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Drafty Sash-Weight Windows

Solutions for leaky sashes

Ask This Old House Crew
Photo by Matt Kalinowski

I have an old house with sash-weight windows. Can I get rid of the
weights and make the windows airtight so they aren't so drafty? Any
help or suggestions would be great.

— Ron, Council Bluffs, IA


Tom Silva replies: You can remove the window weights, insulate the weight bays,
and install a spring balancing system. Or you can leave the window
weights in place and have the windows weatherstripped. To go the weatherstripping
route, pry off the stops that keep the sash in the window. Setting them
aside, remove the lower sash and open up the sash weight ports to remove
the weight and cut off the rot-prone cotton weight cords, which you should
replace with indestructible copper chain. The delicate parting
beads, which separate the two sashes, come out next, and then finally
the upper sash.
Cut a groove in the rail of the lower sash and slip in some nylon weatherstripping. Line the upper half of the lower sash with
spring bronze weatherstripping, nailing it in place and scoring it with
a putty knife so that the unattached edge provides a seal for the upper
sash. The upper sash then goes back into the frame, followed by bronze
weatherstripping for the lower sash.
Replacing the traditional ropes
with copper chains can help prevent rattling and drafts. New locks will also work to seal two sashes tightly together.


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