How to Free a Stuck Window Sash

This tutorial explains how to free a stuck window sash by checking for sashes “glued” with paint, wiggling the window frame and lubricating the tracks.

Today is the first day of Fall, the summer heat has broken and the nighttime temperatures are in the high 50’s. It’s time to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows.

There’s just one problem. A few of the window sashes are stuck. Some are frozen because paint has glued the sash to the tracks and/or the tracks need to be lubricated.

The windows are the “double hung” variety, meaning the top and bottom sashes can be raised and lowered independently. The vinyl tracks – also called jamb liners – are the compression type, having a foam backing to maintain a tight seal around the window while allow the window to be removed – with difficulty – for repairs if necessary. A coiled compression spring inside the tracks counter balances the weight of the windows.

Double Hung Window Sash and Track

Double Hung Window Sash and Track

How to Free a Stuck Window Sash

  • First check if the vinyl tracks (jamb liners) are the compression type.
    The windows tracks on my windows are the compression type that flex outward to hug the windows frame. If so, press the jamb liner inward with your thumb just above the window frame at the lower red dot in the following photo. You may hear a popping noise as the jamb liner unsticks from the window frame.
  • Wipe off any dust, dirt, cob webs or whatever from the window tracks with a damp rag until clean and dry.
  • Apply a light coat of silicone spray to the track of the lower sash as indicated by the red dots in the photo below. Wipe off any excess with a paper towel. I prefer silicone spray because it’s colorless, very slick and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
Silicone Spray Lubricant and Window Sash

Silicone Spray Lubricant and Window Sash

Read the instructions on the spray can and test a small area first to make sure there it won’t discolor or dissolve the paint or plastic. I’ve never had a problem, but best to test first.

Try to raise the window. If it opens, great!

Rap on the Window Frame

Occasionally the window sash still won’t budge. If so, rap on both sides of the window frame a hammer fist at the blue dot as indicated in the above photo. Start lightly and then more strongly if necessary. The hammer fists should force the window frame downward just enough (a fraction of an inch) to break the bond with the jamb liners.

If the hammer fist doesn’t work, examine the exterior window frame because I’ve discovered many instances where the paint has bonded the window to the frame. This happens when the painters are careless and fill-in the gap between the exterior frame and sash. You’ll have to cut through the painted-filled joint with a putty knife to free the sash. See the next section for freeing the paint joints.

After raising the window sash, clean and lubricate the exposed window tracks – the area between the red lines:

Inner and Outer Tracks

Inner and Outer Tracks

Free the Top Window Sash

Raise the bottom sash all the way up to access the upper window sash. Free the upper window sash pressing inward against the jamb liners,  pulling down and/or rapping upwards with hammer fists. It helps to remove the window screen to allow move room to maneuver. Clean and lube the upper tracks.

Window Sashes Glued with Paint

The top sashes on all my windows were frozen in place and wouldn’t budge despite my efforts. I discovered careless house painters had painted the window sash to the header and tracks, effectively “gluing” the windows in place. The painter is supposed to partially open the windows when painting, then move the windows up/down after 30 minutes so the paint doesn’t bond the window closed.

The vinyl side track has a weather seal that overlaps the edge of the window sash. The paint dried along this joint, gluing the window in place. The painters also filled the gap between the blind stop and top of the frame (yellow arrows) with paint. The paint bond is surprising strong.

Window Glued Shut with Paint

Window Glued Shut with Paint

Insert a putty knife between the window sash and the weather seal to break the painted seam free.

Stuck Window Sash – Separating the Paint Seam

Slide the putty knife upward. The vinyl weather seal will flex, breaking the paint bond to the sash. Keep the blade nearly flat and work it along the seam several times.

Freeing the Stuck Window Sash with a Putty Knife

Run the putty along the other side of the window frame to break the paint seam.

