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Samir El Fakih
Selector Realty 

What to Do If Your New House Has a Window That is Painted Shut


If you recently moved into an older house that has wood windows, you may try to open one of them on a warm spring day and discover that it’s painted shut. If a past owner painted a window and some paint bridged from the sash to the frame, you will have to break the paint seal to be able to open the window.

How to Open a Window That Has Been Painted Shut

A putty knife can be helpful. Sharpen the blade first, if necessary. If you use a putty knife, you may have to tap it with a hammer to work it into the gap between the sash and the frame or use a pry bar to help you get the window open. 

A multi-tool can also work, but if you don’t have a putty knife or a multi-tool, you can use a serrated butter knife. If you do, it can no longer be used for eating since using it to open a window may contaminate it with lead paint.

A utility knife is sharp and can be helpful in areas where you’re not having success with another tool. You may inadvertently cut the wood, so only use a utility knife if you have to. If you use a utility knife to open a window, don’t remove the blade from the knife.

If you have a manual wood saw, you can use it to open a painted-shut window. A finer-toothed saw will be most effective.

A window zipper is an inexpensive tool with a thin blade that can fit between a window sash and frame. Use one of the two sharp points at the end to insert the window zipper into the space. Lightly rip along the crack and repeat, using more pressure each time, until you can insert the window zipper into the crack. Repeat on each side of the window. Then use the tool to manually break through layers of paint by cutting them with a sawtooth edge.

Using a window zipper will rip away a significant amount of paint. Only use this tool if you plan to strip and repaint the window after you get it open. 

If the latch is also covered with paint, don’t spend time trying to scrape paint off it. Instead, unscrew the latch and remove it.

Tips to Prevent Damage and Injuries

Be patient and careful when opening a window that has been painted shut. The process may take time. If you use too much force all at once, you may damage the window. 

In an older house, there’s a good chance that the windows have lead-based paint. Even if there is a layer of newer paint on top, a layer further down may contain lead. Use personal protective equipment when opening a window that has been painted shut if there is any chance that it may have lead paint.

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