How to Fix Common Horizontal Sliding Window Problems

horizontal sliding windows in front of trees
  • 1-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 20-75
What You'll Need
Measuring tape
Replacement window
Silicone or weather stripping
What You'll Need
Measuring tape
Replacement window
Silicone or weather stripping

Sliding windows, often known as Yorkshire sash windows, have been around for many years. From older wooden models to modern versions with rollers, sliding windows are popular, especially for tighter surfaces. However, horizontal sliding window problems can crop up, and sliding glass window replacement can be necessary when things get especially sticky. Check out the details below.

Horizontal vs Vertical Windows

sliding windows outside

Vertical Windows

Vertical windows, either single or double-hung, are the most common window frame style. One, or two, big sashes (the frame units surrounding glass panels) glide up and down within vertical rails in these windows.

The sashes are often counterbalanced by weights hidden in wall pockets behind the case moldings in older forms, but in modern double-hung windows, the sashes are more commonly counterbalanced by springs hidden in the side tracks.

Vertical windows provide three main advantages:

1. These window frames are created by various manufacturers, giving you a large and often cheaper selection.

2. Typically, springs or weights make them simple to open and close.

3. Vertical tracks are easier to clean and rarely get ‘gunked’ up.

But they have some disadvantages, too:

1. Counterbalance springs or sash cords can break over time.

2. Routine maintenance is required to keep them in good working order.

3. The large opening can make this window style a break-in hazard for determined burglars.

Horizontal Windows

sliding windows in an empty room

Horizontal windows, also known as slider windows, are side-by-side windows that slide horizontally along the top and bottom tracks. Both windows glide in certain designs, whereas one is stationary and the other moves side to side in others.

Sliders are a fantastic option when you need to open and close windows frequently or want a better view of whatever is happening outside.

Horizontal windows excel because:

1. They have no internal mechanisms or counterbalances and are thus very durable.

2. These windows are often cheaper due to their simplicity in design.

3. Are often larger and can offer a better view of the outside world without bulky frames.

However, horizontal windows can sometimes have disadvantages, such as:

1. Due to their accessibility, the tracks can often become gunked up with dirt or debris and require frequent cleaning.

2. Since horizontal windows are slightly less popular, they're somewhat more limited in size, shape, and general availability.

3. They may be harder to clean from the inside, especially compared to the tilt-in window cleaning option that many vertical windows offer.

Sliding Window Repair

man fixing sliding window with a drill

If your sliding window won't open, the most likely cause is dirt or debris in the track, and the easiest method for fixing the situation is to clean the track and bottom of the window.

If there's still an issue where the glass is not sliding correctly, try oiling the track slightly. This oiling should allow the window sash to glide more freely over the top of the track.

Still not sliding correctly? You may have to repair or replace the track itself to ensure the proper sliding of the window sash.

Repairing or Replacing the Track of a Sliding Window

brush cleaning sliding window track

Before entirely replacing the sliding window, make sure nothing is causing it not to work, such as dirt, grime, or debris clogging up the track. An easy fix for most track issues is a simple cleaning to ensure that the sash can move smoothly through the track. If this is not the case, then move on to the actual replacement of the track.

The first step to replacing the track of a sliding window after cleaning the track itself is to remove the sash, or window, portion. Do this by gently lifting the window up and out of the track and setting it carefully to the side.

Remove the screws or rivets that act as security installation on the window with a screwdriver and any other locks or installed devices.

Check the alignment of the track itself next. If the track is twisted outward, gently tap the top section with a screwdriver or mallet. You can also widen the track if it is too narrow by gently forcing the flat tip of the screwdriver into the narrow part. Make sure you are careful at this step, so you do not rip or tear anything.

Remove the glider from its current position if the problem is with it. To avoid the problem from recurring, you should replace it with a new one, which you may find at a hardware store or lumberyard supply. This step makes reinstalling it in the window a breeze.

Replace the new glider in its original location and secure it with screws and a screwdriver.

Inspect the weather stripping and replace it with a new one if significantly damaged or worn out. Place the new weatherstripping in its slot and carefully push it in until it is flush with the window sash. Make sure the peeling material has no folds or lumps.

How to Replace a Sliding Window

person with tools working on sliding window

Luckily for most homeowners, horizontal windows can be replaced without removing the entire window frame. This process cuts down on installation time and simplifies the replacement process.

You may choose to install or replace drafty horizontal sliding windows that have yellowed or aged in the sun, cracked edges or disintegrating caulk, or have started to rust in the window channels. Replacing old sliding windows will improve your home's aesthetic and energy efficiency.

