Are there any downsides to Rope and Pulley Windows?

a_posse_ad_esseJanuary 25, 2010

Hi,

I am trying to decide what type of window mechanism to use in new "old windows" for an 1860s stone house.

Unfortunately, none of the original windows are still in the house so we are working from scratch.

We cant get a good answer as to why window makers moved away from rope and pulley windows. It just seems like they would last longer than anything else we are looking at.

Does anyone have any suggestions/resources for me to look at? Anyone recommend business who does these?

THANKS!

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inox

Start here:

http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1600&sid=932bae653dd8e3378858e1a2807a6d6c

Then look at the hardware:

http://www.phelpscompany.com/

Then see an example of a firm that still makes wooden windows:

http://www.smithrestorationsash.com/

Be sure to visit this forum:

http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/index.htm

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 7:27PM
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inox

Unless your building had rope originally and you are attempting to recreate the original look as accurately as possible, I would suggest using metal chain rather than cotton rope. My next door neighbor had new siding installed, in a lighter shade than the old siding. The additional reflected light degraded the cotton window rope in my windows on the north side of the house (which had never had much exposure before). One fine summer day, I heard a loud crash, and went to my bedroom to see what had happened. The cotton rope had failed, the window sash had fallen, and the glass cracked from the impact.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 7:39PM
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brickeyee

Chains use different pulleys than rope.

Chain pulleys have a sharp groove in the middle of the pulley, while rope pulleys are a smooth curve.

If you use nylon braided rope instead of cotton it will last a very long time.

The old cotton rope is what commonly failed.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 8:25PM
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a_posse_ad_esse

Dear inox and brickeyee,

Thanks so much for the advice. The blog link was enormously helpful. We are leaning toward chains and pulleys. I dont know what we'll find when we pull the vinyl windows out--if the original hardware is still there, we'll probably restore it, but if it has been pulled out, we'll go with chains. I really appreciate your help!! I'll post photos when we finally sort this out...probably in a year's time.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 10:36PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Chains use different pulleys than rope.
Chain pulleys have a sharp groove in the middle of the pulley, while rope pulleys are a smooth curve.

If you use nylon braided rope instead of cotton it will last a very long time.

The old cotton rope is what commonly failed.
Right! The nylon will out last all of us and then some.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 5:38AM
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Billl

I think it is important to retain old windows that are original to the structure. However, if someone had replaced the windows in my house previously, there is no way I would install rope hung windows now. Yes, they are a simple design and will last almost indefinitely. However, they require upkeep and are incredibly labor intensive to repair. If you have never taken a window apart, painted, pointed, and rehung - try it once before you commit to a house full.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 8:41AM
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slateberry51

billl, you make a good point, the 50-100 year maintenance cycle on old windows is a big job. I have about 43 that have had nothing done for 120 years, guess who gets to do it! But I believe that modern windows with their cladding or vinyl are basically unmaintainable--in other words, the vinyl cracks or warps, or the cladding delaminates, leaks, or somehow fails--and that's it--you have to replace the entire unit. As far as I know there are no repair options at that point. (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) Conversely the maintenance and repair of traditional wood windows, while labor-intensive, is at least an option.

A good way to get your head around the time comittment of window maintenance would be to look at Terry Meaney's book Working Windows; it's been recommended on the forum before.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 9:12AM
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graywings123

But are those the only two options: rope hung or vinyl clad? Are there wood replacement windows that are not rope hung?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 10:57AM
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ericwi

If you set up your new windows, made of wood, with no pulleys or chains, then you are free to insulate the cavity, located on both sides, with fiberglass or any other material of your choice. The window can be held open with a stick. The stick can be painted to match your woodwork. Now you have a new window, with an insulated frame, that will be warmer in the winter.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:23AM
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antiquesilver

Are you sure your house had rope & pulley windows? In a brick house, the weights pockets are usually built in as part of the exterior masonry facade(at least mine are & it's the same era as yours) but I'm not sure if this was done on stone buildings. I always think of casements in stone buildings. Probably you won't know until you pull out one of the present windows.

Also, it might depend on where your house is located. I've forgotten the year that weighted windows came into being but it was later than I had always believed - like maybe the 1840's & who knows how long it took builders to start using them? Once I owned a c. 1850-60 plantation ruins - stress 'ruins' - in a rural area of VA & that didn't have window pockets built into the brick but there were metal holders to keep the windows open.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 1:01PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

I have installed Caldwell spring tape balances on several houses where weight pockets were done away with. There's a link; they can be retrofit more or less easily.
Casey

Here is a link that might be useful: Weight/Pulley alternatives

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 7:22PM
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brickeyee

Spring balances work well and eliminate the need for weight pockets.

