Window rehab - a couple questions

December 13, 2013

We have been very, very slowly trying to rehab a double-hung window in our 1922 house. Hoping that we can get the hang of it so we can tackle other windows. In addition to needing the weights re-hung, there are so many coats of paint that sashes really stick or often won't budge. In addition, the last coat put up by the seller 5 years ago was likely done without prepwork so it's peeling off on some of the windows/trim.

So we started, on just one window with badly peeling paint, by stripping paint on the trim, removing the stops and lower sash, removing the interlocking weather stripping (which was nailed in such that it had to come out to remove the sash), removing the parting beads, and getting the weight pockets open. We sent the sash out to be dip stripped (to help speed things up).

So we got distracted a couple times along the way. Now it's winter, and we're trying to get the sash back in (we're in southeast Virginia, so it's not as cold as up north, but still I'd like more than just the storm window in). We've bought new parting bead and stop trim (the stop trim will need to be ripped down on the table saw to the right depth to match).

Hoping to reglaze on Saturday and rehang on Sunday (carefully, so as to not muck up the glazing while it hardens). I know that the glazing needs to firm up before we can paint, so I figured that we'd hang it, then paint in the spring. But now I'm left wondering about whether one is supposed to paint the side edge of the sash. Not the perpendicular side, I've got it figured out that it should be left unpainted, but I mean the very edge of the face where it rubs against the parting bead and the stop. Not such a critical issue inside if it's unpainted, but what about the outside? Won't rain get to it? I suppose if need be, we can reinstall then take it out again in the spring to repaint it, but I'd rather paint in place if it is a non-issue.

The other question involves rehanging the weights. The pocket doors are such that the parting bead overlaps them a little. How on earth does one tie on the weights and close the pocket door before reinstalling the parting bead without using six pairs of hands?

Thanks for any advice. I've poured through a lot of window repair threads on the forum, but haven't seen anything that addresses these particular issues. The learning curve has been pretty steep - it's taken us 6 months on this one window. Hopefully once we finish the first one, the others won't seem quite so intimidating.

Comments (19)

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    I always recommend painting sash with oil primer and oil paint only. Acrylic latex will lead to sticking no matter how hard you try. The important thing is to paint the sash and frame while they are apart, and install when the paint has dried. You do paint all the way to the edge.
    You feed the rope over the pulley and attach the rope to the weight first, then tie the knot in the rope at just the right length so when it's inserted in the bored hole in the sash edge the sash hangs properly whether up or down.
    You can close the weight door before the sash go in; then hang the upper sash, lower it to the bottom to insert the parting beads, then hang the lower sash. Reinstall your w-strips at the appropriate time.

  • NWRain-Gal

    Hi nativeplanter,

    We went through a very similar process with our first double hung old window. We are a the tail end of a complete kitchen remodel in our 1925 bungalow. We have a breakfast nook off of our kitchen and the bottom sash was cracked, and we never replaced it because we didn't know how to deal with the double hung windows. The top sash was painted shut and both sets of weights were broken. We had various sizes of sticks in the window to keep it open in the summer. Our contractor lives in a 1910 house and had repaired his double hung windows so he and his carpenter did ours.

    They began by dismantling the trim around the sides of the window. We didn't have pocket doors for our weights so there were holes cut in the lathe and plaster under the side window trim, which gave access to the weights. They removed the stops and took out the bottom sash. they then removed the parting beads and then removed the top sash after scoring the painted over areas to free the upper sash. They then manually stripped all the paint off of the windows with paint stripping tools and chemical stripper. They also stripped all the paint off of the top and vertical window chanels. They then told me to prime and paint the windows up to the parts that butt up to eachother like the window chanels, the window up to the channel and the part that hides behind the window stop. (Iam including a picture of the painted window sitting in the channel waiting for the parting bead.) They also said not to paint the parting bead. They linseed oiled all the bare wood areas, like the channels, parting bead and ends and up to the paint sides of the sashes. We do have storm windows on the outside of our windows so there is some protection from the rain.

    They then re roped the sashes using a special knot tied to the weight. They also tied a knot at the other end to tuck into the hole for the knot in the sash. The contractor also used a staple like metal, usually used to anchor wiring, about 2 inches above this knot, this alows the rope to run freely but should the knot try to slip out of the hole, it can't pop out. (I'll post another pic of this as well)
    They then reinstalled the stops and locking hardware.

