Old houses which retain their original wood windows are fortunate; with a little TLC these windows can stay functional and outlast any vinyl product on the market today.   Replacing frayed or broken window sash cord is not very difficult, but it does sometimes require a little bit of patience.  I’m in the process of gutting a bathroom at the project house, so decided to take this opportunity to re-rope the only window in the small room.  All lower sashes throughout the house will eventually have their sash cords replaced.  It’s usually a dusty process – even more so when the house has been long vacant.

As I was nearing the end of the procedure, an ominous storm cloud appeared on the horizon.  Because the project house is accessed by dirt and gravel roads which turn to mush in rain, everyone at the site bailed as the storm approached – no one wanted to be stuck there overnight!   I got home early today and decided to blog about the window, but will have to wait for another day to finish up the procedure in Part Two.  But for now, let’s get started on the first part:


The sash cord on this window had obviously broken long ago; an innovative notched board has since been utilized to hold the lower sash up. Multiple notches allow for a variety of sash heights. The sash-holder appears to have been someone’s school shop project long ago. Dried adhesive clings to the surrounding plaster after removal of wall paneling. The sill is literally covered with dead boxelder bugs.


Dead bugs and dirt are removed.  Because the builder of this house was not thoughtful enough to provide access to the weight pockets in the jamb, it will be necessary to remove the window casing and retrieve the weights from the wall. The casings were coming off anyway (as the room will be insulated prior to the installation of sheetrock) but will be cleaned and re-installed later.


When you’re lucky, there will be a small panel in the sash track – usually held fast with one paint-encrusted screw – to allow access to the weight pocket. No such luck in this house!


In this case, the builder covered the sash pockets with pieces of beadboard (which were later partially covered when the top coat of plaster was applied).


I remove the window stool and piece of beadboard covering the sash weight pocket.


Lovely. More dead bugs and dirt. The Roman numeral III seen on the sash weight tells us that this is a three-pounder. Since there is an identical weight on each side of the sash, we can ascertain that the window sash itself weighs six pounds.


The weight pocket is cleaned and vacuumed. The sash weight for the top sash still hangs in place. Its ropes were not broken – likely because people seldom operate a window’s top sash.


I remove the frayed rope from the fallen weight. It was not tied in a knot to secure the weight as I am accustomed to, but fastened with this rather sadistic-looking ring. Apparently it is known as a “sash cord fastener”.


Here’s the fastener as it appeared in the Rehm Hardware Company’s 1917 catalog. The illustration shows it being crimped with a hammer – a step the builder of this house seems to have ignored. Apparently it worked just fine without the crimp!  Image courtesy of archive.org


Now it’s time to attach the new cord to the sash. Here’s the old and frayed cord still in place.  For replacement I’m using Koch 5600825 Braided Cotton/Poly Sash Cord which is not as thick as the original, but has the same appearance. It also has a nylon core which will hopefully help it last longer.  I guesstimate the length needed for each side by measuring the height of the entire window, adding the length of the groove on each side of the sash, and then adding an extra foot for knots and Murphy’s Law.


I tie a knot in the end of the new rope…


And force it into the hole provided with a screwdriver. Thankfully, it is a tight fit; it will stay secure.


This is where I got interrupted by the storm, but I will finish this post soon in Part Two!


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