You may not be satisfied with the metal brackets on top of the lower sash that the balances attach with.

The metal can be located to the edge of the sashes, but the sashes must be removed to gain access and a clearance cut in the edge for the metal.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 9:34AM
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kframe19

One reason why manufacturers went away from sash weights is because such windows are very inefficient. You have a huge uninsulated pocket where the weight travels.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:37PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

One reason why manufacturers went away from sash weights is because such windows are very inefficient. You have a huge uninsulated pocket where the weight travels.

True but they are not as pretty.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 5:20AM
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brickeyee

There is often enough room in the pockets to put in thinner higher r-value per inch insulation against the exterior side of the pocket.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 10:05AM
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Moccasin

One problem with nylon rope is that it also degrades after a while in the UV and heat. Also, the reason it is chosen for anchoring boats is that it will stretch. So with a heavy sash weight on it, there is bound to be some issues with making it the right length.

But if you wish a good substitute for the cotton rope, go talk to a sail boat supply store and get some braided line which does not stretch, and can take the heat. I forget now what kind that is.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 1:08AM
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brickeyee

The nylon sash weight line is normally braided.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 9:50AM
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a_posse_ad_esse

Thanks for all your comments. I cant wait for spring so I can pull out the old vinyl windows to see if there are pulley wells. If the hardware is still there, we'll stick with it, though metal chains sound more attractive than cords. I'll post a note when we finally reveal what is there. We don't exactly have a date on our stone house so we have no idea what we'll find once we remove the vinyl windows. Any idea where I could find more about insulating the wells?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 5:47PM
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concretenprimroses

I love our old rope and pulley windows. They work so well and easily. however, dh filled in the pocket with insultion in many of our windows and retrofited those windows so that they can still go up and down by installing metal pieces. Its good to be insulated and still have the original windows, especially when its 20 below zero, but you can't beat the ease of use of the pulleys.
Kathy

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 11:25PM
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Billl

In a stone house, you might be able to insulate the wells very easily. The problem is usually the thickness of the wall in most homes. The weights are pretty big and they need room to move freely in the well. In my house, you could barely fit 1/2" foam board between the weights and the siding.

In my case, foam board was definitely the easiest. You just cut the foam to fit snuggly in the opening and slide it in before you put the weights back. If you have any gaps, you can go around the perimeter with a little expanding foam (from a can.)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:00AM
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kashka_kat

No downside. Simple, extremely functional - when balanced they glide up and down very easily - easily repaired, should last another 100 yrs. Air leakage issues if any can be more easily and cheaplyaddressed in other ways. That applies to existing windows, not so sure about starting from scratch. I think if I were you I'd use the pullman type spring balances ( pullmanbalances.com) - you can then insulate the channel and also more easily adjust to get the balance right. With the lead weights the weight has to match the sash exactly or its not balanced - which can be tricky. Then again the esthetics of the rope and pulley can't be beat! Love it!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:54AM
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brickeyee

"With the lead weights ..."

Most are actually 'pig iron.'

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 11:13AM
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sacto_diane

I went with new rope/pulley windows in my current project. I still have most of my original windows and wanted to replicate the existing.

I live in a mild dry climate so those factors did not influence me.

Diane

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 11:24PM
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oldhousegal

Don't forget the Spring Bronze if you go with sash weights. It;s an easily installed metal liner that allows the sashes to slide smoothly as well as provide a bit of tightness as the wood expands and contracts. It also lasts for as long as the wood window will last. I've seen it recommended by old house enthusiasts for restoration of old windows, so I gave it a try, and love the stuff.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 12:34AM
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kashka_kat

Diane, what beautiful windows. Did you have any problems with getting your weights balanced with your sashes? How precisely do they have to match? Actually, I have one replacement window I have to do in the kitchen - trying to decide between the spring balances and the rope & pulley.

I'm having so much trouble with getting an accurate weight measurement for the sashes and the weights I have. Stupid old bathroom scale reading can vary 4 or 5 lbs., depending on where the needle happens to get stuck. Suppose I'll have to buy a highly sophisticated electronic weight measurement device of some sort (ie expensive). SIGH.....

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 3:50PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

The heavier weights need to go on the upper sash; if the weight is too heavy on the lower sash, it will pull them open; too light on the uppers, and they will drift downward.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:34PM
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sacto_diane

The Windows came as a unit from the manufacturer and they did all the weights as part of the package. It came as a prefab unit that gets installed. Working with the manufacture, they replicated the mullions (basically the weight pockets) to match the other windows in my house - Diane

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 2:19PM
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