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Options for Opening Jammed Windows

Options for Opening Jammed Windows

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October 12, 2010

Windows that refuse to open are the bane of homeowners everywhere. It might happen because a window was painted shut, or perhaps years of neglect have allowed the window to swell in its frame. The temptation to use a crowbar or brute strength to open a stubborn window can be overwhelming, but those are not the best options for safety.

How to Open the Stubborn Jammed Window

When you are trying to open a window that just doesn't want to budge, start with the easiest way to open it and go from there. Here's how to handle the problem:

  • Wear leather work gloves and eye protection. Even with your most careful efforts, your hand could slip, and that could mean shattered glass.
  • Identify the problem as best you can. Is there paint on the inside of the window? How about the outside? Look at the tracks at the top of the window--occasionally something falls into a track, preventing the window from going up all the way.
  • If the window has swelled in its frame, opening it can be difficult or impossible until that situation is remedied, so consider a dehumidifier or other methods to reduce wood swelling.
  • Most issues with jammed windows come from old paint. If this is the problem, start with a wide, stiff-blade putty knife. Push the knife gently into the seam between the sash and the interior stop, cutting through the paint as you go. Don't forget to push the knife deep into corners to get the paint that might have flowed into the joint.
  • Still not enough? Consider using paint thinner to help you remove many layers of dried paint. If you go this route, ensure that you can open other windows in the room or set up a fan for adequate ventilation. Follow the manufacturer's directions for proper use of the chemicals.
  • When you try to open the window again, use the handles to gently raise the window, or place your gloved hands on either side of the top of the sash to push it up. Never force the window or push from the center of the top of the sash--that could break the glass.

When all else fails and that stubborn window simply does not open, it's time to call a window contractor to pinpoint the problem. If the window can be fixed, great--but if not, they can tell you what you need to know about replacing that old window with a new, easy-to-open model.

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