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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

How to Open Those Stuck Windows

It’s refreshing to open windows to let in fresh air on a beautiful spring or autumn day. But what if your window won’t budge? Here’s a quick DIY fix that will let in balmy breezes.

What caused the windows to stick?

When window frames are painted, the drying paint can form a seal along the edges of the sash — that is, the moveable section of the window —and the frame, locking the sash into place. Freeing it just takes a little work.

If the paint is not the issue, the wood may be swelling in humid weather, or water may have gotten within the frame. Either will make the sides of the sash swell.

Unsticking a window that’s been painted shut

To unstick a window where paint has locked the sash in place, you’ll need a utility knife, a thin-bladed putty knife, a foot-long piece of two-by-four lumber, a hammer, a pry bar, a thin piece of wood or a thick cloth, and a household candle.

  • First, use the utility knife to score the paint. Begin at one corner where the window sash touches the vertical side trim of the window frame. Carefully cut through the painted seal along this side edge, then repeat on the other side. Also, score along the bottom edge of the sash and the corresponding top edge. If the window has been painted on the exterior, repeat this procedure there. Now unlock the window and try to open it.

  • If the window still won’t open, take the thin-bladed putty knife and insert it into the same places where you used the utility knife. Tap the other end of the putty knife gently with the hammer, working your way around the edges. Next, place the two-by-four along the vertical side trim and tap gently with the hammer to shake the sash loose. Repeat at the sill and the top edge of the window frame. Again, if the exterior of the window has been painted, repeat this procedure there. Try the window again.

  • If the window is still stuck, place a thin piece of wood or a thick cloth on the sill in front of one side of the sash, carefully insert the pry bar under the sash and tilt the bar back gently to pry the window up. Repeat on the other side, then continue this move across the entire sash.

  • If the paint is the issue, these steps should free the window. Once you’ve got it moving, use the blunt end of the candle to rub a coat of wax top to bottom along the channels in which the window slides up and down. This will lubricate the track so that the window can continue to glide freely.

If it’s not the paint

If the paint is not the issue and the window frame is wooden, humidity or even water leaking into the frame may have caused the wood to swell. If you suspect that’s the problem, either contact a professional or remove the sash from its frame and examine it yourself. YouTube has videos that can teach you how to remove the sash. Once the sash is free of the window frame, try sanding down the sides of the window where it fits into the frame to create clearance for the window to move freely.

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