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I live in an old house with only one remaining original window: a double-hung window in the attic. The other day a bird got into our attic. We went up to investigate - the bird had already flown back out, but we noticed that the top sash of this window had slid partially down. Looking closer, several of the panes within its colonial-style grid pattern looked like they were detaching from the grid. We were unable to move the sash up or down, and we were afraid a broken pane would come crashing out of the window if we pushed too hard.

We called around to get replacement windows, but heard the same answer from everyone we talked to: because of supply chain problems, expect the window to arrive in 10-12 weeks.

We went ahead and placed the order, but the next day we noticed that the top sash had slid completely down (didn't take a photo, but the entire top half of the window is now open!). There's no screen in this window, so the attic was just completely open to the elements. Since the window seems fragile and partially broken, we didn't want to try to force it back up. We hastily gorilla-taped plastic around the inside of the frame to keep out weather and animals.

I have no idea if this is the best way to do this, and 10-12 weeks seems like a long time. What's the best way to secure a stuck-open window until my replacement arrives?

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    Can you leave the top sash at the bottom and move the bottom sash up? If it doesn't go all the way up fill any space at the top with one or two 2x4's cut to size. May 12 at 13:35
  • @PlatinumGoose You're a genius. I don't know why I didn't think of this. I slid the bottom sash up and had to put a nail into the inner window frame to hold it in place. Post this as an answer instead of a comment and I'll mark this accepted. Thanks again!
    – Bill
    May 14 at 19:59

4 Answers 4

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leave the top sash at the bottom and move the bottom sash up. If it doesn't go all the way up fill any space at the top with one or two 2x4's cut to size. Hold the sash in place with a screw if need be.

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  • This worked! Instead of using a 2x4, I slid the bottom sash up and then hammered a nail into the inner window frame to hold it in place (the window is going to be replaced anyway).
    – Bill
    May 17 at 11:02
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If you really don’t want to force it, just put an oversized piece of plywood (1/2” or so) over the entire opening. *Don’t do this if the window is a legally required egress route.

If you’re concerned about glass falling out in the interim, you could run a grid of packing tape around everything.

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    Or even easier: run a 2.5 inch screw through the sash. I did this on a similar window. Beware old wood like that is very hard and can bind the screw, shatter/crack the wood, or even damage the glass if you fail to drill a pilot hole first. Same advice on egress rules. May 12 at 22:39
  • This, right here +1. No nonsense solution. When I was replacing my exterior door I did this exact thing for 2 weeks while I prepped the rough-in for the new door. No birds, burglars, nor rain got through.
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 13 at 12:37
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If the window is sliding down on its own, then it will slide back up. It's probably loose in the frame, so you'll have to wiggle it side to side a bit to find the proper angle to get it to move. The sash is probably also loose, so it's going out of square and that's why it's wedging.

Of course, you'll want to be gentle and careful as you're messing around with it because you do not want glass falling out. However, with care, you'll be able to get it pushed back up and closed. Then, take a piece of 2x4" or other scrap of wood (a dowel or literally anything you have handy) and wedge it between the bottom of the sash and the bottom of the window opening. This will hold that top sash up until your replacement arrives. It may even help to keep it reasonably water resistant (but probably not water tight).

If you don't have any wood or metal or anything else at all that you can wedge in there, you can use a couple of 3" screws or nails, driven part of the way into the frame just below the bottom of the sash to hold it up. You want about 1-1/2" into the frame to hold and about 1-1/2" sticking out to support the bottom of the sash (these measurements are approximate - this isn't rocket surgery). It won't matter in the least if this causes a smidge more damage because the replacement is on the way.

If you find you need better weather protection, put your plastic back up. You could, if you have a ladder, put the plastic on the outside. It'll look even worse, but it'll be gone by the end of the summer and it will better protect the inside of your house.

Sure, it'll look a little hick, but you know that your replacement is on order and it really is a temporary solution.

BTW- 10-12 weeks isn't really that bad a wait for windows, that's about what we waited 3 years ago before the world shut down.

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I'm assuming the entire existing sash is to be sacrificed and that the new windows come with replacements.
If not just do this more carefully:).

After comments & now I'm back at my desk...
If you're worried about the top panes actually falling out [I don't think they look quite bad enough to actually do that, but old oil-based putty will shrink & crack away after many years] run some strips of wide packing tape across the entire pane, just for a bit of peace of mind.
We can't see the right-hand side at all, but the wooden strip to the left holding the lower pane in looks to have been removed at least once in the past & doesn't look painted-in. It looks like you could pry it out with a broad screwdriver or chisel in two minutes flat.
The sash-cord seems to be missing, so there will be nothing holding it in place other than that strip.


It's better to try push the top pane by the bottom than the top. The best way to do this is by removing the bottom pane entirely. There should be narrow wooden strips holding each 'layer' in. You should get away with removing only one strip from one side to get the pane out.
It will likely be held in only by nails (& paint) so should be easy to get out.

Just swing the lower pane out of the way and get someone to hold it. Once out, you can push the top pane far more easily. Put a couple of screws into the frame below it to keep it in place.
Swing the lower pane back in and refit the strip.

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  • This is a good answer in all possible ways, but instructing someone to remove parting strips adjacent to fragile windows when they've asked for basic help might be a little out there. May 12 at 14:38
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    @AloysiusDefenestrate - I tweaked the answer a bit. I was on my phone before, so detail was harder to see.
    – Tetsujin
    May 13 at 6:41

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