Wood-frame sash windows are something of a mixed blessing for any home. On one hand, they have charm and character that’s hard to find; on the other hand, considerable maintenance is required. Trying to find the very specialized sash window hardware necessary to keep them looking great and working well can be problematic. Here are some tips for purchasing the correct sash window hardware for your home.
Pulls and Lifts
Window “handles” (pulls and lifts) are attached with screws to the bottom window rail. Pulls look like regular drawer handles and are gripped with the whole hand. A lift can be either a flat plate with a projecting smooth curved hook that allows one-finger lifting of the window, or it can be a flat square plate with a recessed center (the window rail is mortised to accept the recess) into which the fingertips are inserted to pull the window up.
Where to Buy Sash Window Hardware
There are many cheap and serviceable options in your local hardware or home store. All of these described items (as well as catch locks) are available in utilitarian brass for just a few dollars from many manufacturers. On the other hand, if you want something with antique character, try searching on the internet for a variety of hardware styles.
Cord and Weight Balance
Sash balances in older-home windows can go a couple of ways. The most familiar is the older weight-and-cord arrangement employs a cord fastened to a weight that corresponds to the weight of the window. The cord is wrapped around a pulley so the upward lift of the window results in a corresponding downward motion of the weight, which keeps the window at the height you want it. This is literally clunky–the weights swing free inside a recess in the wall. Sometimes the sash breaks and, unless you deconstruct the whole window frame, you can lose the weight in the depths of the wall.
If you can rescue the weight, repair is fairly straightforward: take out a bad sash cord, put in a good sash cord. A sash cord or its equivalent can be bought at any home store. If your weight is in the depths of the wall, some ingenuity is required. Although weights and pulleys may be found online, the weight inside the wall may interfere with any new weight you try to install. You’ll either have to deconstruct the sash or adapt the window with the second form of sash balance – the spring balance.
Instead of a cord and weight, this system consists of a weight-calibrated metal tape tightly coiled inside a housing installed in lieu of a pulley. The tape runs along the window track rather than inside it. The system takes up less space and was originally used for windows with limited interior wall space, like bay windows. You can easily replace your old sash cord arrangement with this almost completely non-invasive mechanism. Replacement spring balances are also readily available in good hardware stores and online.
Whether you choose to wrangle sash weights or opt for the spring system, your old windows can work like new with just a little effort.