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Stuck Window and Door


Open and Shut Case: Mysteries of the Stuck Window and Door Revealed

Sometimes, when opportunity knocks, you can’t get the door open. It’s mysteriously stuck. You move over to open the window of opportunity, and after much huffing and puffing, you realize you can’t get that open, either. What’s going on here?

Learn all about how and why doors and windows stick and how to fix them, so you’re not stuck the next time opportunity pays a visit!

Stuck Windows

Windows can stick for a variety of reasons. Often wood expands and contracts, moving parts have been painted over, or two surfaces may simply seem fused together. Some of the most common problems and fixes for stuck windows are:

Painted over joint: Cut the paint with a window zipper (tool designed just for this purpose) or a putty knife. Hold blade flat against the sash and push the edge into the joint while drawing the tool along the surface.

Paint build up: Similar to when joints are painted over, years of painting can also result in an accumulation that causes excessive friction. Use a paint scraper to remove excess paint from the window stop, parting strip, and blind stop. Raise and lower the sash throughout the process. For a lower sash, it is also a possibility to remove the window stop to sand and scrape the edges facing the window. If none of the easier solutions were successful, remove both sashes and completely strip the paint to the bare wood. Repaint the sashes and reinstall when the pain has dried.

Too much friction: Lubricate the sash channels with candle wax or talcum powder. This can also prevent painted surfaces from sticking together. If spring metal weather-stripping is found in the sash channels, reduce tension by using a hammer and block of wood to flatten the strip.

Just plain stuck: A sharp rap to the center rail, near the lock can sometimes break a bond between painted surfaces. The blow can be administered with the palm of your hand or a rubber mallet. Another option is to gently tap a wooden block again the sides of the sash.

New friction channels: If you have some extra time on your hands and are very concerned with preventing heat loss, another option is to install new friction channels. To do this, first remove sashes, weights and pulleys.

Push fiberglass insulation into the openings for the weigh cavities. Start at the top and work your way down with the aid of a flexible rod or stick.

Using a hammer and sharp chisel, notch the ends of the top parting strip to create the new channels.

Replace the sashes in the window frame between the two new channels. Tilt the entire assembly into the opening from the bottom inside.

Finally, reinstall interior stops according to the manufacturer’s instructions for adjusting tension. If windows are too loose after the stops have been installed, increase tension by hammering a wood block against the stop at nail placements. When the tension seems right to you, drive in several nails.

Stuck Doors

Doors can stick for many of the same reasons as windows—too much tension, or painting over moving parts. However, with the addition of hinges, that also opens up a whole new area of possible reasons for stuck doors.

Door rubs against jamb: The solution to this problem differs according to which side the door is rubbing against the jamb on. If the door rubs against the jamb on the hinge side, you will need to shim the hinges out. Unscrew the hinge from the jamb and place a piece of cardboard behind it. Shimming out the bottom hinge may resolve the problem of a door binding at the top of the strike jamb.

If the door rubs against the jamb on the side without the hinge or against another part of the door frame, the door may need to be modified so it will fit. Mark the door with scribe lines so you know where to plane and remove the door (removing bottom pin first and working your way upward). Lay the door on a flat surface and plane the appropriate edges.

Loose hinge screws: To fix loose hinge screws, wedge the door open and remove the screws. Fold back the hinge, being careful not to lose any existing shims. Buy or whittle wood pieces to fit the holes. Add glue and push the wood pieces into the holes. Scrape the wood plugs until they are flush, fold the hinge back into place, drill pilot holes and drive in new screws.

Moving a stop: Sometimes it’s easier to move the stop than unwarp a door. If a door is binding against the hinge-side stop or will not close properly because of an improperly placed stop on the latch side, pry off the offending stop. Close the door and draw a line, along the doors inside edge, on the jamb. Nail the stop on this line.

Moving a strike plate: A latch and strike may get out of alignment because a house had settled. If the strike plate is too far away, shim it out with cardboard. If it is too close, unscrew the strike, chisel out a new mortise, drill pilot holes, and replace the strike. If necessary, use wood putty to fill the old mortise hole and sand until smooth.

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