“Our lake house, built in 1917, has a small sleeping porch at the back, with windows that open by dropping down into wall pockets. We love this feature! Recently one of my kids, not knowing his own strength, yanked on a sticky window and now it won’t budge. It’s stuck halfway open.” —Estelle Penny
The Fix for a Stuck Window
Windows that drop down (or, more frequently, that slide up) between studs in a wall cavity appear in houses of many eras and styles, from Greek Revival and Queen Anne homes in the South to old “camps” like yours in the Northeast. The operating mechanism is usually a weight and pulley system like a regular double-hung sash window, but it might instead be a spring-balance system. With either, the sash should slide easily and almost silently into the wall.
There are three reasons the window could have gotten stuck: There is debris in the pocket; the window is out of alignment; or one of the sash weights or the counterbalance system is broken or stuck. First check for debris. Shine a flashlight into the pocket to see if anything is wedged against the sash. With a flat, narrow tool like a yardstick (or even a wooden spoon), you may be able to remove or dislodge the material. If the debris is loose and small, use the flat crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to suck it out. If the window is crooked or otherwise out of true, gently rock the sash back and forth and/or up and down until it’s mostly level and no longer appears to be twisted in the opening.
Finally, check the window mechanism. This may require removing the paneling below the window for access. If you find a sash and pulley system with a broken cord, restring the weight with new cord, available from Sampson Rope, then replace any stop moulding and the paneling. If you have a counterbalance system, the easiest fix is to simply order a new one from Pullman Manufacturing. The sash balances come in a multitude of sizes; instructions and a video are available online.
And tell the boys to treat the house like an antique!