Caring for Sliding Sash Windows

Published by Tim Cork on in Tips and Advice, Home Improvement

Thanks to Robert Holmes for this guide to caring for sliding sash windows.

If you have sliding sash windows, you may find they're difficult to clean, paint and care for. Maybe you're wondering how to thoroughly clean the outside from the inside, or whether you should just stand on your window sill and risk a fall (answer: no, don't do that). Let's take a look at best practices for caring for sliding sash windows.


It's important to clean sliding sash windows regularly not only to keep then dirt free, but also to keep them functioning properly. If your windows have Simplex hinges, just open the lower sash inward and clean it like a regular window. Cleaning the top sash is easy too - simply pull it down to reach the upper parts of both the inside and outside faces, and adjust it to the middle to clean the lower parts.

If your windows don't have Simplex hinges, you might want to consider installing them to make your life easier safer. If you do have to clean from the outside, keep safety in mind and don't extend your body beyond its natural reach. Don't tiptoe or stand on chairs or other unstable items. You may wish to use an extendable window-cleaning tool, or to use a stable ladder, preferably secured by a trusted friend!


To keep your windows in good condition, you should repaint the external frames before you need to - around every five years. Roughly the same guidelines for cleaning apply, with one obvious difference: you need to wait for paint to dry before moving on to other parts. A few more rules of thumb include: don't paint hidden pulley parts when your windows are closed; paint the woodworks last; and sometimes you might need to completely replace existing paint, such as when paint has broken down, the finish is rough and ugly, or when mould develops behind thick build-up.


Old sash window frames are made from high-quality, durable heartwood timber, so it's almost always a good idea to keep your old ones rather than replace them. Even if you think they're beyond repair, be sure to contact a joiner to make sure - you may be surprised. Perform a preparatory assessment before you negotiate service and pricing, and evaluate each window separately as they will all have different needs. Common problems to look out for include loose, damaged, or difficult glass, hinges, and sash cords.


You can make several improvements to your sliding sash windows, such as secondary glazing, draught stripping, ventilation, and ironmongery. Secondary glazing is similar but superior to double-glazing, which is employed to insulate heat, prevent dust from entering, and sound-proof your home. Draught-stripping - that is, filling in unintended gaps in your building - is an inexpensive way to achieve the same benefits as secondary glazing, and can make sash windows slide up and down easier.

To improve ventilation, you can either place grills at the top of the window or through the weight box. Finally, you can boost security by improving ironmongery. Cleaning, repairing, and adding sash locks, sash stops, and internal barriers are some of the most common methods.

Caring for sliding sash windows is simple. As with most things, prevention is better than cure - putting a system in place to ensure regular cleaning and maintenance is a good idea. Oh, and one last thing: before you make any modifications to your sash windows, be sure to get permission from the Local Authority Planning Department where your building is listed.

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