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Chapter 1 – Dismantling the Window


Welcome to Chapter 1 – Dismantling the Window.  In this chapter, I will show you the first steps of pulling the window apart to get both the frame and the sash ready for restoration.

The main parts of the window you’ll need to know about are the window frame and the window sash.  For a full explanation of the window parts, see the window explanation page here: __________.  But basically the window frame is of course the frame that goes around the parameter of the window and the sash are the parts of the window that move up and down and hold the actual glass. 

This chapter will show you how to remove the sashes and restore the frame.

  1. VIDEO ONE (IMG_2188)
    • MINS 0:00-3:05 – Before and After Comparison.
      • I first show you a comparison of a windows before restoration, and after. Generally old windows will include sashes that don’t slide, broken ropes, tons of old paint, painted hardware, flaking paint, etc.  Basically, I try to show you the overall nastiness of some of these old windows before restoration, something which you may also see in your own windows.  But don’t be scared!
    • MINS 3:05-3:50 – Window Weight Pocket Doors.
      • Here I discuss window weight pocket doors.  Many old windows, especially from fancier builders, will have window frames with little doors in the window jambs that can be opened to access the window weights.  They will likely **look like the drawing below**.  The doors are helpful if you want to simply retie the weights.  There are websites that also show how you can make a door if necessary.  If you just want to retie the weights, but don’t want to take the whole window apart, it could be worth creating one.  However, you do not necessarily need to do this.  If you have the doors on your windows, I’d still take them out and clean them up, and reinstall them.  If you do not, do not worry, this is common!  The doors are not necessary for our purposes.  I will show you other ways of accessing the weights.  NOTE: Here is a blog post on restringing strings when you don’t want to remove the window trim, and just use the pocket doors.
    • MINS 3:50- 4:15 – Why pulling off the inner trim to access the weights was not a good idea.
      • I don’t recommend you pull off the inner trim.  In **IMG_9533, **IMG_9534, **IMG_9537**, you can see on my first window that I pulled off the inner trim.  Now you can access the weights like this.  If you are very high up on a building for example, this might be a good solution for accessing the weights and changing out rope.  But I think it’s a lot more difficult, and harder to put back together if you have dry wall, etc.  So, I don’t recommend it.  I recommend pulling off the trim on the outside of the house, which I will show. 
    • MINS 5:00-7:52 – Pulling off the blinds; Plastic Valence Clips.
      • Your blinds may be different of course, but here is how I took my blinds apart.  In the video I talk about the plastic clips.  I recommend ordering some replacements off of Amazon.  Search “valance clips for window blinds” on Amazon to find replacement clips.  Just look for one similar to yours as there are many types.  You will likely need a drill for this step.  Please take a look at the tools page where I discuss drills.
    • MINS 7:53-END – Showing some Painted Pulleys.
      • In the final seconds I show painted pulleys, how the top sash has been painted shut, and next steps.
  2.  VIDEO TWO (IMG_2189)
    • MINS 0:00-END. Pulling off the “Inner Rail”
      • Here I cover pulling off what I call the Inner Rail.  I’ve since learned that its proper name is the “Inner Stop.”  But whatever you call it, it is the rail on the inside of the window that holds in place the lower sash.  You only need to pull off one of them!  For this step, you will need a razor blade, small hammer, and the Titan Stainless Steel Pry Bar Scraper tool discussed on the tools page to pull out the rail.   NOTES: (write note to the other video in step 4)??  Important note: I strongly recommend that if you are doing more than one window at a time, you label the Inner Rail piece, stating which window it came from. 
        • Note: If the bottom sash is really painted shut and stuck to the inner rail, you can use a Window Zipper Deglazing Tool to cut the paint. I show how to use the tool in the next video, and the process would be the same for the bottom sash.
  3.  VIDEO THREE (IMG_2190)
    • MINS 0:00-0:15. One of my favorite tools.
      • I had to cut the video because I forgot a tool, so the intro to the video is me using a tool to pull out a trim nail.  I call it a “mini crowbar” in the video, but actually the tool is called a “Cats Paw Nail Puller.”  I discuss with some links in the tools page.  This is an essential tool and one you will use all the time.  In the beginning of the video here, I use the Cats Claw Nail Puller tool to pull out a trim nail.
    • MINS 0:15-0:50. Removing the Bottom Sash.
      • I now pull out the bottom sash and place it aside.
    • MINS 0:50-END. Cutting the Paint.
      • I then discuss how to begin working to remove the top sash by cutting the paint on the inside.  The initial step is the break or cut any paint between the parting strip piece on the frame and the interior of the top sash, which is often painted shut.  I discuss the tool you will need – which is called a “Window Zipper Deglazing Tool.”  This is a triangular tool that is used to cut the paint.  Please see the tools page.


