How to open stuck double-hung windows?
December 18, 2021 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I need to open some stuck double-hung windows for covid ventilation purposes. They’re really stuck! I don’t think it’s that they are painted shut - it’s an old house that’s tilted a little and the wood is probably warped.
posted by haptic_avenger to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Somewhere inside the frame the window is sticking, probably in several spots and you can't see where.

First step is to get a small rubber mallet and go around the entire window tapping the window's own frame reasonably hard and possibly protecting the glass with a folded up towel as you do. You don't need to tap the frame that is enclosing the window; I mean the frame that encloses the glass. This includes tapping the bottom of the window, if it is accessible. Tapping will hopefully crack any paint seals, as well as seals caused by settling or moisture or dust.

Also tap the outside of the window to push it more into the room if you can. Often the window will have settled half a millimeter or three, one corner or another being lower, and any efforts to push it downward will be making it wedge tighter so you want to push it up.

The next step if that doesn't work is to get a chisel and remove the paint around the edges of the window and the paint around the edges of the frame to see if you can break any airtight gaps. You want to be able to slide the corner of a sheet of paper between window and frame. Any spot you can't do that is a spot where it might be sticking.

There is a not small chance that your window is only based off a design where upper windows can be lowered and it has not been installed with sash cords and is instead fixed deliberately so it won't move. The obvious location for something blocking it is just inside the frame under the window. There may be either little wooden blocks or nails. To get at these you will probably either have to work from the outside or remove the lower window from the inside.

Sometimes instead of a wooden block there is a wooden strip that runs the full height from sill to the bottom of the window. Check if one side is different from the other.

If you are determined to do this you may end up removing the outer moulding and lower window. Even if all you are doing is delicately tapping with a mallet it would be smart to have a plan what to do if something breaks - find out if there is a place in town that cuts glass, and where and figure out how to use putty and glazier's points. That said it is perfectly possible to do this and not break anything, if you are very patient and careful.

If the windows do not predate 1925 they almost certainly have not been opened that way and are not meant to open that way. Like the shutters on so many houses, they are not actually intended to be used, and only have the appearance of being functional. However they it may be possible to convert them into something functional.

Be aware that once your window does come down it may thereafter be prone to coming down when the house or the window shakes, and if it does so unexpectedly it could break and will let the winter weather in when you are not there to deal with it. It is unlikely that there are working sash cords, and retrofitting them will be a beast. An easier solution is to have wooden props cut to the right height so you can lower the window and the prop prevents it from coming farther down than that. You can cut multiple props to allow the window to lower only two inches, or six inches or twelve inches.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:56 AM on December 18, 2021 [13 favorites]

Do you have a car jack ? If so it can be used to push against the frame rails ,gently.
posted by hortense at 1:25 PM on December 18, 2021

Response by poster: I don’t have a car jack. Anything else I could improvise?
posted by haptic_avenger at 1:58 PM on December 18, 2021

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