replacing sash cords in windows with sash chains

arlosmomMay 21, 2010

Hi all. We have many, many windows with broken sash cords. Up till now, we've been propping the windows open with sticks, but I feel like the time has come to be civilized and address the issue.

Our neighbors replaced their cotton sash cords with chains. Do any of you have experience with this? Will chains work with our existing pulleys and weights? Do the windows open and close as smoothly with chains? It seems like chains would last a lot longer than there any downside?

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I have cords that are years and years old.....don't know about the chains....but cords seem to work well...until you start painting the woodwork!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 7:44PM
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Hi. Go to the bottom of the forum list of subjects, and you'll see a SEARCH box there. This subject has been discussed, on this particular forum, about 12 times. So you might find a lot of experience reported there.

I ran a search on SASH CORDS.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 10:27PM
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Also check out a book called Working Windows by Terry Meany. It covers sash cord repair and replacment in deep detail. My library has a copy, but I was keeping it out so long, I finally ordered my own copy from Amazon.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 4:38AM
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moccasinlanding, I did do a search on sash chains before my post. There were 3 hits and I got some useful info, but still had questions. At your suggestion above, I looked at the 12 sash cord hits -- and, as you'd expect, they talked about sash cords...not sash chains.

lirodendron, I've heard that book mentioned several times on this forum, and thought about ordering it. Does it have any info specific to sash chains?

I have a couple of questions that I was hoping to ask of someone who has actually made the transition from cord to chain. Hopefully I'll come across someone here.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 1:54PM
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Sash chains use grooved pulleys, sash cords use smooth pulleys.

You are [probably stuck with the pulleys you have.

New sash cord has a cotton cover over a nylon core and should last a very long time.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 2:47PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Just regular nylon rope woks fine and is going to last longer than anyone here and then some.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 6:15AM
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Dear Arlosmom,
I (not I, but my carpenter) replaced broken cords with chain on two of my windows last month. I did not know about grooved vs smooth pulleys as the prior poster pointed out. I can say with certainty that your current weights will be fine. My windows are working wonderfully, with just a finger touch to lift them. I will examine my pulleys -- they might be grooved after all ---

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Oh fuzzywuzzer, I'm so happy to find you! If you don't mind, I have a couple questions that I'd love to have answered by someone who had made the switch (you!).

Do you know (or could you ask) how your carpenter attached the chains to the window sashes and to the weights -- do we need any special hardware? Also, when you look at the chain in the pulley, does the chain fill the entire width of the groove, or is there some wiggle room on the sides of the chain?

Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 4:10PM
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I just checked with the Working Windows book. Nothing about chains vs ropes, or switching from one or the other. Only note on comparison is that chains last forever.

However the book gives many illustrated instructions and details about replacing ropes (or chains), including details on how to access the mechanics, particularly in the event of broken ropes, either because they are already broken, or as rescue for a mid-repair OOPS. And of course, info on how to attach chains or ropes to the windows and weights.

I don't have any mechanics in my windows, but I wouldn't undertake any repair of them without an experienced guide at hand, or a good book. For 17 bucks, you can't go wrong!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 4:26PM
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lirodendron, Amazon has Working Windows for $11.53. I'm ordering it today. Thanks for checking your copy for me.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 7:16PM
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I had all the sash cords replaced on our orig (1930) windows - they used cotton cording -

the link below may help

Here is a link that might be useful: window doctor

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:54AM
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arlosmom, i will try to get answers for you this week.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 12:00AM
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thanks fuzzywuzzer! I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 5:26PM
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Dear Arlosmom,
I spoke to my carpenter and I looked at my pulleys. My pulleys are smoothly rounded out, not grooved. Carpenter says he has never come across a grooved pulley and has still changed out cords to chains, as he did on mine. He says that sash cords are standard 3/8" and he replaced mine with 3/8" chain. If 3/8 is not available to you, you can go a little larger, but stay under 1/2". At 1/2" they are too fat to work well in the pulley. As far as how to attach chain to weight, there is a loop on the top of the weight. You don't need any special hardware. His method with mine was to put the chain through the loop and hook the chain back onto itself by opening up a link and hooking it back onto another link then closing the link back up. He said depending on size of your weight's loop, you might use a wire if the chain won't go through.

He advised that you must see to it that your pulleys are working smoothly. If they are gunked up with paint, be sure to scrape them so that they function well and don't rub on any window parts, because a smooth-working pulley is key to smooth-working windows.

Any other questions, feel free to ask!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:46PM
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FW, thank you!!! Your info is really helpful. Our pulleys seem to be in great shape, so that's good.

We've found a couple of sources online for sash chains that look like good quality. I ordered the Working WIndows book, so I guess the next step (after doing some reading) is to take the first window apart.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 7:23AM
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arlosmom, i looked more closely at my pulleys. believe it or not, they do have a narrow groove in the center. maybe that is why the chains work so smoothly. nevertheless, some of my windows have rope and some have chains. i do not know which of them are original to my 1920's house.

thanks to brickeyee for pointing this out, because i would never have noticed.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 11:20AM
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Just thought I'd post and update because we're making progress! We now have a handyman/carpenter doing a mechanical restoration on our windows. We're lucky to have the original (I think) Chamberlain zinc (I think) weatherstripping in good condition on all of our windows. Our window guy is carefully removing it, disassembling the window to loosen the sashes, getting everything moving smoothly, replacing the sash cords with chain, and reinstalling the weatherstripping.

Then I'm following behind, doing any final scraping and sanding. I put a coat of linseed oil/gum spirits on the bare spots, primed as needed, and now I'm painting.

So far, he's done with six windows, and I'm done painting three. There are a total of 24 to do. My hope it that we get most of them done by cold weather. We'll see, but I'm feeling encouraged by our progress so far. We've only been at it for about a month and I think we're picking up speed.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Wow, arlosmom, you are really going for it! It is slow and painstaking work (and expensive), but I bet you will be very happy that you took the trouble. Keep your chin up!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 9:58PM
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Thank you all for this posting. I've just inherited a 1929 house which has a number of windows needing sash repair, A few have chains, the rest have cords. I will have to take a look at the pulleys to see if any have grooves or all are smooth.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 1:23AM
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sunnyflies, our pulleys don't have any noticeable groove, and the chain is working great. We got our chain from Killian Hardware; their website is pretty useful in helping determine which size chain to use. They also sell the piece parts for attaching the chain to the sashes and the weights.

Here is a link that might be useful: Killian hardware

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 7:38AM
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