    Maybe now we can tackle our other double hung original windows as well, in better weather, since the top sashses are painted shut and the weights are not operational on them either.

    We'll have to see how the window does over the winter.

    We do have to find some weatherstripping to put between the two sashes to help with air now that so much paint had been taken off. We also couldn't find parting beads in our area (Pacific Northwest : Portland) so our millwork guy created new ones from patterns of our old ones.

    This is definitely a steep learning curve!!!

    We'd be very interested in the process of your successful restoration.

    Gotta love our old houses! :)

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  • NWRain-Gal

    To follow previous posting:

    Follow up picture of the staple like metal piece anchoring the weight cord so cord will run free but prevent knot from popping out of hole.

  • graywings123

    Oil paint isn't available from the paint stores here in Northern VA. Don't know what the situation elsewhere in the state. I used oil primer and latex acrylic paint and painted the entire sash front and back (but not the sides).

    I rubbed a liquid wax on the areas where the paint would rub against paint or wood. Then I made sure that I opened and closed the windows frequently once installed.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Howard's feed and wax

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    The Moore stores in Leesburg and Purcellville both have exterior oil paint. It's called maintenance enamel or something like that; the label is shiny silver with red and black printing, FWIW. Barring that, there is a Moore store in WV (25 miles beyond Leesburg) where you can still buy oil paint in gallons!!!

  • graywings123

    Casey, are you referring to the A.C. Moore craft stores? Or the Ben Moore paint stores?

  • geller

    Our house has double hung windows of the same vintage, and I have been rehabbing them one by one. The procedure has become easier over the years as I have developed a technique.
    1) Remove as much paint as possible while the window is in place. This means the frame, sash, and, most importantly, the paint holding in the parting bead. I use a heat gun for this.
    2) Remove the stop moldings
    3) Remove the parting bead. You may need to use a putty knife to make sure there is no paint securing the parting bead. Lower both the upper and lower sash to the bottom, and remove the parting bead from the top. I found that a vise-grip (protecting the parting bead with wood) is best for this. Nails can be teased out. If you are replacing the parting bead, you don't have to worry about getting it out intact.
    4) Once the parting bead is out, then the sash pocket door to the sash weights can be opened.
    5) Untie the sash cords from the weights (or cut them if you are going to replace them) and remove the sashes.

    To put it all back, follow the procedure in reverse, except that I now use a plastic cable tie as an additional step to secure the sash cord to the weights.

    I also faced the painting/glazing issue, but since we have external storm windows, the glazing can cure for a while after the sashes are reinstalled and still be protected from the weather.

  • nativeplanter

    Thank you everyone for your great advice. We had a little delay in the project (and I do apologize for not responding earlier), but we are now back on track.

    I have successfully reglazed sash #1!! It is currently curing in our sunporch. It's the lower sash. The upper sashes are very thoroughly painted in place from the outside. Since this is the second story, I don't really have a good way of getting them loose. They will stay where they are and we will get a professional to come in at some point and reglaze the outside of the second floor as well as repaint the exposed wood on the outside (paint is chipping off). I can't just pull the window out - it has interlocking weatherstripping so I have to be able to open it to get to the nails holding the weather stripping (and thus the window) in place.

    I will be discarding the parting beads and stops. So many coats of paint on the stops, and I couldn't get the parting beads out without breaking them anyway. I found a local lumberyard that has a similar molding that I can trim to be narrower for the stop molding. Home Depot seems to carry the correct size for the parting bead.

    For repainting, my understanding is that oil based paint will yellow over time. This is a bit of a problem, as all the trim in the house (and there's a lot) is very bright white. My neighbor who used to run her own paint and wallpaper company, and is now the paint person at Ace Hardware, says that indeed a big complaint about latex was that it sticks, but that they have come out with some sort of new paint that is supposed to stick less. I forget what she called it but she can help me pick it out when we are ready to paint. She says they've been carrying it for a couple years now and haven't had any complaints. I hope she's right!

    Also, regarding repainting - Sombreuil, you say to paint all the way to the edge of the sash, which I can do. But I notice that in NWRain-Gal's photos, the sash isn't painted to the edge. When I removed lower sash #2, I noticed that mine aren't either. So perhaps I'm misunderstanding? Or is it just that our windows were installed prior to painting so that's why they are like that and it is better to paint all the way?

