How do you open a stuck window?
April 9, 2008 2:43 PM   Subscribe

How do you un-stick a stuck window? We've tried most of the obvious things, and now don't know what to do.

My partner and I recently moved into a new (to us) house. Our bedroom is in the finished attic, and it has three small windows. Last night was the first time since we moved in that we needed to open those windows.

They were all stuck.

One of them opened after I ran a utility knife around the edge to break the paint seal. The other two, though, are being more resistant. Utility knives were run around the edges, and nothing happened. I tried padding the windowsill and then using the handle of a hammer to lever the windows open, and they didn't budge (though the windows and handles are old enough that the handle loosened right up--not quite the desired effect). We tried squirting a bit of oil down the edge of the frame, over the runners, and nothing.

The windows obviously haven't been opened since the last time the house was painted, and I'm wondering if some of the paint dripped down the sill and is adhering the window to the sill, instead of the frame as all of the how-to-loosen-a-stuck-window guides assume.

We rent the place, but for various reasons would rather not have to call the landlord if we don't have to. That said, we're not afraid of messing up the paint, playing with sharp objects, oils, basic tools, whatever. (And yes, I tried gently hitting the bottom (wood) part of the window with the hammer to loosen it up. No go.)

Surely there's some way to fix this that we're missing, right? Should I just keep going at it with the utility knife and assume that eventually I'll get to a point where it works? Is there some sort of magical spray that we can put on it to loosen things up?
posted by meghanmiller to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should use a flat pry bar, not a claw hammer for this. First look very carefully to make sure that the window is not nailed or screwed shut, and if there are any hinges that indicate which direction the window wants to go. If not, then it's most likely painted shut from the outside. Take the flat bar and pry gently at the window, starting on one side and moving to the other. If the window starts to loosen, you can apply more pressure, enough force to move the window but not enough to break the glass. Make sure that you apply equal force to both sides of the window so that it doesn't get cock-eyed.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2008

When we moved into our old house we had the same problem. We used this tool, known as a window zipper. Worked great. There are also lots of different kinds of spray paint removers on the market that you might try, to loosen the paint first - that would work well if the dried paint is pooled in the sill, as you suspect. The worst that could happen if you strip away some paint is that you'll have to touch up the woodwork.
posted by iconomy at 2:56 PM on April 9, 2008

Last summer I was living in an absolute flop-house, because I was a poor graduate student and couldn't afford anything else. It got pretty hot in the summer, but all the windows in the house had been seriously painted shut. To avoid death by stifling suffocation, I resolved to do whatever necessary to get the window in my bedroom open.

I bought a crowbar (less than $10), went outside with the crowbar and a hammer and went to town on the window from the outside. I had to get a stepladder to get up high enough, but once that was done, it was easy.

I tried to get it open from the inside, but I ended up just tearing at the raised inner sill. From the outside, however, I could get directly at the bottom of the window. With a little prying, it came loose.

Important: Get screens for the windows before you leave them open. After the above incident, I realized the windows were unscreened and decided to get some the next day. That night, while trying to sleep, I heard a light "thud" on the bed just next to my face. I got up, turned on the light and the biggest fucking spider I've ever seen was sitting about two inches from my pillow. I had to sleep on the couch that night. If a similar scenario seems at all unappealing for you or your SO, get some screens.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2008

how old is the house? it is possible that with age the windows frames have warped and as a result it is no longer physically possible to move the windows. i ran into this issue once in a particularly run down apartment. in this situation it was possible to open the windows a small amount though.
posted by phil at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2008

Check out this article:
How to Unstick Stuck Windows
posted by CAnneDC at 3:42 PM on April 9, 2008

Have you used the utility knife on the outside? House painters (particularly amateurs) are notorious for painting over sashes.
posted by Neiltupper at 4:19 PM on April 9, 2008

Yeah, seconding the flat bar and making sure to cut the exterior free. It might be clauked shut from the outside. Don't try wacking it up with a hammer at the top of the sash, the meeting rail, that's a sure way to break the sash. Pushing and jiggling it should work it loose eventually.
posted by princelyfox at 5:08 PM on April 9, 2008

What is the weather like? If it has been at all wet recently, wait for things to dry completely before trying to unstick the window. For some reason, moisture makes stuck windows all the more stuck.
posted by Wavelet at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2008

Are the sash cords/chains still in place? You can try pulling the sash cords in toward the center of the window a couple of times. This can help even warped windows to open. Also try spraying some WD40 down the line of the cords, into the track (rather than just along the edge).
posted by nax at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2008

Tap all along the edges of the window frame with the hammer. Right at the edge where it meets the window frame. Not too hard, you don't want to dent the wood or shatter the glass. But hard enough to jiggle/crack any stuck paint free.

But it's possible it might be fastened shut from the outside.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on April 9, 2008

A rubber mallet might work better than a metal hammer. That's the first thing I would try before moving on to more drastic pry bar, utility knives, etc.
posted by Carbolic at 12:35 PM on April 10, 2008

I know this thread is over a month old, but I had this same problem recently and found out two things:

1. Everyone that works at Home Depot will look at you like you're insane if you ask for a window zipper. Apparently that's an uncommon moniker for that nifty-looking tool, which was impossible to locate in aforementioned Home Depot.

2. Just use a putty knife. We got one with an angled blade that did the trick, and it was only three dollars. I have a feeling those "window zippers" aren't cheap, since they're specialty tools.

Of course, our window was painted shut from the outside of the house; we're lucky it was a first-story window or I don't think the putty knife method would have worked. It took a little elbow grease (I'm told) but the window was open in just a few minutes. Make sure to vacuum, dust, and wash out that sill before leaving the window open; otherwise, you'll end up with paint chips and grime on your carpet. Sounds obvious, but worth a mention.
posted by k8lin at 5:20 PM on May 4, 2008

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