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Kits can replace vintage sashes

Some window sashes in my home are in good shape. Others are falling apart. Can I purchase replacement kits that will allow me to maintain the character of my older home? Will the replacement sash still use the old rope and cast-iron weight? I would love to get a replacement tilt-in kit to make washing windows easier. Can I repair my window sashes or is it a better idea to buy new ones?

Window sashes can be replaced in many instances without having to alter the actual window frame. You can buy new sashes that look old.

A window sash consists of the glass and the frame that holds it. Typically the sash moves, but the frame that surrounds it is stationary.

Window sash replacement kits allowed me to replace broken or rotted window sashes with new ones, and the window frame and all interior and exterior woodwork trim were left untouched. The homeowners I worked for were amazed at how quickly they could enjoy functioning, energy-efficient windows with minimal mess and disruption to their homes. The new window sashes fit the existing openings like a glove.

You may be able to find a new window sash with the groove to accommodate the rope that attaches to the cast-iron weight, but I would not do that unless this is a specialized historic preservation project. New window sash replacement kits come with sleek, spring-loaded jambs that connect to the window sashes. These jambs are highly efficient, keeping air infiltration to a minimum.

Remove the old window weights and fill the void space with expanding, flexible foam insulation. This insulation will do a great job of stopping air leaks and making the inside of your home quieter.

You will love your replacement tilt-in window-sash kit. Cleaning windows has never been easier. I have this kind of window in my own home, and I really appreciate not having to climb a ladder to clean second-story windows. The tilt-in feature allows you to remove the entire sash from the frame if you prefer to clean windows or repaint their exterior on a work stand inside the room. Window maintenance couldn't be easier with the tilt-in option.

Repairing window sashes may be possible, depending upon the degree of damage. If serious rot has loosened or warped the sash, it may be better to buy a new one. But if you have just some spots of rot, epoxies and injectable wood fortifiers will make the old window sash like new. The epoxies are sandable and paintable once they've cured.

The decision to repair or replace should also focus on your fuel bills. Window sash replacement kits can make a considerable difference in your heating and cooling bills. The glass within the sash can be ordered with a low-emissivity coating and inert gases between the glass panes that make an energy-efficient window.

One of the great features of window sash replacement kits is that they are do-it-yourself friendly, and they can be done one or two windows at a time. You can save thousands of dollars in installation fees if you install them yourself.

Tim Carter is a licensed contractor. To view previous columns or tap into his archive of information and sources of building materials, visit Ask the Builder on the Web at You can write to Tim Carter at P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati, OH 45236-0352.


When you replace:

- Build confidence by starting with a small window in an obscure location.

- Select a replacement kit from a name-brand window company that has made this line of products for years. You want to be sure that the style will be available in the future so all your windows match. At the very least, replace all the sashes on one side of your house at the same time for a uniform look.

- Measurements are critical. Get the window dealer to come to your home to take the measurements. If you supply the measurements and make an error, you're responsible.