Friday, September 14, 2012

Window Hardware: Keep Old Windows Open Without Losing Your Head

Double hung windows have two sashes that slide up and down inside two channels in the window frame.  With the exception of famed architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright who called them "guillotine windows", the venerable double hung window has been popular with home builders for well over a century.

In the early days, these windows were also called "rope and pulley" windows because they featured a system of ropes and pulleys inside their wood frame.  The rope and pulley double hung window was first introduced in the middle of the nineteenth century.  It remained popular until the middle of the twentieth century when the rope and pulley system was replaced by spring suspension systems.  Rope and pulley double hung windows can still be found in many old homes today and the conscientious homeowner will make every effort to restore them.

One of the biggest problems that homeowners encounter with old wood double hung windows is that the lower sash will not stay open.  To understand why this happens, we first need to understand how the rope and pulley double hung window functions.  At the top of the window, on each side of the frame, is a pulley.  A rope loops over each pulley.  One end of the rope is attached to the sash.  The other end of the rope is tied to a cast iron weight that hangs inside a pocket hidden behind the window frame.  Equal to the weight of the sash, the cast iron weights act as a counter balance to the sash's weight.  When the rope and pulley system is in tune, the sash will lift effortlessly and will stay in place when let go.  Unfortunately, the ropes tend to break over time.  The cast iron weights crash to the bottom of their pocket.  Without their counter balance, the sash is heavy to lift and will no longer stay open.

Restoring antique rope and pulley double hung windows is a noble cause but it can also be a tedious and expensive endeavor.  Replacing a broken sash cord requires removing the sashes, window stops, and window trim.  An old home can have many windows and repairing each window can add up quickly.  Instead, homeowners often find themselves cutting off the end of a broom and using it to prop open windows.  Fortunately, there are economical alternatives.  Attractive options that don't scream, "I'm too broke to repair this window" include the following:
Window Stop

A window stop attaches to the window frame.  When the sash is lifted past the stop, the hook end swivels to catch the bottom of the sash and hold it open.  Simple but limited, the John Wright Company window stop only allows for one open position.


Side Sash Stay
A side sash stay also attaches to the window frame.  When the lever arm is lifted, the plate on the side of the stay extends; pushing the sash against the parting stop (the thin piece of wood that sits in the channel and separates the top sash from the bottom sash).  Unlike a window stop, an Antique Revelry side sash stay allows the sash to be locked in any open position.  On a warm breezy day, a side sash can keep a window wide open.  On a cool rainy day, it can hold the window only partially open.  Side sash stays can also provide a marginal measure of security.  While they won't discourage a harden criminal, the pressure on the sash can be just the deterrent that causes a petty thief or Peeping Tom to give up on a partially open window and move on to easier prey.

A rope and pulley double hung window that won't stay open can be a source of great aggravation but don't lose your head over "guillotine windows". Instead, visit Shop 4 Classics, your source for window stops, side sash stays, and other antique style window hardware for double hung windows.

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