Fix your window at the weekend

Unless a baseball comes through your window, you probably tolerate but ignore most common window problems around your house that need repairing. If you’re installing replacement windows soon, you’re off the hook. If not, you eventually need to fix your windows or have a qualified professional do it for you. You can tackle any of the following window repairs yourself in a weekend with the proper tools and materials for each.

Repair stuck windows

Stuck windows are not just a nuisance; they are a safety hazard in the event of fire.

If your wood window won’t open or operate properly, there can be several reasons. One of the most common window problems, however, is a window that’s been painted shut.

Note: If your home was built prior to 1978, assume the paint is lead-based. Take special precautions before scraping, sanding or otherwise unleashing flakes of lead paint into your home environment. Follow lead-safe practices for do-it-yourselfers as outlined at epa.gov.

For non-lead-based paint, here’s what to do for a window painted shut:

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Utility knife
  • Hammer and paint scraper
  • Pry bar
  • Sandpaper
  • Lubricant such as paraffin or bar of soap
  • All-purpose cleaner or paint stripper
  • Paint, stain or other wood finish or sealer

Run your utility knife along the paint between the window sash and the frame to separate the dried paint cleanly without damaging the wood. Insert the paint scraper between the sash and the stool, which most people refer to incorrectly as the sill. (The sill is actually the corresponding ledge on the outside of the window.) Give the top of the scraper’s handle a whack with the hammer. Do that all along the bottom of the sash, taking care not to hit the glass with the hammer or gouge the sash.

If the window is still not loose enough to open, you may need to use the pry bar on the exterior of the window. To protect the sash from coming apart, insert the pry bar between the sill and the sash under the stile, which is the vertical part on either side of the sash framework. Carefully pry up the sash to loosen it; then, sand the rough edges of paint.

If the window still does not move freely, you may need to clean the channels and weather stripping of dirt or dried paint with an all-purpose cleaner or paint thinner, taking care not to get paint thinner on the frame and sash. Once you have the sash moving again, lubricate the channels of the frame with the paraffin, candle wax or a bar of soap.

If your wood windows are not painted or finished and they get stuck from time to time, your problem could be humidity causing them to swell. Wait until the weather is dry for several days and the windows are able to once again move with ease. Then sand and stain, paint or seal the wood to prevent it from swelling again.

Install weather stripping

Worn out weather stripping no longer effectively stops air leaks. It’s not doing its job of keeping your home as energy-efficient as it could be.

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Self-adhesive weather stripping
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors

Many different types of weather stripping are available. Be sure to buy a type designed for operable windows if you plan to open them.

Measure and add together the measurements of all windows for which you plan to install weather stripping; then, add 5% to 10% to account for waste. When purchasing, take into consideration the varying depths and lengths of each type of weather stripping and how difficult they are to install. One of the easiest types to install is self-stick vinyl that folds into a V-shape to install in the channels on either side of the window frame and on the top and bottom of the window jamb.

Install when the temperature is above 20°F. or above. Clean and dry the surfaces to which the weather stripping will adhere. Measure twice before cutting. Apply the weather stripping in one continuous strip, making sure it adheres tightly. Check each window after installation to make sure it opens and closes easily.

Seal gaps around windows to stop air and water leaks

Exterior gaps between your window frames can cause air and water leaks. Air leaks decrease your home’s energy efficiency. Water leaks can lead to wood rot, mold and drywall damage.

Tools and materials you may need:

  • Caulking
  • Caulking gun
  • Foam backer rod
  • Spray expandable foam
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife

Cut a 1/4″ off the tip of the caulking tube at a 45° angle and load the tube into the caulking gun. Push the plunger to the end of the tube. Apply caulk to any gaps narrower than 1/4″ around the exterior of your windows.

Use a putty knife to fill slightly larger gaps with the foam backer rod and cover with caulking. For gaps too large to fill with the foam backer rod, use expandable spray foam. Let it dry completely; seal it with caulking and trim the excess off with the utility knife.