How to Open Painted-Shut Windows

Let in some fresh air by using this technique to break the paint seal on painted-shut windows.
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how to open painted shut windows


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When you move into an older home, it’s not uncommon to find at least one window painted shut. Wood windows add plenty of historic character to a home, but when their frames and sashes get covered in coats of paint, they can be nearly impossible to open. While professional painters will use techniques to avoid this, DIYers may accidentally paint windows shut when trying to get the job done quickly. Luckily, there’s no need to replace the windows entirely—you can unstick them yourself using some basic tools.

Continue reading to learn how to open painted-shut windows using a technique that doesn’t take long or require any specialty supplies.

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how to open painted shut windows

This task requires either a putty knife and utility knife or a window zipper. While many people already have putty knives and box cutters in their toolboxes, investing in a window zipper—which is designed for windows that are painted shut—will make the job easier and is recommended if opening more than one window in your home. For the purposes of this article, we’ll describe how to unstick painted windows using a window zipper, though the process is similar when using a putty knife.

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STEP 1: Protect yourself from lead paint. 

When working with painted-shut windows in an older home, there’s a strong possibility that they were painted with paint containing lead. In order to prevent potential lead exposure when removing the paint, it’s important to protect yourself. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends using a disposable N100-rated respirator mask when working with lead paint to prevent inadvertent inhalation. Wearing protective clothing like disposable coveralls, shoe covers, and a painter’s hat provides further protection.

STEP 2: Remove the latch. 

Windows usually become stuck when paint dries between the window’s sash and its jamb stops and parting stops. The sash is the part of the window that moves up and down, and the stops help direct the sash. Before tackling either of those elements, however, it’s important to address the latch.

If the window latch has been covered with paint, it’s best to unscrew it and remove it completely rather than attempting to chip off the paint. The process of opening the window will be easier when the latch is no longer in the way, and it can be reinstalled at the end of the process.

STEP 3: Use the window zipper to cut along the seams.

Slide the window zipper between the stop bead (the piece of wood covering the top and sides of the window) and the window sash (the frame containing the glass). If you intend to maintain rather than remove the paint, it’s important to be careful not to damage any paint on the sash or around the edges of the stop bead. The idea is to use just enough force to cut through any sealant or old paint that’s preventing your sash from moving. After completing this step, the window should open using a bit of force.

STEP 4: Pry open the window from the outside. 

If the window is still stuck, it’s possible that the window is painted shut from the outside. Head outside in order to access the exterior side of the window. Perform the same action you used inside, using the window zipper to cut along the edge of the sash. Then, carefully use a pry bar to lift open the bottom sash.

STEP 5: Lubricate the window to prevent it from sticking again.

At this point, the paint seal has been broken, and the window should open and close with relative ease. In order to prevent it from sticking again, however, it’s best to provide some lubrication. Using a standard bar of soap, rub along the edges of the channel in which the sash travels. This will allow the sash to move more smoothly.

Final Thoughts

how to open a painted shut window

After reading this article, you should have a clearer idea of how to open windows that are painted shut. By investing in a simple tool—or using the ones you already have on hand—your stuck window can be fixed in just a few minutes. Follow these steps on how to unstick a painted window and take particular note of the safety instructions for dealing with windows that may be coated in lead paint.

RELATED: How to Remove Paint from Glass