Remodeling Tips and Reviews

Fixing an old double hung wood window

Fixing an old double hung wood window

Feb 2, 2012

Living in an old home has it charms. I own an old 1920’s prairie style house with beautiful single pane double hung windows. These old windows work off a basic pulley, rope and a weight that runs up and down behind the sash. Fixing them is not hard, but it is a lot of work.

Usually, what wears out with these old windows is the sash rope. Over time it becomes frayed and breaks. Sometimes it gets stuck in front of the pulley. To remove the rope and reattach the counter weight, you have to remove a few boards from the inside of the window. The first two are the window’s stops that hold the window in place. There will be one on each side. You should run a utility knife down the line where the stop meets the main sash frame to cut the paint. Then use a 1″ stiff putty knife to pry up the stop slowly from top to bottom. Once this is done you should be able to take out the bottom window. In the event it breaks you can buy new ones at any lumber yard and cut to fit.

Then you will need to remove both sides of the window’s trim boards that sit on the sash

Window Wieghts

and the wall next to the window. These are usually 1×6 boards. Using your utility knife score both sides top to bottom on each board, and at the top and base. You can then take your putty knife and hammer it under the trim to get a little space. Then you will need to take a flat prybar and hammer it in slowly, trying not to damage the wood. Once it is in you will start prying from one end to the other, if you see a point where the paint or caulking is catching and tearing up, use your utility knife to cut it. Be aware that there are heavy weight sitting in the wall and they may fall out once this board comes off. I suggest placing a piece of cardboard under each side, just in case.  Once the board is out you will see the weights.

Attaching the Sash Rope to the Window

Now it is time to attach your new sash rope to the side of the window. I would suggest cutting the rope two and half times as long as the window. When you are looking at the window itself you can usually see the old rope and where it is nailed into the window frame on the sides. Using pliers you should be able to remove it. Tie a tight knot at the end of the cut rope to sit in the cavity created on the side of the window where the old rope knot was. Then using similar sized nails with small heads renail the new sash rope into place, being careful not to hit the glass area. Once this is done on both sides place the window back into the frame and tack a long nail onto each side a few inches from the top to temporarily hold the window into place. Then take the sash rope and push it through the pulleys on each side. You may need to tape the ends off if they are fanning outward.

Tip: There are two sizes of sash rope. Measure yours to make sure you order the right one. My windows were the larger rope. Make sure you install the right size or your rope will likely get caught up in the pulleys.

3/16″ Rope

7/32″ rope

Securing the weights

The weights are large torpedo shaped irons. They are heavy, so be careful with them and don’t drop them on your feet. You will want to tie the weight a several inches from the pulley with a bowline knot which uses gravity to prevent the knot from coming undone. Once this is done on both sides the window is ready. You may want to oil the pulleys also while you have easy access to both sides.

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