Step 1 - Measure

The first step in installing or replacing a horizontal sliding window is to measure the window itself. Do this by measuring each window dimension and marking the numbers down. It will be beneficial to measure two or even three times to ensure you have the correct measurements and to prevent confusion down the line.

Step 2 - Source Replacement

Use the measurements you took in step one to purchase the replacement window.

Double-check their measurements after you’ve gotten the replacements in, and make sure they match your order so that if you mismeasured the first time or got the wrong window, you don't have to remove the old one and replace it with an incorrect one.

Step 3 - Remove Old Window

Next, you will want to remove the old window to make room for the new one and allow you to inspect and repair the track and frame. Carefully lift the old window upwards and out of its track. Once that is completed, you can easily remove the entire window. Make sure the window is then out of your work area.

Step 4 - Check Frame and Track

After that, you will want to make sure that the frame and track are clean and in working order. You can use a brush or vacuum to remove any dirt or debris on the track then use a rag and some soapy water to clean the track thoroughly, just in case there is any lingering gunk.

Step 5 - Remove Glider and Stripping

Take a screwdriver and carefully use it to pull off the glider and weather stripping. Make sure you keep track of the window’s installation and how it sat on the track, and any other alignment issues. Replace the old glider (or a damaged track) in the same place from which you removed the old ones.

Tighten everything up with a screwdriver before moving on to the next step.

Step 6 - Install New Window

Recruit a friend or family member to assist you in installing the new sliding window into the window frame opening. Examine and adjust the external window flange (the outer part of the frame that runs around the window) to ensure it is flush against the house.

The sliding window should be removed once you have checked to ensure it fits and that everything will run correctly.

Step 7 - Weatherproof

The next step is to weatherproof the new window. Apply an even bead of silicone outdoor window sealant around the interior and external corners of the existing window frame, or install weather stripping along the length of the frame.

Do not use sealant to cover any weep holes on the bottom of the window sill's exterior. Weep holes allow moisture to escape the frame, preventing water damage and mold growth.

Step 8 - Replace Frame

Now is the time to replace the window frame. Place the window's top on the upper window frame. Insert the bottom half on the lower window frame portion after gently pushing it in. Allow the window to rest comfortably on the frame by gently releasing it.

Finally, slide the window horizontally on the track to test the installation. Repeat numerous times to guarantee consistency and smoothness.

sliding window with latch

Replacing Sliding Window Screens

A sliding window screen replacement is a reasonably simple task that requires only a few tools, and the windows themselves do not need to be removed from the frame for screen replacement. Replacing the screens every few years will help ensure that the sliding device functions correctly.

Loosen the screws at the bottom and top of the window screen to begin. The spring-loaded rollers will relax and fall as a result. Pull the bottom of the window screen towards you by lifting it.

You may have to wiggle the screen a little to get it loosened, and this should remove the screen, allowing the installation of the new screens.

Measure the top, bottom, and depth of your window screen. This measurement will assist you in determining which screen type is ideal for your window. Then proceed to your local hardware store, where most conventional sizes should be available.

If your window doesn’t fit into the traditional sizes, you may have to go online to order the correct screen.

Slide the top of the window screen into the track by loosening the screws at the top. Raise the window screen and slide the bottom panel into the track at the bottom.

Slide the window screen a few times to make sure the window screen is working correctly. If the screen is not sliding smoothly, remember that the screws can be tightened to assist the screen in sliding smoothly and evenly down the track.

Replacing a Lost Glass Seal

person with tool working on sliding window

Improper installation or age might cause your sliding window's glass seal to break. Whatever the cause, condensation can form between your window panes, resulting in a hazy appearance that is tough to remove.

If the glass seal on your sliding window has failed, consider having it replaced entirely by experts in replacement doors and window installation.

Air or Water Leakage from Horizontal Sliding Window

Sliding windows are quite vulnerable to air and water leaks due to how they are built and how they slide. Air leaks can raise your monthly heating and cooling expenditures, while water leaks can lead to mold and mildew growth, which harm your family's health.

If this happens to you, simply improve the caulking and weatherstripping on your windows. If this happens frequently, it's probably preferable to have an experienced contractor replace the window completely.


Because of their cost, energy efficiency, and ease of operation, sliding windows are among the most popular window replacement options. However, some homeowners are unaware that if sliding windows are not properly built or maintained, they might cause issues.

Follow these basic installation and repair instructions to ensure the durability of your horizontal sliding windows and the health and safety of individuals within your home. Check out our other articles on windows, such as more on window installation or how to measure your windows for replacement.