Help windows painted shut.

malcolmSeptember 8, 2005


The previous owner painted the windows in the kitchen shut. How do I remove the paint ??? Is there another way to get them open?

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Most of our historic houses have had at least one painted-shut window. Depending on their condition and whether the paint is the only thing holding them shut, you can open them by taking a thin putty knife and inserting it into the space to break the paint seal. Gently (very gently to avoid gouging your wood) work the putty knife around the window until the seal is completely broken.

Be wary if the paint is old because it likely contains lead. Sometimes it is not such a factor because the paint does not chip or release dust, but the act of subsequently opening/closing the window can release lead dust. Check out the EPA's website for abatement techniques.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 2:33PM
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    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 6:01PM
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You could remove the strip of wood that goes down along side window.You only need to remove 1 there are 2.It kinda acts like a guide fior window.Just pull away with putty knife enogh to loosen window,then put soap or candle along edge so it doesnt stick anymore.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 6:56PM
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I've always found that an artist's pallet (sp?) knife works wonders in freeing windows.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 11:22PM
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There is tool made especially for this: I think it is called a window zipper. You can get one at most hardware stores. But you'll also need a whole stable of other putty knives, little picks, and assorted Rube Goldberg blades. If you do more than one or two of these you'll accumulate a set of them.

All of my windows were painted closed, so I have a lot of experience with this.

John Leeke has a good booklet on window repair and care which describes this. You can try googling him. His stuff is excellent.

The key to getting the windows separated is patience. If you try to do it too forcefully, you run the risk of scoring the wood. Not the end of the world, but that will slow you down doing the necesary smoothing before repainting.

The lead paint issue is a particular concern if the paint was done before the 70's. You will be generating a lot of little pieces during this operation. They need to be contained and carefully removed from the site before they become pulverized or tracked around.

Don't drink or smoke when doing this, and remove your clothes afterward and launder them. Keep your pets away, as well, during the process.

Once you get the windows open and running well, a new coat of non-lead paint will contain the remaining lead paint on the window frame, sill, and trim, provided the new paint stays intact. The only exception is if you have lead paint in any of the sliding channels or on any rubbing surfaces that can wear when the windows are operated. In those areas, depending on your family situation (i.e if you have young children) I would consider removing any lead paint in those areas and repainting with modern paint. Paint in the channels is constantly at risk for being worn down into dust. And that dust is what makes lead-painted windows harmful.

Small areas of lead paint can be removed safely using strippers and solvents. Abrasive removal of paint or heated (plates, guns, or, God forbid, a torch) methods can volatilize the lead, creating other problems.

This is one of those jobs which always takes more work than I plan on, but the good news is once they are open, it's done forever. (Unless you allow repainting to close them up, again.)

Also, you may have to break the paint bond on both interior and exterior sides, Same process, just be sure not to let the paint fragments fall on the ground, outside, since that can contaminate the soil.

Since this is usually just a relatively small job (as opposed to, say, lead removal on a whole house's siding) I just dispose of the waste in regular trash. Your local regulations may vary. A large quanity of lead paint chips is considered hazardous waste, at least, here it is.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 12:41PM
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Are you sure they are painted shut and it's not the pulley cord that's been cut?
The PO of this house cut the cords on several of the window sashs in this house....guess she figured the bad guys wouldn't be able to get in...anyway having the pulley cord slashed can keep a window from opening too. Just thought I'd point this out, cause sometimes when you've been working hard on a project you tend to miss the obvious.
Another possiblity is that the windows swelled..unpainted wood allows mositure in and out. Depending on the weather conditions the window may or may not open. So a window that won't open for you in the summer may very well open easily in the winter.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 6:31PM
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Running the knife will break the bond and maybe allow the window to open. If that doesn't work, you'll have to prise off the stop strip (the batten holding the window in its track), and smooth that edge down. It's fairly easy; start at one end with a small prise bar or crow bar, and work your way gradually to the other end, a little bit at a time. That will guarantee you can get the sash open. At that time, sand or smooth the edges of the sash so there is plenty of room between the window and the stop strip, then reinstall the stop strips (just press it back in using the original nails in the original holes).

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 9:51AM
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Thank you for all your help, I am starting the project today!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 10:56AM
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