    • A note on Double Hung Windows. My house from which these videos are made, is located in a southern climate.  Apparently, most southern climate houses built in the late 1800s and later are typically built with double-hung windows, like mine in these videos.  Double Hung windows are really neat because once you get them working correctly, you can use them to more easily cool your house outside the hottest months of the year.  They work well because if you raise the bottom sash a little and lower the top sash a little on several windows, they help create a bit of a vortex of air that helps circulate air in and out of the house much quicker, than with just the bottom sash open.  This is why they are in a way somewhat environmental, because with double hung windows you can use that vortex effect to keep your house at a nice temperature through most spring and fall months.  For example, even though I am located in South Texas, I am generally able to use the vortex effect to keep my house cool through the end of May and then open them again for cooling in late September.  My neighbor’s house, with their windows painted shut, often has to begin using their AC starting in early March and continue using it all the way through late October.  So, I generally have about three extra months of significantly reduced AC usage, in comparison to my neighbor. 


    • A Note on Single Hung Windows: Generally, single hung windows apparently are more common in northern climates and on houses built before the mid-1800s. Also, most modern windows, whether made of vinyl or aluminum, etc., are technically single hung because only the bottom sash opens.  With a single-hung window, the restoration job will be much the same, but the upper sash will simply generally not be designed to slide up and down.  This means there won’t be a weight and pulley system attached to it.  With a single hung window system, you will essentially follow the same steps, removing the rails, etc., then pulling the sashes out.  However, if the mechanics (i.e., how the bottom sash is kept in place once opened) of the window are different than a weight and pulley system contained in these videos, you may need to enlist a local craftsman to learn how to maintain and repair your alternative mechanical system. 
  4. VIDEO FOUR (IMG_2191)
    • MINS 0:00-2:20. Removing the Exterior Trim.
      • In this first step, I take off the exterior trim.  I discuss how my trim looked before I restored it, and then how it looks after.  You will need the Cats Paw Nail Puller for this step.  Why am I taking off the outer trim?  Well, I do this because I need to access the weights.  Above, in the MINS 3:50- 4:15 of Video One section, I discuss why I don’t like pulling off interior trim.  It’s a lot harder.  Likely your exterior trim needs restoration anyways if you’re starting from scratch on restoration, and pulling off the exterior trim is quite easy.  Once you have it pulled off, you’ll have access to all the mechanics of your window, including the pulleys, weights, and ropes.  Sometimes you can find cool writing inside too!  In these images here *IMG_2062 and IMG_2437* you can see some of the old writing.  I love how they wrote the numbers, as it shows how over 100 years or so, people’s writing has sort of changed.  I think it’s just really interesting.
    • MINS 2:20-6:15. Removing Window Weights and Saving the Rope at a template.
      • Often there are different weight sizes.  Rule of thumb is that the heavier weight is for the top sash (so it will be the outer weight) and the lighter weight is for the bottom sash on the inside.  *Save the Ropes.* I should have better emphasized in my video that if you have ropes that are intact when you are taking out your first windows, please save them.  Save one rope for the front weight, and one for the back weight.  Then label them!  This way you can easily cut the right length of rope later in the process without having to re-measure, etc.  This will save you a lot of time.  This is especially important for odd sized windows, like for a kitchen window or for a bathroom window.  I discuss in greater detail in _______ video.  I also suggest taking pictures of the knots for your own info.  If you have other types of mechanical systems, I also suggest taking lots of pictures for future reference while you’re pulling it apart, so you remember how to put it back together later.  At MIN 5:45, I discuss painting the weights.  Over the top, but it looks cool like in this pic below: *IMG_9539*
    • NOTE TO MITCH*I say I will include webpage links for how to measure rope length.*. – I couldn’t find one…so hopefully I discuss in my videos
    • MINS 6:15-8:33. Removing the Outer Rails.
