Troubleshooting Hard-to-Open Windows

A blue house with white framed windows.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-40
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

It's hard to imagine having a house without windows. They let in the sunlight, allow gentle breezes to waft through each room, and allow us to enjoy scenic views. When they are working properly, all of these benefits are available but when they aren't, it impacts our interior space in a negative way.

There are several reasons why windows become "stuck" and unresponsive to the most vigorous attempts at opening or closing them. Below are examples of how you can troubleshoot hard-to-open windows. Once you've determined the problem and made the necessary repair or replacement, the best way to ensure your windows continue to stay operational year-round is with periodic checks and maintenance.

Single and Double Hung Windows

Single and double hung windows are a popular style found in residential areas. One of the main reasons single and double hung windows can be difficult to open is due to a build-up of dirt, grime, dust, debris, and even bugs inside the window's tracks. The build-up results in friction, making it difficult for the windows to slide up or down. Removing the build-up and spraying with a lubricant will usually solve the problem.

Casement, French Casement, and Awning Windows

Casement windows rely on a gear mechanism that allows the windows to swing open and close. Casement, or crank-out windows, can become hard to open when the gears residing inside a metal housing are stripped, bent, broken or chipped. This can be caused due to exerting too much pressure when attempting to open and close the window as well as excessive cranking which impacts the seal in the operator gear. Loose or stripped screws can also be an issue. Check for loose hinges that lead to the sash being out of alignment. When this happens, it's extremely difficult to operate the window, plus the window will not close as securely as it should.

Sliding or Glider Windows

Hard-to-open problems with sliding or glider windows may reside with the sliding track itself. This can be due to a layer of dirt building up and interfering with the sash sliding smoothly on the tracks. Cleaning and lubricating the track may fix the problem. If the sticking continues, it may be that the rollers are broken and need to be replaced.

Vinyl Windows

The biggest issue with hard-to-open vinyl windows is dirt build-up in the grooves and a lack of lubrication.

Metal Frame Windows

Along with the dirt build-up all windows encounter, a reason for poor closure and sealing is due to a bent section on the metal frame.

Other Hard-to-Open Window Issues

There are several additional areas to check that may eliminate the hard-to-open problem. Check the weather stripping. If moisture has seeped in making the material sticky, windows won't open easily.

Moisture, mold, and mildew can damage window frames, causing them to degrade or deteriorate. This can result in windows not being secure and not level within the frame. Periodically check for water seepage that may result in rotting wood frames.

If you've painted or caulked around the windows, any material that has gotten into the tracks or on gears or spring mechanisms and dried will affect window functionality.

Check windows for a damaged or broken pulley.

Homes with vintage windows may experience problems with the chain or rope mechanism that attaches to weights.

High humidity or a window left open on a rainy day can result in a swollen sash.

Check the sash tracks for any raised screw heads which will impede the opening and closing process.

Too much humidity in the home itself can affect the operation of your windows, causing them to stick.

If the windows are newly installed and are too hard to open, contact the contractor as they may not be properly installed.