How to Repair Sash Windows
How to preserve old windows with putty, epoxy, and patience
Single-pane double-hung windows from the 19th century don't have the best of reputations. They can be notoriously drafty, full of rattles, loose in the joints, or can simply refuse to budge. But as a number of studies have shown, when these windows are properly weatherstripped and paired with good storm windows, they can match the performance of new double-pane units for much less than the new ones cost.
Painting contractor John Dee, whose refinishing skills are regularly seen in the pages of This Old House, recently turned the windows in an 1882 house back into smooth operators—and increased their energy efficiency, to boot. As he shows on the following pages, it was simply a matter of methodically removing each sash from its opening, stripping off the old paint and putty, and regluing the joints with epoxy. With new putty, paint, and weatherstripping, the sash are ready to face the cold and last through the 21st century as good as new.
Painting contractor John Dee reattaches the stops, the last step in his window restoration. "Before this, opening a window was a wrestling match," he says. "Now, they just glide up and down."
Get the Sash Out
Pry off or unscrew the stops (the moldings in front of the lower sash).
Pull out the lower sash, and take off the cords or chains on both sides.
Knot the cords to keep them from being pulled into the weight pockets.
Remove the parting beads (the vertical strips holding the upper sash).
Pull out the upper sash, and take off its cords or chains.
Remove the sash hardware and store in a labeled bag.