How To Rehabilitate Old Windows
If you're looking to save money on energy bills by replacing your drafty windows, I think
you'll find that repairing your old windows will save you even more. This is especially true since the life expectancy
of new windows is only 15-20 years. With the cost of having a new window installed reaching a minimum of $189 (plus
tax) for a limited-size window, and the cost of repairing an old window reaching a whopping $5-$25, it may be worth a try
to learn how to fix the old ones.
Disassembling and putting back together a window
can seem like a daunting task the first time you do it. You might break or damage something in the process, but everything's
fixable, and you surely won't make the same mistake twice.
The first thing
you need to do is assess what kind of condition the window is in and what needs to be done in order to bring it back to life.
Repair may be as simple as glazing and painting, or as complex as complete dis-assembly (which is not as hard as it sounds.)
Glaze and Repaint
This is the simplest and most important part of keeping a window like new. Don't
disturb the glazing (the hard sealant used around the exterior of the glass,) if it's solidly in place, with no pieces
missing. If it has a large crack along the wood or along the glass, and it falls out when you gently pry it out with
your finger, then it's time to reglaze.
Use a utility knife inserted
between the glazing and the wood to cut along the crack, and the glazing will fall out easily. If it doesn't, don't
force it or you may break the glass. Clean the glass with a sharp putty knife, again, being gentle so as to not break
the glass. If the glass is loose, use a glazing point to resecure the glass, sliding it into the wood with a putty knife.
Glazing points are sold next to the buckets of glazing compound in the paint department of home improvement
Next, clean out the groove with your utility knive, putty knife, and a broom
or whisk. Blowing out the dust and debris doesn't hurt either. Some experts recommend applying
linseed oil to the bare wood to make the glazing stick better. Apply glazing with a glazing tool (also sold near the
glazing compound). Only apply enough to cover the channel. Don't put on so much that it's visible from
the interior. Smooth it out with the tool. This will take some practice. There are several methods of applying
glazing, and you'll find one that suits you.
After at least seven days of 40 degree
weather, prime the glazing with oil base primer. I like to use small foam throwaway brushes because they're cheap,
and oil is hard to clean out of a brush. Then paint the sash with the color of your choice and you're done!
Replace or Reattach Ropes
If your ropes are broken, it's not as hard as you may think to solve this problem. This
process involves removal of the lower sash and some trim.
The first thing you need
to do is carefully remove one of the vertical inside stops that hold the lower sash in place. There is one on each side
of the window. If you only have broken rope on one side of the window, you only have to remove the stop on that side.
Use a stiff scraper blade inserted underneath the back side, and something soft under the blade handle to keep from marring
the rest of your trim. Pry loose the stop, starting at the bottom, and working your way up a little at a time.
If there is a stop along the bottom of the window, this must be removed first. If you have a hard time removing the
stop, check for a buildup of paint, and remove that buildup before prying, other wise you'll end up with two pieces of
wood instead of one. This is a case where two is NOT better than one.
stop is removed, check for metal weatherstrip along the side of the sash. If you have the kind of weatherstripping that
has something that is bent in a shape that inserts into a groove in the window, it will have a small nail holding it at the
top, bottom, and sometimes halfway down or anywhere in between. First, pry out the nail by hammering a wood chisel underneath
the weatherstripping, behind where the nail is. Then pry out the nail a little bit and pull it out the rest of the way
with a pair of pliers or a pry bar hooked underneath the nail head. It's easiest to pull out the nail at the top
of the weatherstripping first, then open the window and pull out the rest. You only need to remove the weatherstripping
from one side of the lower sash.
