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Fixing a Window That Won't Stay Open

The balancing mechanisms in single and double-hung windows have been known to malfunction, causing the windows to shut instead of staying open. This issue can be highly frustrating for homeowners who frequently open their windows and even pose a safety hazard for pets and young children. Before rushing out to buy a replacement, there are several steps you can take to try fixing the window yourself. 

What Is The Problem?

Single and double-hung windows are balanced by sashes that slide up and down, creating an internal pulley. Double-hung windows have two sashes -- one on the top and one on the bottom. In scenarios where the window won’t stay open, this is typically an indication that the bottom sash is malfunctioning. When a part of the balancing system becomes damaged, the entire mechanical functioning of the window is thrown off. Luckily, this is a relatively simple fix that can usually be addressed without the help of a professional. However, if your windows are older than ten years, consider consulting a professional who can fix more complex issues or recommend replacement in some instances. 

How Can You Fix It?

The popularity of single and double-hung windows is a testament to their generally satisfactory performance. Their mechanical operation that depends on balances, however, has been known to be less reliable. A window that won’t stay open is a common issue that typically has the same cause across the board. Troubleshoot at home and follow these steps for a quick and easy fix. 

Step 1: Find the Balancer
- While looking at your window, look for the balances inside the jambs (the side of the window). Occasionally, hardware will slip to the bottom of the jambs preventing the window from staying open. 

Step 2: Tilt the Sash
- Once you locate the balancer(s) at the bottom of the jamb, carefully tilt the sash to about a 90-degree angle and remove it from the frame. Now you can work on the parts of the window without any obstruction.

Step 3: Pull the Balancer Up
- Using a car key, screwdriver, pen, or another narrow object, maneuver your way into the jamb and pull up the balancer that has fallen to the bottom. This may require some wiggling, but it will typically loosen up after a few tries.

Step 4: Lock it in Place
- If you twist the balancer with your tool, you’ll notice that it locks and unlocks. Pull the balancer up to a spot that is equal to the balancer on the other side and twist it until it locks into place. 

Step 5: Replace the Sash
- Grab your sash and slide it back into the window. The pivot bars on either side of the sash lock into the balancer and hold the window in place. Lock the sash into place at a 90-degree angle and push it upright slowly.

Step 6: Test its Performance
- Now that your window is intact test it to see if your work was effective! The window should slide up and down easily and lock into place when moved to an open position. 

The Bottom Line:
A disengaged balancer is one of the most common problems resulting in windows that won’t stay open. Balancers become disengaged when people tilt the sash for cleaning or push it down too forcefully when locking their windows. Though only one balancer is typically disengaged, the other balancer isn’t strong enough to support the entire sash, affecting the whole window's performance. 

Other culprits for windows that won’t stay open include a cracked pivot bar, broken balancer, or disconnected coil. Identify your problem by determining which part of the window appears to be malfunctioning, and then if you can’t fix it, either call a professional or order replacement parts. Finding the problem piece in your window is important because replacing small parts is more cost-effective than replacing the entire window. Besides, the majority of the window is usually in perfect working order!