How to Fix a Sash Window that Won’t Stay Open

transom sash windows

Though they’re especially suited to Georgian and Victorian properties, a sash window makes a stylish and iconic addition to just about any home – but what happens when they won’t stay open?  Let’s take a look at this problem, and how it might be fixed.

Why won’t your sash window stay open?

Sash windows are designed to counteract gravity, keeping the bottom window raised once it’s been opened via a series of pulleys and weights hidden into the jambs on either side of the frame.  These weights are selected to match the weight of the sash – ensuring that moving the sash is easy – however weak or strong you might be.  They’ll also ensure that when you let go, the sash won’t immediately fall back to the bottom of the frame.

You’ll find one balancing weight on each side of the window. Together, they’ll keep the window sliding along the same plane of motion.  If one or both of them should fail, however, you’ll have a problem – the window will be heavier than the weight, and thus it won’t stay open.

Are the balances connected to the sash?

The balances connect to the sash via small devices known as balance shoes.  This is what the weight of the window rests on, and what transfers that weight to the balances.  If one of these shoes has become disengaged from the frame, then this will lead to problems.  Remove the sash in question and inspect the bottom of the tracks on either side.  If a shoe has fallen to the bottom, then this is probably the source of the problem.  Lift it using a screwdriver (or a set of car keys) and twist the interior of the shoe so that it locks into position.  Line it up with the shoe on the other side, and re-insert the sash.

Are any components broken?

Of course, it might be that something has broken rather than simply fallen out of alignment.  In this case, you’ll need to identify the faulty component and replace it.  There are three likely candidates:

The pivot bar is the small metal bar that attaches the bottom of the sash to the balance shoe.  If it’s become deformed, then it might not be able to engage with the shoe, in which case a replacement is necessary.  Of course, the shoes themselves might also have warped or cracked.

Another possible scenario is that the weights themselves are defective.  Balance weights come in several different forms – with some being spring-loaded.  Be careful when removing yours, as they might be under tension, and liable to spring back.

Whatever the damaged component might be, if you can’t find a suitable replacement, you’ll need to replace the entire window.  Unfortunately, owners of older windows might find themselves in this situation – but many manufacturers use very similar parts, and so it might be worth investigating further before calling off the search!

Looking for new windows for your home? Browse our JELD-WEN sliding sash or casement windows or find out about our handmade bespoke windows. We offer both classic cords & weights sash windows and modern spiral balance sash windows.