Fixing The Windows That Stick

by Ray Walberg

If you’re like me, I’m sure at some time you’ve tried to open your door or a window only to have it stick. The first time you just ignore the problem. Many times after a year or so, you find yourself telling your guests, “turn the knob the other way or it will stick”. We all have a tendency to put things off as long as they still work somewhat. Windows and doors can stick for a number of reasons. Sometimes wood expands and contracts, parts may have been painted over two parts may be get fused together. Once you determine the cause, you can fix it yourself.

After a recent installation of a bay window, I found that the contractor had painted the windows closed. If paint is the culprit, you can scrape or cut it out with a putty knife or window zipper. Hold it flat against the sash, push it into the joint, and draw the zipper along the surface. If there is year’s accumulation of paint, remove the excess paint with a paint scraper. Make sure you get all the parts that have excess paint, opening and closing the window throughout the process. You may have to remove the window to scrape paint off the sash. If this doesn’t work, you may have to strip the paint down to the bare wood and repaint them. A commercial painter remover will do the job well. Make sure the paint is thoroughly dry before you reinstall the window or you’ll have the same problem.

If the problem is too much friction, you can use candle wax or talcum powder to lubricate the channels of the sash. If weather-stripping is in the sash channels, flatten the weather strip with a hammer and block of wood.

If you can’t seem to find what’s causing the problem, you may have to just jar it loose a little with a rubber mallet or the palm of your hand. Gently tap the sides of the sash. You may want to install new friction channels. You’ll need to remove the sashes, weights and pulleys before you begin. Push some fiberglass insulation in the openings of the weigh cavities, starting at the top and working down. Put in the ends of the top strip to make new friction channels. A sharp chisel and hammer works well for this. Replace the sashes in the window frame between the two new channels. You can then reinstall the interior stops the way you would if they were new. You may have to increase or decrease the tension on the window.

Doors usually stick for similar reasons except for the additional problems hinges may cause. Occasionally the door will rub against the jam, in which case, you need to shim the hinges out. If the rubbing is on a side where there are no hinges, you may need to readjust the door. Remove the door and use a plane to shave some of the door until it fits. Other simple problems such as loose screws or hinges can be easily fixed by tightening them.

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