Owners Manual - Removing A Sash
Windows built before World War II are simple, logical, and durable. The wood came from old growth forests and the wavy machine-blown glass is no longer made. The builders anticipated that the sashes would have to be removed and repaired - that the occasional baseball would go astray.
The instructions below complement the book Working Windows, A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows, by Terence Meany, Lyons Press 2002, ISBN 1-55821-70. I recommend it highly.
My description covers three basic types of window; a certain amount of variation is inevitable. Knowing how a window is supposed to work makes it easier, I hope, to figure out how to deal with variations.
- A fixed sash window is sandwiched between the inside stops and the outside window frame. It was not meant to open.
- A casement window swings in or out; it is hinged on the side like a door.
- A double-hung window has two sashes that slide past each other vertically. Both sashes are supposed to move.
Parts of a window:
- The "sash" is the separate rectangle of wood that surrounds the glass.
- The "stops" are the long thin strips of wood nailed or screwed into the window frame to hold the sash in place.
- The "frame" consists of all the other pieces of wood that are nailed to the wall of the house. The only part of the frame you need to remove is the parting bead.
- The "parting bead" is the long thin strip of wood on a double-hung window that fits into a groove on the side of the frame and separates the top sash from the bottom sash.
- One or two strong, thin blades such as a putty knife and a cats paw - a thin strong pry bar
- Pliers with the jaws wrapped in tape to protect wood surface
- A nail puller
- A hammer
- A tack puller or screwdriver
- A nail set - so that you can nail the stops back in without damaging the varnish
Paint looks nice and preserves the wood. Too much paint can seal a window tight shut. It is easier to strip the excess paint if you have removed the sash from the frame first. Breaking the exterior paint seal is the only step in removing a window sash that must be done from outside the house.
To crack the paint seal, carefully work a strong thin blade into the line where the sash meets the frame. Hold the blade parallel to the edge of the sash - don't gouge into the wood itself. It is OK to tap the handle of the blade with a hammer but go easy - you are only trying to crack the paint.
Once the blade has entered the joint, run the crack around the entire edge of the sash.
Other Window Types:
- Before the days of air conditioning, people opened both sashes to let in the breeze. This is still the cheapest, and most environmentally friendly, form of air-conditioning there is.
- Most windows that won't close properly are over-painted - too thick to slip in their grooves.
- Most hardware stores will replace broken glass and cracked glazing putty.
- The University of Vermont has shown that a good storm window in front of an original wooden window has the same thermal properties as a new replacement window.
- Heat rises. Before you try to save energy by replacing your original, architecturally correct, wooden windows with slick vinyl, check out the insulation in your attic.
- Compare the cost of installing a replacement window with the cost of installing low-tech weather stripping and new storm windows. Replacement windows are expensive to install.
- Replacing broken glass in a replacement window is more expensive than replacing a single pane in an old window - the entire double-pane unit must be replaced.
Stained Glass Windows:
- A stained glass window in good repair is just as weatherproof as a single pane of glass. It should have a good storm window. If it rattles when you tap it, the putty that seals the gap between the lead and the glass should be renewed. Keep the panel in its sash to move it - sometimes the sash is the only thing holding the panel together.
- A stained glass window stuck between two panes of glass in a replacement window has all the original grace and charm of a ball-gown displayed in a dry cleaner's bag. If you live near the airport, soundproof your stained glass window with a laminated glass storm window.
- PLEASE NOTE: The Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative includes in its grant program the cost of restoring stained glass windows so long as the restoration includes the installation of storm windows for insulation.