Window rope detail (C) D Friedman Window Sash & Hardware Repair

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Window sash repairs: this article gives simple steps illustrating how to replace a broken window-sash rope or as an alternative we describe how to install a replacement track to keep a window sash in place and operating properly without air leaks or drafts. Where to buy windows or window parts: a list of window and window hardware manufacturers is included at the end of this article.

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Window Rope Repair / Replacement, Window Ropes, Chains, Pulleys, Tracks, Sliders, Controls & Sash Latches

Window rope detail (C) D FriedmanWindow ropes (or chains) combined with window sash weights hidden in a cavity along either side of the window frame, were used to offset the weight of the window sash and to ease window opening and closing.

[Click to enlarge any image]


The window rope is secured to the top (red arrow in our sketch, below left) or occasionally to the bottom of the window sash at each side.

The rope (or flat metal chain) runs up the side of the window sash in a groove (our photo at far left), passes over a pulley (green arrow in sketch at below left) at the top of the window frame (photo at close left).

The window rope then extends down into a cavity to its connection at a (usually cast iron) window weight (blue in our sketch at left).



Window rope detail (C) D Friedman Window rope detail (C) D Friedman

Repair of a broken window rope is not technically difficult, but it requires careful removal of the interior vertical window trim from one (or both sides) to expose the window sash weight and its cavity.

A new window sash rope is tied to the weight, passed up over the pulley and out into the window frame where it is secured (usually by a knot pushed into a hole at the window sash bottom corner).

If you need to replace the sash rope on the upper window sash you will need to remove in this order:

  1. The vertical window trim at one or both sides of the window.
  2. The lower window sash (the unit being repaired in our sketch at above left)
  3. The parting strip that separates the upper and lower sashes: red arrow in our photo (above center). The parting strip is typically tapped into or maybe nailed into a groove in the window jamb sides.

    If you are lucky you can pry it out for re-use but in our experience [DJF] more often we have to destroy the parting strip to get the thing out.

    Don't despair. It's trivial to cut or plan a new parting strip out of common pine stock by ripping a slightly over-thick length out of a 1x clear pine board. Then plane or sand the parting strip to fit snugly into the groove in the window jamb. Cut it to length and, after your window rope replacement, tap it into place. Don't glue it - you 'll be cursed by the next fellow.
  4. The upper sash - to expose its rope and rope connection.

Window Sash Control Without Window Rope Replacement

A step up in energy efficiency from just replacing a broken window rope is the combination of insulating the window sash weight cavity and installing an air-tight window sash track. This method re-uses the original window sashes. (For the maximum window energy efficiency gain you'd replace the entire window assembly with replacement, insulated glass sashes - an easy but more expensive step.)

Several manufacturers offer a snap-in window track that uses a spring-loaded or even a simple aluminum center "parting strip" between the two sashes. To make this repair the window pulleys are removed and discarded - typically there are screws at the top and bottom of the pulley that permit it to be removed without any disassembly of the window trim.

But to get the replacement window tracks in place you may need to remove window trim to permit removal of the upper and lower window sashes.

The window ropes are removed from both sashes and discarded. The window weights and some of the window rope or chain are left in the cavity on either side of the window - just push the cut end of your chain or rope through the pulley opening and into the cavity where it will lie fallow.

The replacement window track left and right sides are held in place along with the upper and lower sashes as an entire "assembly" that is then set into the window jamb. Tacking a new outer wood strip molding in place holds the entire assembly in place.

The replacement window track kit usually includes foam or instructions to seal with caulk the surface behind the track - between the back side of the track and the window jamb surface. This step will eliminate drafts around your window sashes even though you're re-using the original window sashes.

The down side of this approach is that you have left the old un insulated cavity on either side of the window - an imperfection in the insulation of the building exterior wall. To insulate that cavity, before we set the assembled sashes and new track in place we drill openings that permit filling the old window weight side cavity with spray foam.

See WINDOWS & DOORS our home page for window and door information, and also see WINDOW TYPES - Photo Guide for a photographic guide to window and door types and architectural styles. Our links listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article provide in-depth articles on window and door selection, inspection, installation, problem diagnosis, and repair.

Manufacturers of Windows & Window Parts or Replacement Windows

  • Andersen Windows and Doors Vinyl-clad windows and patio doors, including storm resistant models. Also see Anderson A-Series Casement Windows & Window Parts, web search 01/15/2010, original source:
  • Atrium Companies Inc. Vinyl and aluminum windows and patio doors
  • Certainteed Corp. Vinyl windows and patio doors
  • Crestline Windows and Doors Wood, vinyl, and aluminum-clad windows and patio doors
  • Eagle Windows and Doors Extruded-aluminum-clad windows and sliders with LVL frames and steel entry doors
  • Fibertec Windows and Door Manufacturing Pultruded fiberglass windows and doors
  • Hurd Windows and Doors Wood, vinyl, and aluminum clad windows and patio doors
  • Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors Wood, vinyl, aluminum-clad, and aluminum windows and patio doors
  • Kolbe Windows and Doors Wood, vinyl, and aluminum-clad windows and patio doors
  • Marvin Window and Doors Wood and extruded-aluminum-clad windows and patio doors, including true divided lites and storm-resistant models
  • Milgard Windows and Doors Wood, aluminum, vinyl, and fiberglass-clad windows and patio doors
  • MW Windows Wood, vinyl, and vinyl-clad windows and patio doors
  • Peachtree Doors and Windows Vinyl-clad and aluminum-clad windows with optional hardwood interior; aluminum-clad, steel, and fiberglass patio doors with optional hardwood interior
  • Pella Windows and Doors Wood and aluminum-clad windows and patio doors with optional between-the-glass shades and blinds, including storm-resistant models
  • Thermotech Windows Ltd. Complete line of fiberglass pultruded windows
  • Weather Shield Windows and Doors Wood, vinyl, vinyl-clad, and aluminum-clad windows and patio doors, including historic replacement windows and storm-resistant models
  • WindsorWindows and Doors Wood and vinyl windows and patio doors, including a line of wood windows with a cellular-PVC exterior

Skylight Manufacturers & Product Sources

  • Andersen Windows and Doors Skylights and roof windows with exterior sash clad with glass-fiber-reinforced material
  • Milgard Windows and Doors Skylights with aluminum frames (thermal break optional) with vinyl subframes on operable models; optional motorized controls with rain sensor
  • Pella Windows and Doors Wood interior, aluminum exterior, optional motorized controls, and manual or motorized fabric-pleated shades
  • Roto Frank of America Wood interior, aluminum exterior, optional motorized controls, and manual or motorized fabric-pleated shades; Sweet16 model fits 16 in. o.c. framing
  • Velux America Inc. Skylights and roof windows with wood interior and aluminum-clad exterior. Options include insect screens, blinds, motorized controls and shades with rain sensor, electrochromatic glass, and flashing kits for metal and tile roofs and mulled units
  • Skylight Light Tube Manufacturers & Sources
  • SolaTube Light tubes from 10 to 21 in. in diameter; options include electrical lighting, daylight dimmer, and integral bath fan
  • Sun-Tek Skylights Light tubes from 10 to 21 in. in diameter; options include electrical lighting and multitube Spyder skylight
  • Velux America Inc. Sun Tunnel light tubes from 14 to 22 in. in diameter with flexible or rigid tubes

Industry Associations for Windows & Doors

  • American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA)
  • Efficient Windows Collaborative
  • National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) Sustainable by Design
  • Shareware calculators for sun angles, solar heat gain, and shading
  • Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA)

-- Window manufacturer list adapted and paraphrased, edited, and supplemented, with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.


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