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Common window issues and how to fix them

Here are some common problems with windows and how to fix them. As always, if you need help along the way, use ImproveNet to find the most reliable window repair contractors.

Windows painted shut: Slip a wide-bladed putty knife or something similar between the frame and the sash to cut through the dried paint. There is also a neat little tool called a Paint Zipper that does it better, available at many hardware stores. You may have to work hardest along the bottom edge where paint ran down. Slide the blade all around the window to clean out old paint.

Windows don’t slide well: Open the window and rub the affected area with candle wax.

Double-hung windows won’t stay open: The sash cord is likely broken or has come untied from the weight. To fix it, you have to remove the lower sash, which means removing the inner stop. Since the project just gets more complex, go buy vinyl track inserts and slip them in place on each side of the sashes and be done with it.

Double panes fogging up: When this happens, the seals are leaking. Have them repaired right away because the moisture that collects inside the panes can eventually etch the glass beyond repair. Look carefully at the spacer between the panes, usually along the bottom edge of the window, and you may see the name of the window manufacturer. Ask if the warranty is still in effect, particularly if it is a "lifetime" warranty.

Water leaks around windows: If a window was not flashed properly on installation, it may very well leak. Flashing refers to the bent metal that slips under the siding above the window and then out over the top of the window. Without proper flashing, rain can work its way behind the window and then appear in a number of different places. It could run down from the top of the window or under the sill, or even down by the floor. If you have a leak on a wall and there is a window nearby, suspect the flashing. For quick relief, you can caulk between the window and the siding, but it will not be permanent.

Windows won’t open easily:  This is usually caused by the crank mechanism not operating correctly, in addition to other parts either being faulty or needing fine-tuning. You might need to tighten or fix the sash, lubricate the hinges, or reassemble the operator trim.

Window screen is broken: If you want to open your window on a nice day but worry about bugs getting in through a hole in the screen, you don’t have to replace the entire frame to get a new screen. You just have to pry out the old screen and put a new one in. You take out the old spline with a narrow-tipped screwdriver, put down new screen and over the old frame, trimming off the edges and then nailing or stapling down the screen on the old frame.

Window glass pane is broken: Removing the broken glass will be the first step, and wearing work gloves is a must. Be sure to get all the broken glass and do it one at a time. Then get all the old putty out from the frame, one at a time. You may have to use a heat gun and a chisel. Then put down a very thin layer of new putty (about 1/16 inch) around the frame. Put in the new glass frame and press down firmly. Then put in glazier’s points on each side to secure it and then add more four inches apart after around. Add putty around the glass and smooth it out. Then you can paint over it to match the window frame.

Window Repair DIYS

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