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Thread: opening old wood windows - help?

  1. #1

    opening old wood windows - help?

    Thanks in advance for your advice,

    I have purchased a house which is over 80 years old, and still has most of its original parts in place. This includes the fantastic huge bedroom windows, with intricate mouldings and tiny windows within it, etc.

    my problem right now is that the windows cannot open! I guess time, the elements, several coats of paint have sealed them shut. And they are the frustrating old type of windows where the only way to open them is to push upwards with your palm at the top of the window frame, where there is only about a third of an inch between the pane of glass and the lip of the frame, if you know what I mean.

    We've tried opening them all summer and all early-winter (hoping that the temperature change might help free them), but no luck. My carpenter took a look while re-doing my bathroom and he couldn't get them either. We've tried tapping all around to loosen it, we've tried using a hammer upwards to open it, and my dad really tried banging it upwards and ended up slightly breaking the top piece of the window right out of the corner joint (I guess the window is not held together by nails but by being slotted together).

    Anyways, does anyone have any ideas or tips? Would be much appreciated! Thanks very much in advance,
    Dave Allston

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Tokiwadai, Japan

    You might find some info here...'bout all I can offer. Got it by Googling "opening stuck wooden windows"

    Oh, and Welcome to the forum!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Run a putty knife blade around the edges, inside and out. This should (may) loosen them enough to raise. Are the lead weights still attached and helping? If not you may have to remove the trim around the windows, find the weights and re-tie. Cotton closeline was the common rope used. I would suggest you modernize to nylon. Otherwise, the old hand banging and bruising might be the only resort.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Floydada, Tx
    In my shop, I had to take off the trim and go outside and push the window lose.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    in addition to franks idea of using a putty knife to break the paint loose on the joints after that has been done,go outside with a thin pry bar and tap it underneath the edge where the most strenght is and try prying it up on both sides once it lets loose take sand off some of the extra paint on the sides/ of the sash. and give it a little wax job.
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  6. #6
    There used to be a TV show where a young Black Comic was knownn to sayt "Dy-No-Mite !!!! Might try that....

    Mom's house was painted shut as well, Summer time is the only time to work on them. Hot Dry weather and a cheap Putty knife (I say cheap because you will need to pound on it with a hammer and it will be toast when done) I got one at the local 99 cent store, slid it into the seam and pounded it untill it was through, then another 2" pound then move over another 2" all the wa around. Slice through untill you free up the sash. then try to lift it. Are the sash rope still entact?

    All winter this will act as a weather seal so do it in the summer. After you get them open remove the sash and replace the weights with springs , Insulate and weather strip.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    new york city burbs
    The worst sealed tight old wooden framed window I ran into, actually had a finishing nail put through the bottom of the top window frame, into the top of the bottom window frame. It was obviously put there for security reasons, but was painted over and noone ever bothered to remove it or open the window.
    I had to dig through 6 coats of old paint to free an old rusted finishing nail.
    I didnt have a putty knife at the time, so I ran a steak knife to see if I could loosen up old paint, and hit the nail.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Man, have i been THERE!
    As others have said, you're probably painted shut, which can be more difficult to free up than one might imagine. I also had one with a finish nail driven through the side stile on the bottom window sash and into the window jamb. Talk about difficult to find. I finally found it using one of those cheepie magnetic stud finders. I've also had windows that were caulked shut. Now that was a bugger to deal with.
    I have a lot of experience with old wood windows - i work with a lot of historic rehabs. Know that the old wood windows, if they're essentially in tact, with a tune up, can be better quality than a lot of the replacement windows on the market. They've lasted 80 years, and were probably fine for their first 50. I'd be hard pressed to consider most new windows to have that longevity.
    There's a great little book out there called "working windows" that gets into the anatomy, repair, and weatherstripping of old wood windows. I highly recommend it. Regarding efficiency, the vast majority of heat loss with old windows is due to air infiltration. If you can stop the draft, you've addressed the biggest issue. New thermal pane windows have an R value typically of about 3. Your old single pane windows have an R value of about 1. Add a functional storm window to it and you're performing as well or better than thermal panes. And the wood frames are inherently insulative - moreso than aluminum or vinyl.
    If your windows are salvageable and you can deal with storm windows, it would take you a long time to recapture any replacement window costs through energy savings.
    Paul Hubbman

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Northwest Missouri
    Having spent a great deal of time working and living in 80 to 100 yr old houses in the last 30 years, I agree with all Paul said. And the putty knife is probably the best tool to start with. I found a small and quite thin pry bar that I use as Larry described. It is described as a pry bar to remove trim. May have got it from Harbor Frt. Usually it can be driven (carefully) under each corner and free the window much better than using a hammer inside. Then go around both outside and inside with the putty knife and, with a little work, most will come free -- other than being nailed shut.

    One other thing to consider before doing replacement windows is to find out if the house is in any kind of historic district. Districts usually have guidelines for the repair or replacement in-kind to maintain the integrity of the building.

    Have patience and good luck. Old houses can be a joy to live in, but a frustration to work on!
    Roger from Missouri

    If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you always got!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan

    thin pry bar

    red devil makes one,, its real thin and strong..
    Last edited by larry merlau; 12-03-2008 at 10:59 PM.
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

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