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Project Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Project Time: Less than 1 hour per window

Tools and Materials:

Sash cord
Utility knife
Putty knife or paint scraper
Finish nails
Putty, paintbrush, and paint, as needed for touchups


Sash cords in double-hung windows (Fig. 1) receive a great deal of wear and tear. After years of constant use, they fail and break so that the window won't stay open or closed. The tendency is to let it be and to not use that window. But, if it's the only one in a room, its loss can be very frustrating. Replacing sash cords in double-hung windows, however, is a repair job well within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers. It requires a minimum of tools and usually takes less than an hour.


1 . Parts of a Double-Hung Window

The following components can be found on a standard double-hung window. A sash is the framework into which glass is set. Double-hung windows have two sashes: an upper and a lower sash. (Fig. 2)

The window sashes slide within a window frame. The top horizontal member of the frame is called the head. The side frames are called jambs. Concealed behind the side jambs on old double-hung windows are heavy metal sash weights connected to the sash with rope-and-pulley systems. The weights provide a counterbalance that makes the sash easier to open. Newer windows use a revolving drum in the head or tubed tension springs in the side jambs instead of sash weights. The lower horizontal part of the window frame is called the sill.

A series of stops attached to the jambs provides channels in which the sashes can slide. Blind stops are permanently attached to the outside edges of the jambs, but both a parting stop (separating the two sashes) and an inside stop can be pried loose to remove a sash.

Interior casings at the sides and top and an apron across the bottom cover any gaps between the window frame and the walls.

The lower sash comes to rest behind a flat stool or interior sill; its outside counterpart, the exterior sill, is sloped so that water will run off.

2 . To Gain Access to a Sash Cord

To gain access to a window's sash cord, remove the inside window stop from both sides of the sash, and if the upper sash needs attention, the parting stops separating the two sashes must also be removed. Carefully pry the stops away from the jambs, using a wide putty knife. (Fig. 3)

Tip: Take your time removing these stops; they can split very easily. Position the putty knife at each nail holding the stop in place and then carefully rock the putty knife back and forth as you pry off the stop.

3 . Lift Out the Sash

Lift the sash clear of the stool and swing it out. With the sash free from the window, remove the sash cord from the keyed slot in its side (Fig. 4). Next, remove the access panel, if there is one. Inside the panel, the sash weight can be reached and pulled out. If there are no access panels, then the window side casing will have to be removed to get at the weight.

Tip: If the access panel has been painted over, you may need to chip off paint to gain access to the screws that hold the panel in place. You also may need to chip off paint along the edges of the panel so that you can lift the panel out.

4 . Install the New Sash Cord

Thread the new sash cord over the pulley and down into the sash-weight cavity until it appears at the access panel. Tie the new sash cord to the sash weight, and then put the weight back into the cavity. Knot the other end of the sash cord at a point that will permit the weight to hang 3 inches above the sill when the sash is fully raised. Reinstall the sash and nail the stops. Touch up with putty and paint as necessary. (Fig. 5)

Tip: Make as sturdy a knot as you can, but don't make it too bulky. You don't want the knot to untie, nor do you want it to bind inside the window frame.