When a window has been closed for years—or even over a long winter—it’s normal for it to stick a bit when you try to open it again. But sometimes it takes more than some extra muscle to let the fresh air in—especially in situations where a window has been painted shut.
In most cases, windows aren’t painted shut intentionally: It tends to be the result of a lazy or careless painting job. Fortunately, there’s a straightforward way to break the paint seal and open the window again. Here’s what to know.
How to open a window that’s been painted shut
Before going any further, check (or double check) that the window isn’t opening because it’s locked, or nailed shut. Also, if your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance that the paint on the window (and the rest of the place) contains lead, so take all necessary precautions. Regardless of the age of the house or building, you should be wearing gloves and eye protection for this project.
Then, using a putty knife (or a dedicated window opener tool, which is a paper-thin, serrated, stainless steel blade), carefully cut through the paint in the joint between the sash (the moving frame that holds the glass pane in place) and the stops (the inside edges of the upper and lower sash channel). Keep the blade flat as you slide it around the perimeter.
You may need to cut along both sides of each sash multiple times in order to get to the point where around 1/2″ of your blade is able to get through and slide along the perimeter of the sash freely. At that stage, you should be able to open the window.
In some cases, windows are painted shut on both the outside and the inside, so if the window doesn’t open after freeing one side, repeat the process on the opposite side, if possible.
Once you get the window to the point where it opens and closes easily, sprinkle some talcum powder on the window channels and sashes to keep them lubricated.