      • With the window weights removed, I discuss removing the outer rails.  I suggest using the Titan Stainless Steel Pry Bar Scraper tool for this.  I continue to remove the rail through most of the next section too.
    • MINS 8:33-12:20 – Lead Safety Suggestions and Awareness.
      • I discuss my basic understanding of lead paint, including lead chips, using HEPA vacuums, sanding precautions, and encapsulation.  I explain that you need to review your local rules and be careful with your personal and household safety.  Check resources online and proceed at your own risk.  See the extra resources page for some Lead Safety Links. NOTE TO MITCH *Find Lead Safety Links.
    • MINS 12:20-END.
      • Removal of the Top Sash.
  5. VIDEO FIVE (IMG_2193)
    • MINS 0:00-6:10. Removing the “center rail” aka the Parting Strip.
      • Remember, I’m not a professional at this so I never learned the proper name of this piece at the time I was restoring the windows. So I’m a little confused in the videos!  Although I generally call it the center rail – the proper name of this piece is the “parting strip.”  And in this video, I discuss its removal.  Note that these can break a little easier than others, but you can often find parting strip in some specialty hardware stores in bigger cities.  You will need some “duck billed vice grips” for this step.  I also discuss some butterfly plants – the wonderful milkweed.
    • Note – In this video I said I would include a video on cutting angles, but I think it is easier to discuss here.
      • If you’re not clueless: If you have some knowledge of woodworking or carpentry, this is not hard. If you have to put in a new parting strip with new wood, get the piece then measure the distance from the top of the frame to longest point on the bottom, then cut a 15-degree angle back from the longest point on the bottom so that it fits in with the angle of the lower window stool. 
      • If you’re clueless like me: I’m pretty much clueless on anything related to carpentry, so I’m really not the best to explain. But if you are also clueless – try this.  Hopefully this will work through trial and error.  Go to the slot where the center rail fits into.  Carefully measure from the top of the frame to the bottom, right next to the slot.  So essentially, stick your measuring tape right up at the top of the slot, then carefully ensure the bottom of the measuring tape is at the longest point or lowest point of the angled side at the bottom.  Go cut the replacement rail to that measurement.  Then adjust your saw to cut a tiny bit off the bottom, at a 15-degree angle, so that it matches the angle of the bottom of the lower window stool (basically the part of the window where the rain hits…it needs to be angled slightly so water will flow off).    Hopefully the illustration below helps show it a little better.
      • A little trick: Most of your windows will be the same size. You can likely pull a center rail from another window, and just use that as a template, making this all a little easier. 
      • Note: If you’re a millimeter or two short because you messed up the angles, or the cutting (something I would definitely do) then don’t sweat it too much. It will work.  Just try to get it as close as you can so it looks good when you finish up.
      • See: Also check out video _____ at ______ where I discuss the angle issue and show what I’m trying to illustrate here.
    • MINS 6:10-END. Removing the outer rail at the top of the frame
      • I discuss removing the outer rail at the top of the frame and why you should keep the original nails in the rail so that you can reinstall it much quicker.   This little trick helped me save a lot of time!
  6.  VIDEO SIX (IMG_2195)
    • MINS 0:00-END. Pulling out the Pulleys.
      • I discuss pulling out the pulleys, even if they are push in pulleys, which are pretty common.  If you have push in pulleys, for this step you will need a flat utility chisel and a hammer.  If you have fancier pulleys, you will need a screw driver.  If you have fancier pullies, you won’t really need this video.  Just unscrew the pulleys. 
  7. VIDEO SEVEN (IMG_2145)
    • MIN 0:00-END. Save your pulleys and other hardware!
      • This video discusses why you should save your pulleys and any other hardware!  I know they probably look nasty and ugly, but I will show you how to clean them up in later steps.  Pulleys cost anywhere from $12 for the cheaper push in pulleys, to $45 a pulley for nicer fancy screw-in type pulleys.  This can really add up quickly if you have a lot of windows.  I have a whole section on how to clean up your hardware and I recommend saving and restoring as many as you can.  They are very beautiful when they are all cleaned up.


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