    So right now,lower sash #2 is at the dip strippers and I am continuing to try to strip the paint from the rest of the window frame and trim. I need to do both before finishing window #1 if I need to repaint first, because the two windows are right next to each other with a piece of trim molding in between (the room has two sets of two like this). I am really, REALLY struggling with the lowest layer of paint. The bottom layer is on bare wood and just doesn't want to budge. Using methyline chloride (with good ventilation); it takes care of about a layer at a time but not that lower one. I did try the citrus strip and that actually did pretty good (or it just softened the wood enough so that the scraper took off a very fine film of wood, I don't know), but I have found the process to remove the residue troubling - I worry that if I don't get every last bit off then the new paint won't stick (it has wax or something in it to keep it from drying). Not a problem on the big flat surfaces, but I worry about the corners and nooks and crannies. A heat gun just seems to make the paint gummy. Also tried Ready-Strip; that took care of the upper layers but not the lower. If anyone has any advice on dealing with that layer, I'd greatly appreciate it! I don't want to just sand it off since I assume it is lead based. I realize it doesn't need to be completely removed for painting, just smooth, but trying to sand it smooth created more dust than I was comfortable with, even with using the sander hooked to the shop vac with the fine particle bag, then vented out another hose out the window, while wearing a respirator. Maybe I'm overcautious, but that's OK. Better than undercautious. So if anyone has an idea of how to get that layer off chemically, I'd love to know. At least the chemicals don't settle into the gaps in the flooring like paint dust might.

    Thanks for any additional thoughts people might have!

  • nativeplanter

    Also, I suppose I should explain a bit more - the reason I am stripping all the paint from the trim is because it seems that, at least in this room, paint layer 4 (out of 5 or 6) may have been latex over oil without propper prepwork/priming. That layer is flaking off wholesale. The top layer is very thick and rubbery - they were clearly trying to quickly patch the room up for sale. So the top coat is now cracking and flaking off. This layer is so thick that using a scraper on it doesn't really work. You can tell it isn't attached underneath (because it flexes) but it is so cohesive that a lot of it stays in place. That is, except where it doesn't. So basically the whole thing has to come off.

    This post was edited by nativeplanter on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 13:05

  • Circus Peanut

    hi nativeplanter,

    It could be that the bottommost layer of paint is something akin to milk paint, which is a bear to remove. Keep at it! I had good luck with something called Peel Away 7, which is lye-based, non-oily, and can be rinsed with water afterwards.

    Don't paint all the way to the edge on the sides! That will bind up the windows terribly. Leave that 1/2" or so bare for sliding against the jamb and stop bead. You can give it a nice rub with candle wax, beeswax, etc, if you like.
    We've been conditioned by the vinyl industry to have a horror of bare wood -- it's perfectly fine and will last another 100 years just like it is. In fact, you want a certain amount of bare wood on the sash (sides, bottom, top) in order for the wood to shed any moisture it retains.

    If you haven't yet, you should run, not walk, over to John Leeke's Historic Homeworks windows forum. He has the best collection of wooden window repair advice and videos on the entire web (plus he's just a darned nice guy).

    Excellent forum members there who will answer any and all of the questions you are asking. I replaced a whole house of vinyl replacement windows with salvaged sash from the junkyard, largely under their excellent tutorship.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Historic Homeworks Windows forum

  • nativeplanter

    Thanks, Circuspeanut, I appreciate your insight. I was able to find Peel Away Smart Strip at Sherwin Williams, but not Peel Away 7. But the Peel Away website says that 7 is solvent based? We did pick up some Peel Away 1 (lye based) when working on an old door, but we did that in the garage. It was very messy. I'm afraid of how much water would be needed if we used it inside the house!

    That forum you linked to looks excellent. I've been reading over the weekend (when not scraping) and am sure I'll have some questions to post over there.

    And of course, I welcome any other feedback from here as well!

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    If your painted windows stick, you're using the wrong paint. The sash needs paint all the way to the edge, because if unpainted it allows wind-driven rain into the wood, and will weather.
    Oil enamel=no sticking.

  • nativeplanter

    Thanks Casey. I'm definitely going to have to think about all this for a while. Thankfully (or perhaps not) I have time at the moment since I won't be able to work on the windows for the next two weekends. Then I need to sand and prep the second sash, remove glazing, replace glass, and reglaze, and probably need to dowel the lower corners like I did the first sash. So that will take a weekend or more likely two. Then I need to let the glazing sit for 2 weeks. So I won't be painting for over a month I guess. Oh well. The good news is that none of the windows have any rot.

