How To Fix A Window Jam

By Sharon Naylor

April 8, 2016 4 min read

"A window can't be opened for one of three reasons: It's painted shut; the window is made of wood, and the humidity has caused it to swell; or there's dirt buildup. No matter the cause, the solution is the same," says Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, co-author of "Dare to Repair, Replace, and Renovate."

Glakas-Tenet says that fixing a window isn't always a job for a professional; it can be done by you -- free -- using items you already have in your home. And you'll find out below that there is one surprising kitchen gadget you wouldn't even think to use.

First, inspect the jammed window. In some buildings, such as offices, windows are not designed to open. If there are no hinges on the window, it may have been a design choice by the previous owner. Sometimes windows are nailed, screwed or painted shut. Depending on the use of the building and how many stories the building has, this could be for security and/or safety purposes. Nowadays, I wouldn't be surprised if this window is permanently shut for energy conservation.

There are, of course, more simple and obvious methods to check a window. You may feel a little embarrassing if you skipped these basic steps. But make sure that the window isn't simply locked or that you aren't pushing or pulling the window the wrong direction to open it. And of course, look at the inside and outside of the window frame to see if either side has recently been painted. Once you rule out these common potential causes, it's time to prepare your quick fix.

If you still haven't been able to determine the source of the problem, Glakas-Tenet suggests that you "slide a piece of paper/index card between the sash (the framework of the window located around the glass) and the stop (located on both sides of the window frame), working your way down to the windowsill. Wherever the paper gets caught is where the window is stuck."

Here is a breakdown of her quick fix:

You'll need to gather a few tools before you can get started. These include an index card (or piece of paper), a pizza cutter, a lubricating spray (such as WD-40), a rag, a hammer, a scrap of wood, an old toothbrush and paint thinner (which may or may not be necessary). Next, you'll go through Glakas-Tenet's five steps to quickly complete the quick fix:

--"Apply lubricating spray to both channels (the area in the window frame where the window travels up and down).

--"Now, insert the edge of a pizza cutter between the sash and the stop, a little bit above the problem spot. Run the pizza cutter up and down until it runs smoothly. Perform the same steps on the other side of the window.

--"Try to open the window.

--"If it still doesn't budge, then put the piece of scrap wood against the problem area and bang it gently with the hammer to jar it loose.

--"Once the window is open, remove paint with the paint thinner and rag, or remove dirt with the toothbrush and a wet rag, and then pat it dry."

Remember that "gently" is the key word here. You don't want to bang too hard with the hammer, or you may risk indenting the window frame. Remember, too, that there is a risk of glass breaking or wood splintering anytime you're pushing up against the window, especially if the window is old. You could get injured if you're not careful. Then the quick fix would be for nothing. You'd be left with two price tags: the price of your medical expenses and the price of buying a new window. This would certainly be the saddest ending of all.

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