How to Install New Sash Cords in Windows

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A broken sash cord makes a single- or double-hung window very difficult to open. Propping the window open creates a household hazard, especially for curious young children. Generally you're best off replacing all the cords, even if only one is broken.

Things You'll Need

  • 1-inch (2.5-cm) Wire Nails
  • 4d Finishing Nails
  • Drop Cloth
  • Paint And Paintbrush
  • Sash Cord
  • Nail Set
  • Utility Knife
  • Caulk
  • Sandpaper
  • Hammer
  • Locking Pliers
  • Pliers Or Coat Hanger
  • Screwdriver
  • Trim Pry Bar
  • Trim-size Nail Puller
  • Lay down a drop cloth.

  • Pry off the window stops with a trim pry bar. Sand off any rough edges and use a trim-size nail puller to pull nails out of the trim's back side and/or the window frame.

  • Move the sash and pull out any tacks that hold down metal weather-stripping in the frame channels.

  • Tilt the lower sash out to remove the (usually knotted) ends of the sash cords attached to it. If the cord still suspends a weight, hold onto the cord as you lower the weight. Then cut off the knot with a utility knife and allow the cord to fall into the weight cavity.

  • Score painted-over joints and parting strips with the utility knife, then pry them out with locking pliers, starting at the bottom and working up carefully. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the upper sash.

  • Remove the screw that secures the weight cavity's access panel and lift out the panel.

  • Reach inside with pliers, a coat hanger bent into a hook, or your hand to grasp the cord and lift out the weight (see A).

  • Untie the cord from the weight or cut the cord with a utility knife. Cut a new sash cord that is about 6 inches (15 cm) longer than the old one.

  • Tie a knot at the very end of the cord to keep it from falling into the pulley opening. Insert the other end into the opening above the pulley. Push the cord into the cavity until you can see it, then pull it out of the access opening.

  • Double-knot the cord to the weight so it will end up the same length as the old one, then cut off any excess. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the other cords.

  • Start with the upper sash. Press the knotted end of the sash cords into the recessed area in the sash's edge (see B). Drive a 4d finishing nail through the knot and into the sash.

  • Place the weather-stripping on the sides of the sash before tilting the sash into the window frame. Then position the sash so you can tack the weather-stripping in place with two wire nails.

  • Tap the parting strips back into the frame channels.

  • Repeat steps 1 through 3 to reinstall the lower sash. Reinstall the window stops with 4d finishing nails, then set the nails and caulk over them. Apply touch-up paint as required.

Tips & Warnings

  • To minimize damage to the trim and avoid having to repaint, score the painted-over joints between the window trim and the frame before attempting to pry them apart.
  • Pad the jaws of the locking pliers with cloth or tape to avoid damaging the parting strip when you pull it out.
  • If a weight is still attached to a sash cord, clamp locking pliers or a C-clamp onto the cord at the pulley to hold it in place while you remove the cord from the sash.
  • Scrape any paint out of the slot in a screw head before you try to twist it out, or you may strip the slot.
  • To make sure the knots don't come loose someday, put a little wood glue on them.

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