    Casey, I was all set to do oil-based paint until I read about the yellowing problem. So much of our house is bright white, including the wide baseboards and trim around the closet and door of that room, that I really need to paint it the same color. I really don't want to risk having it yellow, since I don't want to have to repaint ever. What would be your thoughts for this scenario? Do you think the alkyd paints would do any better? Do you know of any other types of water based paint that is less prone to sticking than latex? I'll admit I don't know much about paint. I do like how oil is a nice thin coat without brushstrokes.

    I suppose a hybrid solution might be to paint the outer face of the window all the way to the edges, but not the inside where it isn't exposed to the weather. I dunno. If there isn't a good non sticking solution other than oil, I may just be forced to leave it bare like Circuspeanut suggested. After all, the wood is still sound on those previously exposed edges after 92 years. Some light cracking, but no rot. At least the house has wide eaves.

  • nativeplanter

    One more question - I got the pulleys out (with much difficulty, by prying up the face trim (or whatever it is called) and banging them out from the backside, so I can remove all the gunked up paint. People even painted the wheels themselves. What might be the best way to remove the paint from them? I have read that hardware can be stripped by boiling in a mix of water and baking soda, but I don't konw if this is really a good idea for something with moving parts. Also, I imagine they might need a good lubrication after all this? I saw a post on the Historic Homeworks forum that talked about protecting from rust with Val-Oil. Not sure there is much in the way of existing rust, but we'll see after I get all the gloppy paint off.

  • nativeplanter

    post repeated - sorry!

    This post was edited by nativeplanter on Wed, Mar 12, 14 at 10:54

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    First, i'm a little thrown off by the new forum appearance today!
    On the inside, the weathering of course is not an issue at all, you can leave that bare wood, and that goes for the unseen edge of the window stops.
    You could use Moore's _Advance_ paint, which as far as I can tell dries as hard and as sticking-free as old Impervo does, but with all the convenience of water-soluble. Exterior oil will not yellow on windows that see sun, ever. Of course, historic paints had the same degree of yellowing so the appearance will be _historically correct_,if that has any consolation value ;)
    Interior, I use off-white oil enamel so the yellowing is already baked in. Off-whites are more historically accurate anyway. Sorry I sound like a d**'ed snob.

  • nativeplanter

    Ah, OK. So we will use oil on the exterior. That fixes that. Thanks!!!!

    I just looked up the Benjamin Moore Advance. Unfortunately this is what I found:

    At the bottom, they say that the Advance alkyd paint is a good alternative to latex, but the whole page talks about how alkyds yellow. So shoot. Even if I leave the inside rubbing edge bare, the parting bead will need to be painted or it will stick out like a sore thumb. I imagine I can leave the rubbing edge of the stops bare, since no one will see that part except from outside the window.

    What about something called an acrylic enamel? (My head is spinning from all this. Most of the paint talk I see with regard to yellowing is in reference to kitchen cabinets, where they aren't worried about rubbing.)

  • nativeplanter

    Oh, and Casey, I don't think you sound like a snob. Experienced, and perhaps particular in what you like, but that's what I need. Anyones experiences are quite welcome as I figure this out!

    Regarding the historical accuracy of off-white, you are probably quite correct. Especially since white white would have yellowed anyway. The original paint was sort of light beige. Unfortunately, since all of the rest of the woodwork now has a super thick layer of super white latex, the yellowing would really stick out. Knowing what I know now, if I were painting the house from scratch, I think I would choose the off white. But the house is what it is, so I just have to move forward from here.

  • schicksal

    To restore the ones I've done, first I had to remove the inside trim to get at the lower sash, then outside trim to get at the upper sash. Make sure to remember which weight went where. Then I carefully removed the glass. They were pretty gross.

    Then I blasted them at 850 degrees with a heat gun and scraped the old paint off. I was told that lead compounds vaporize around 975 degrees. That took care of all but the smallest flecks of paint. I removed that along with whatever old finish there was with a quarter sheet palm sander. Apparently the trim is chestnut and the windows are???

    I finished them with shellac - the same stuff that was put on in 1920. The piece on the left has 3 coats, the piece on the right has 1.

    This window got a coat of marine spar varnish because it's next to the shower. New rope for the weights and the windows go in, trim goes up and you're done. :)

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