Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Making Windows Operate

New or old poorly operating windows are one of the most common home repair questions, with many homeowners at a loss at what to do. Nothing is more frustrating than a window that will not open, slams down when opened, or is just impossible to open without Herculean strength. It is especially frustrating when someone does not need to or cannot afford to replace the windows.

Windows have been around since the founding of America. While 500-year old windows are uncommon, there are many 200-year old windows still in operation today. The functional difference between a 200 or 10 year old window can be vast, although excessive paint can prevent clean operation or not work at all.

Most window systems can work well as designed, although installation and painting can make windows impossible to operate or outright dangerous.

Paint is the number one issue for poor window operation, with installation a close second. The issue is when windows are painted in place, and paint “rolls” over edges and creates binding and friction. Older windows need room to operate, while many modern window tolerances are so small that one paint job can make them inoperable. There are several tools that can help get these windows working again.

A Window Opener is a handled spade shaped head with serrated edges, allowing a pull action to rip a seam open. This tool is great aggressive means to get old windows moving.

Stiff flat blades, like a 5 in 1 tool, has a sturdy fine edge that can open gaps with the tap of a hammer. A thinner drywall blade can be used to open up smaller seams like in modern windows.

Carbide tipped pull scrapers are great tools for getting old windows to function. There blades can be a straight wide or skinny, a triangle, a round, or with custom shapes. This is a great tool when you need to scrape the interior window molding, or stop. The backside of the stop, against the window sash, can get a lot of excess paint. Many old window stops are in by friction or screws, with one side removable so the window sash can be serviced.

Then there are the standard tools like a hammer and a combination screwdriver, as well as a vacuum with a HEPA cartridge.

Lubes and waxes are critical to function. Check with the window manufacturer for the best product to use. Use bowling alley wax for wood, spray lubricant for metal pulleys and springs, and silicone spray lubricants for plastic.

For fans of power tools, the oscillating tools with swappable blades and sanding profiles are a great all around tool for cutting and finishing.

The key to restoring the function of the window is to first understand how it operates. If the operating system no longer functions, releasing over paint may make operation worse, since paint friction may keep them up. Once you determined the windows should work, look at the tolerance between tracks and sash. For older windows, most need at least a drywall blade of space. For more modern windows, the drywall blade will help release the over paint.