Warmer weather means open windows so spring is a great time to check that your windows are in good shape.
Windows should work well. It doesn’t seem too much to ask. If they are meant to open, they should open without a fight. They should stay open without something stuck under them to hold them up. They should close securely and lock. New windows can do this.
If your windows are getting a bit eccentric on any of these basic window tasks, you may be able to rejuvenate them with some home maintenance.
Some structural issues may be best fixed by experienced home maintenance professionals. The important part to remember is that replacement is not the only option.
If you have to fight to open a window that sticks, the cause may be anything from paint or dirt stuck in the tracks to a serious shift in the house foundation. Let’s talk about easily fixable causes here.
If the window won’t budge at all, it may be that paint seeped between the sash and the frame and dried. If you can see spots of paint buildup, scrape them away. If it is more like a smooth seal all around the sash, run a utility knife all around the frame to cut the paint seal. You may need to do this both inside and outside the window. If the window opens at this point, run a wax candle along the tracks several times to lubricate them. Open and close the window several times. It should get easier each time. Some folks prefer a spray lubricant to wax. The point is to remove the material that holds the window shut and then to lubricate the window tracks so it is easier for the sash to move.
Sometimes the answer is as easy as cleaning away dirt, cobwebs, grime, grit, and maybe even insect nests or plant tendrils from the tracks. Use a damp rag (and a dry one) to clear out the tracks. An old toothbrush or similar small brush might also be useful, depending on how firmly the debris is stuck in the tracks. If you can open the window at this point, use wax or a spray lubricant on the tracks to keep the window operating more smoothly.
There is an easy answer to a moisture-swollen stuck window and a harder answer. If the moisture is simply a high-humidity day, using a hair dryer to bake the moisture out of the frame may shrink it enough to operate again. If the moisture build-up is because the room produces a lot of moisture – like a bathroom or a kitchen – address that build-up with a dehumidifier or venting fan or similar effort to reduce the moisture level in the room. If, however, moisture has seeped into a wood frame because the flashing that guides rain and snow away from the window needs replacing, the fix is bigger than the window frame itself.
A window that won’t stay open may have broken parts that can be replaced. This is a more complicated situation than cleaning window tracks. You probably need to disassemble the window to identify the exact cause. If you don’t want to attack this yourself, call on folks with the experience and skill to assess the damage and to help you decide whether repair or replacement is the better option. Depending on the type of window you have, the issue could be balance pins, problems with the points and shoes, or (for very old windows) broken sash cords. All these things can be fixed or replaced, but all require a level of disassembly and reassembly that may be daunting for the amateur.
A window that won’t close all the way or won’t lock because it can’t close all the way likely has built-up dirt or paint interfering with its resting point. Or it might be swollen or warped so that it no longer fits the track smoothly.
- If the issue is dirt or paint interfering with the window closing fully, clean the tracks and the sill to remove the debris.
- If the issue is moisture, the same suggestions as for a window that won’t open apply.
- If the window is not fitting squarely in its frame try wiggling or pushing on one side or the other to straighten it out.
- If the lock itself is broken, you may be able to replace that part.
If none of these fixes helps, it is time to call on experienced home maintenance folks who can, as with a window that won’t stay open, help you assess the cause and the appropriate repair or replacement.
If you like to open your windows for a pleasant breeze, but your windows are not cooperating in the opening, staying open, or closing, there are some things you can do to fix common problems. There are other things that are best done by experienced home maintenance professionals. Checking your windows (and screens) regularly assures that when you want them to open, they will.
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