How to open painted-shut windows

2 Feb

How to open painted-shut windows

Before we move to the process of how to open painted-shut windows, let’s start with a quick story. If you’ve just moved into a home with wooden windows, we’re sure you’re excited to breathe new life into the property. A great way of doing this is to start with windows and give them a fresh coat of paint. Freshly painted wooden windows offer a fantastic look to the exterior of your home.

Of course, another good thing is to open the windows and bring some fresh air into your property. And here, you can face a few functional problems. Namely, the windows being painted shut or stuck in the closed position. Some of the sashes might have been that way even before you added a new paint layer yourself. 

If you have stuck windows, don’t worry. Here’s how to open painted-shut windows, spot any damage that may need repairing and get function properly once again.

Opening a painted-shut window

Thankfully, if your windows are painted shut with excess paint, it can be relatively easy to free them up.

This is a nice and simple DIY task for anyone with some DIY knowledge, and it won’t take too long, depending on how many windows are stuck.

What you’ll need:

What you'll need to open painted shut windows
  • A putty knife (you may require more than one if the window is particularly stubborn)
  • Utility knife
  • Flat pry bar
  • Paint scraper
  • Hammer
  • Flush-cut saw
painted-shut sash window uk

A step-by-step guide on how to unblock timber windows

1. Slide your putty knife between the stop bead and window sash. This will cut through the paint seal. Using a razor blade or sharp knife to cut the paint seal can also help here, but a putty knife will still be needed to break the seal fully. In case of a multilayer paint buildup, use a multitool with Japanese teeth blades to neatly cut through the layers of old paint.

2. Using a putty knife, begin opening the joint between the bottom sash and window sill (the stool to give its traditional name)

3. Next, slide your knife along the rail where the bottom and top sash meet.

4. Try opening the window. If the window opens, jump to step 12. If not, keep reading.

5. Locate the window stop, and force a putty knife behind it. You may need a few knives here.

6. Using a small pry bar, carefully pry the window stop out of the side jamb.

7. If you notice any nails in the jamb, use your hammer to remove them.

8. With one window stop removed, try lifting the sash.

9. If the window sash still won’t move, remove the other stop.

10. Give the sash a wiggle from side to side. This will be enough to break the coat of paint holding it to the window frame, and it will come loose.

11. Cut the sash cords and take out the sash.

12. Scrape the sash and window frame to remove any loose paint and fill in any areas required. Any nail holes and any areas damaged during the removal process. Check for rot and treat if needed. Then sand everything smooth. This step takes some elbow grease, but the results are worth it.

14. Prime and paint the window frame and sash with good-quality exterior primer and paint.

15. Install new sash cords, replace the sash, and the window stops.

Assessing the window for damage

If a window has been painted shut, there may be a reason why. In some cases, the previous homeowners may have simply added a few coats of paint to the windows when they were selling the house and simply didn’t use the windows afterwards.

However, in other cases, painted-shut windows may not have been used because they were broken and the previous owners decided not to repair their sash windows.

Once the window sash is freed up, you can begin assessing for any damage.

Opening and closing the window is a good place to start if you don’t have to cut the sash cord to free it up. If the sash doesn’t move freely, it moves unevenly or doesn’t stay open. This could be a sign of a problem with the sash weights.

Either the sash weights are no longer attached to the sash cord, or the weights are stuck in the frame.

If the window seems to stick as it opens, this is likely due to beads of paint or excessive paint buildup in the channels that the sash runs in. Scraping this with your paint scraper should solve this issue.

We have articles detailing common issues with sash windows on our blog that will help you restore all your sash windows and get them functioning perfectly again.

Assessing the window for damage

Why are windows end up being painted shut?

There are several reasons entire windows are sometimes painted shut. The first is that someone simply painted the window and never used it again.

This is quite common when selling a home, for example. Someone will paint the windows to improve the look of the property, and the house sits for a while until you buy it and try to open it.

Another reason why a window could be painted shut is that it had damage at some stage, and the homeowner didn’t want to repair it for some reason. Over years of having the windows painted, the many coats of paint cause them to become stuck.

If the windows of a home were once nailed shut, and the homeowner didn’t want to open them again forcibly, they may have simply left them alone, giving them a coat of paint every so often to keep them looking good. If this is the case, the windows will have several layers of paint as well as nails holding them shut.

Whatever the reason why your windows were painted shut, there is usually a solution to opening them again. 

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