the sash remains stuck, wedge two taping blades or putty knives between the sash and the stop, insert a chisel or flat pry bar between them, and tap. Do this at several locations.

Freeing a stuck sash: Step 3

If the window will not pull up by the handles, try prying it up. This is usually best accomplished from the outside. To protect against denting the wood, use two taping blades or putty knives and a pry bar. First try prying in the middle. If that doesn't work, pry one side, then the other.

Freeing a stuck sash: Step 4

Sashes glide through a channel formed by the jamb and stops. If these are caked with paint, use a pull-type paint scraper or a chisel to remove the impediments. Then sand or wire-brush and vacuum. For a really thorough job, remove the sashes and strip all the paint.

Freeing a stuck sash: Step 5

To make the window glide smoothly, lubricate the channel with candle wax, paraffin, spray silicone, or spray dry lube.

Comments (5)
sgfsd wrote:

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6/6/2016 09:37:40 PM Report Abuse
pennyfanturyc wrote:

This is such a helpful article. So many things can go wrong with your window treatments, especially if you have children and a dog, like me. It's so useful to know how to fix things on your own to avoid costs whenever possible. Sash windows are so gorgeous. I recently renovated the window treatments in my home canton blinds this place did an amazing job, and guaranteed that if any damage occurred to my window treatments, they'd come over and fix it for free!

2/23/2015 12:05:48 PM Report Abuse
jjbrug6 wrote:

need more info.

4/20/2012 10:34:28 AM Report Abuse
christinafourm wrote:

This is great advice but it is always great to seek help from experts! Christina

9/16/2011 04:13:00 AM Report Abuse
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