At this point you can pull out the lower sash a little
bit on the side where the weatherstripping was removed. The easiest position for the window to be in while your doing
this is the lowered position, opened slightly, so that it will come out without hitting anything. Once it is pulled
toward you, you can then pull it sideways out of the other side as well.
of the ropes are still attached, remove the nail that holds them in place with a pair of pliers. Rest the window on
the sill while you're doing this, and catch it so that it doesn't fall. At the same time, hang on to the rope
if it's still attached to a weight so that it doesn't fall into the cavity. Tie a simple knot in the end of
the rope and that will keep it from falling into the pulley. Discard any broken rope that you remove from the sash,
and rest the window where it will be out of the way for a while. This is a good time to clean out the weatherstripping
on the top of the lower sash and the bottom of the upper sash with a screwdriver and/or vacuum. These are called meeting
rails, because they're located where the two sashes meet. Cleaning these out will ensure that the window closes
and seals properly.
On the side of the window that has the broken or missing
rope, you'll need to remove the parting stop that runs vertically along the center, in between where the upper and lower
sashes slide. It measures 1/2 inch by 3/4 inch, and runs the entire height of the window opening. Before you do
this, halfway up the parting stop, there might be a tiny weatherstripping item that is made of metal, with felt behind it.
If it is there, and it is attached to the parting stop, pry out the two nails that hold it in place, with the wood chisel
and a hammer.
The parting stop is removable by inserting a flat blade
screwdriver, tapping the screwdriver with a hammer until it is about 3/8ths of an inch in, then prying on the screwdriver
until it comes out a little bit. Do this every 12 inches or so until the whole parting stop is loose. When you've
pried it out as far as it will go, move the parting stop toward you and it will come out.
The next task is to look for a rectangular cutout where you removed the large piece of weatherstripping. If it is held
in place with a screw, you're lucky. If it held in place with a nail, you're not. Tap upward into the
crack underneath the wood where the nail is with the wood chisel and pry on the cutout until it comes out far enough for you
to pull it down and out. If you can, remove the nail before you do this.
Inside the hole you should see two weights. One is for the upper sash and one is for the lower. Remove the weight
that aligns with the lower sash by lifting it and pulling out the bottom of the weight. Remove the broken rope if it's
To install fresh rope, you'll need a package of "Sash
Cord" that corresponds with the diameter of rope your windows had. This is usually 3/8ths inch. Don't
buy clothesline cord because it's stretches too much. You'll also need a length of bead-- the kind that is used
for ceiling fan pulls, and you'll need some 2" masking tape. Attach the bead to the end of the new rope with
masking tape, and lower the bead through the pulley and into the weight cavity. When you see the bead inside the cutout
hole, pull it until the rope comes through. Attach the rope to the weight with a knot, make sure it's tight, and
cut off excess rope on the knot. Put the weight back in the cavity and pull the slack out of other end of the rope.
Cut off the rope, leaving about 12 inches hanging out of the pulley. Reinstall the parting stop and the small weatherstripping
felt exactly where they were. Use a smaller hammer with a square head to tap the parting stop back into the groove.
Set the window sash back on the sill, untie the knot that you tied earlier on
the good side, and reattach it exactly where it was, using the same nail and nail hole. Slide the window sash back onto the
weatherstripping on the side where you left the weatherstripping on. Leave the other side of the sash hanging out, but
hold onto it. Pull the new rope down until it won't go any farther, then let it go back in a couple of inches.
Attach it to the sash precisely where you stopped, using the original nail or one similar to it. The place where you
attach it is critical to the operation of the window later on.
Place the large
weatherstripping back on the sash and slide the window back in. If there were any shims behind the weatherstripping,
slide those in there too. If the window seems loose from side to side, you can add some drywall shims in there.
These are found in the putty knife section of the drywall aisle at home improvement stores. Pull down on the weatherstripping
until it aligns with the weatherstripping on the sill. Open the window fully, and reattach the nails that held the weatherstripping
in place. Close the window to reattach the top nail on the weatherstripping. Reattach the inside stop exactly
where it was, inserting the existing nails in their original holes. Tap each nail a little at a time up and down the
stop, to avoid breaking it.
Open and close the window to see how it works
or if you need to do any adjustment, etc., and you're done! You can use these methods to reattach the ropes on the
upper sash if you like, and if so, you will enjoy the benefits of a fully functional double-hung window--easy cleaning, and
the ability to open the top sash for ventilation, even when it's raining.