To determine the type of tension device in your double-hung window, inspect the sash tracks. Spring-loaded tensioners may have an adjustment screw. Some older spring types have a metal tube on the inside of each track. The tube contains a spring that is wound by twisting the tube itself. To adjust these, grip the tube tightly to prevent it from unwinding, then remove the screw near the top end of the tube. Turn the tube clockwise to increase the spring tension or counterclockwise to decrease tension.
Replace the screw and test the window operation. Finally, newer windows with vinyl tracks may have spring-tensioned tracks that can be adjusted via screws hidden behind cap pieces somewhere along the track. Older double-hung windows employ a pulley system that counterbalances the sash with weights hanging in cavities (called weight pockets) behind the window tracks.
These are easily identifiable by the ropes running up from the sash and over a pulley at the top of each track. The pulley system is so simple it almost never wears out, but the ropes can break. To repair an old pulley system, pry off the stops at the sides of the window sash, then remove the lower sash and set it aside. This gives you access to the cover that conceals the weight pocket.
Pry off or unfasten the cover piece and pull out the weight from the pocket. Tie a small weight, such as a nail, to the end of a new sash cord and thread the cord over the pulley and down through the pocket opening. Re-tie the weight and set it back into the pocket. Reinstall the pocket cover.
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Next, set the window sash onto the sill. Pull the cord until the weight nearly touches the pulley. Cut the cord to length, knot the end, and fit the knot into the edge of the sash frame. Install the sash and stops. To replace a cord for the upper sash, remove the parting stop between the two sashes, then remove the upper sash to access its weight pocket.
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