Break the Painted Bond on the Other Side of the Window Frame

Also run the putty knife along the top of the window frame to break any paint bonds. After breaking the paint bonds, I was able to move the top window sash and lubricate the tracks.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

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10 Responses to How to Free a Stuck Window Sash

  1. Mary April 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Thanks. I’ve just read about 5 of these window how-to’s and this is the best by far. Pictures are very helpful. Who knew exactly what a sash and a track were without the dots?

  2. David February 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    If your window is stuck due to “habit” ( not painted shut), it may help if you lock & unlock the window several times. locking & unlocking will force the window to move a little in the track.This movement was enough to free my windows so they could be moved by hand. Otherwise follow the present very good article.

  3. Melinda May 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    THANK YOU. That helped a lot.

  4. Fabian Melgar June 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    I’m sure your “How to release a stuck window sash on a vinyl window” was helpful to most people with the problem, but unfortunately, for me, it was of no help––to start with, my window does not look like the one in your photos, and the top half of my vinyl window is fixed and not meant to be opened. The bottom half, however, is stuck and I can’t get it open no matter what I do. The problem with my window is that the sash is in the up position when the window is closed––it is supposed to be in the down position with the sash not visible. Is it worthwhile trying to get this fixed by a professional, or should I just get a new window installed?

    • Bob Jackson June 14, 2015 at 9:24 am #

      Put your thumbs against the side track next to the window frame and press outward. Do the same against the other side to break the “seal” with the window frame. The sash should move now.

  5. Joe December 21, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    Your windows are exactly like mine and I had to free them the same way. Question: It appears the previous owners on my house removed the sashes, painted them, and then put them back. Now it seems that because the edge of the window that makes contact with the vinyl jamb liner is now painted, the summer heat makes the paint sticky and “glues” it to the liner again. Should I remove the sashes and palm sand the paint off of them? Is so, do they need to be protected with something other than paint to protect against the elements or is raw wood against the liner preferred?

    • Bob Jackson December 21, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      I pressed inward on the plastic jamb liner (vertical tracks) to get a peek at the wood window sash frame. It appears the paint line ends about 1/4 inch from the face of the sash edges where it’s bare wood riding against the jamb liner. I’ll try to remove a sash tomorrow for a better look.

    • Bob Jackson December 21, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

      Hey – I just remembered the name of the window manufacturer! It’s Windsor Windows & Doors and it’s the Pinnacle product line.

      A couple of years ago I noticed the vinyl parting stops were missing on the 1st floor. It took a while but the local lumberyard & millwork and I figured out it was the Windsor Pinnacle window. The replacement parting stops are identical to those on the other windows and fit perfectly when cut to length. The vinyl parting stop is part #6 in the Pinnacle SeriesPrimed Double Hung (Operating) Parts Identification diagram. (The part is colored brown in the diagram but mine are white.) See the Windsor Parts & Service link for all products.

      The parting stop has a spline that simply pushes in a groove in the top jamb where it seals against the interior face of the top sash. See if your window has the same stop. Just pull down firmly on one side to remove the stop. I used a rubber mallet to tap the replacement parting stops in. My bug screens also have four push pins on the sides that fit into a slot in the window jambs.

      The Windsor Windows Win-Pac Replacement Kit YouTube video is about removing and upgrading the old Windsor windows. At timestamp 2:45 the new wood sashes are sanded and spray painted with clear lacquer (any color is fine). Spray paint makes a thin even coat versus brushing on exterior latex paint. The Sherwin Williams Duration exterior latex paint on my home goes on very thick, almost like a plastic coating. Good for exterior walls and trim but too thick for the window sash & jamb liners.

      The aforementioned vinyl parting stop is shown at timestamp 4:17.

      Thanks,
      Bob

  6. Wendy Pursel May 17, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

    I live on the third floor and I opened my one window from the top and the other from the bottom for cross ventilation. I now have a window sash that will not go up into the proper place. I can not get it in high enough. My windows are wood I think but the sash is something different.If anyone has an idea I would love to hear it. The first year I lived here I was able to push the sash back up but not now.

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