Let’s start with the basics. What is a sash cord? The sash cord is a cord that attaches the sash to the sash weight. You remember in “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore when he said “Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.”
Well, sash is not what he had for dinner that night. The sash is part of a window, in fact, the “window” part of the window. It’s the glass, and the frame around the glass, the part that opens. Unless the sash cord has worn through. Then the window opens only when you hold it, or put that stick under the sash to hold it up. Not ideal, the window can only be open the distance of the length of the stick. So we replace sash cords. Sounds easy enough.
First, you need to get sash cord. You can use clothesline, but I don’t trust it. It looks like sash cord, but does it have what it takes? I doubt it. Sash cord used to be available at every hardware store and home center, but now you will have to resort to the internet. Do this about a week or two ago so you have the sash cord now.
Start by locating the strips of trim on the sides of the window. These are the stops, as they stop the window from falling out. As you want to get the window out, they must be removed. Take a putty knife and a small flat bar, wedge the putty knife between the stop and the jamb, and carefully coax the stop away from the jamb. Speak softly to it, all the while prying with the flat bar as close to the nails as you can. Notice that the stop is cut at an angle at the top, so it must be pulled down to be removed. It will take some wiggling. Keep encouraging. Gently, because you don’t want to break it. Broken trim is a headache. Glue it back together? Try to find stuff that looks old then stain it to match? You don’t want to go there. Eventually, you will be holding the stop in your hand. Set it aside, and do the same thing to the stop on the other side. As you remove the second stop, know that the window is loose and keep a hand on it. This is important as we are not discussing how to replace broken glass in a window today. Once both stops are removed, you can pick up the window and set it aside.
Now look at the jambs. That is the side of the window, where the sash slides up and down. The jamb will probably be dark grey or black, and smooth. There is a “pocket” there. The pocket is a channel in the wall where the sash weight hangs. The pocket is covered with a piece of wood. You probably can’t see it. I couldn’t. “Mark,” I said, “this window has no pocket.” Put on your glasses, get a flashlight, and you will locate two screws toward the bottom of the jamb. Unscrew those screws, being careful not to lose the screws, you will need them. The pocket will not magically open. Again, you will need your coaxing skills. Remember when you were wooing your first love? Use that voice, and locate the bottom edge of the pocket. This pocket cover is cut at an extreme bevel, so you need to use your putty knife to pry the cover out a small bit, and then it needs to come out by pulling it down. Voila!
Once you have the cover removed and in your hand, notice that at the top edge there are two notches, they are there to fit in two nails that are inside the jamb. They are necessary, do not file them off or fill them in. You will remove the pocket cover on the other side of the window, keeping straight which one is which. Do not mix them up. They want to go back to their original homes, they don’t want to move.
Once you’ve got the pockets open, you will locate a weight inside each pocket. It is a long ugly cast iron cylinder with a hole at the top. It looks like something you should throw out. You shouldn’t. Take the weights out of the pockets. Weights are not picky, you don’t have to worry about which pocket gets which weight. They are kind of heavy. Probably why they are called weights.
At this point lets take a look at the old sash cord. You want to remove it from the weight, but first take a look at the knot in the old sash cord. You will eventually want to recreate it. Go to the window, look at the sides, and pull out the cord stuck in the holes in the sides of the windows. Again, check out the knot, it is probably a double knot. Throw out the icky old sash cords, they do you no good.
Next, how to replace a sash cord, part two.