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Window Woes: A Guide to Fixing Windows That Won’t Stay Up

A reading nook that has an open window

When you open a window for a little fresh air, the last thing you want is for it to fall closed right after. Unfortunately, even great-looking single or double-hung windows can collapse without warning or just refuse to stay up, especially if they’re a few years old. 

If you’re not afraid of some DIY home repairs and want to know how to fix a window that won’t stay up, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a step-by-step process that should help you tighten up any rickety window in your home!

Reasons why a window might not stay up

A pair of closed double-hung windows behind a floral arrangement in a vase. The windows need troubleshooting because they won’t stay up.

Double-hung windows or single-hung windows might not stay up for a few different reasons. It’s important to know the mechanics of these windows – and their possible failure points – so you can repair them as easily as possible. The most common reasons for windows falling after you open them include:

  • The pivot bar isn’t working. The pivot bar is a simple component that connects the balances of the window sash, holding it in place when it’s open. If the pivot bar is bent or snapped, there’s your problem!
  • The shoe in the window frame needs fixing. Window shoes are metal or plastic blocks found inside a window frame. If your window’s shoe is crushed or cracked, the pivot bar can’t grip anything and hold the window in its proper place. If the shoe is out of place, it needs to be moved and realigned.
  • The balances are broken. Balances are found in three types: spiral, block and tackle, and constant force. All of these should be held in place with a screw or two. If they're broken, the window sash may not be aligned properly, so it could fall when you try to open it.

Odds are good that any given window in your home isn’t staying up because of a problem with one (or more) of these pieces. If you replace the broken piece, you should have a functional window in no time.

How to fix a dropping window: step-by-step

A sunroom full of double-hung windows, some of which won’t stay up and will need to be fixed.

Let’s dig into the details and take a look at how you can fix a dropping double-hung window step-by-step! Even though the video tutorial found on the page linked above uses a double-hung window as an example, the same process can be used for fixing a single-hung window that won't stay open.

Step 1: Remove the sash

A woman removing the lower sash of a double-hung window and cleaning it while trying to figure out how to fix a window that won’t stay up.

First, you need to remove the window sash. A “sash” is a section of the window that holds glass panes in place. Double-hung windows have two sashes (one on the top and one on the bottom), while single-hung windows just have one. For a double-hung window, the sashes slide up and down so the window can open from the top or bottom.

In most instances where a window won’t stay up, the lower sash is the broken one. But regardless of which sash needs to be looked at, use a screwdriver to take off the stops inside your window frame, then pull the sash toward you to remove it from the slot. Remember to move any window chains or cords so they don’t get tangled up!

Step 2: Check the pivot bar

The functional pivot bar of a window’s lower sash.

Once you remove one or both sashes from your window, look at their bottom corners. There, you’ll find the pivot bar.

As we mentioned earlier, if the pivot bar is bent or snapped, you need to remove and replace the pivot bar with a new piece. On the bright side, if that's all that's wrong with your window, congratulations! Now you've fixed it, and it should stay up properly.

If the pivot bar looks fine, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Check the balances

A person using a screwdriver to adjust the balances on an old window that won’t stay up.

Your windows’ balances could be a little hidden. They are normally found right inside the window frame. Take a look at these small metal pieces or rods and check them for wear and tear or signs of failure. If they’re broken, you’ll need to replace the balances with identical pieces – you can oftentimes find them at home improvement stores.

To replace a broken window balance:

  • Remove any plastic stops that might stop the window sash from going too high. That might be the only way to lift the sash high enough to find the balances.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove any securing screws. Then, push or pull the balances off with your fingers or a pair of pliers. Be especially careful if your window has spring balances, as these can break or pop out unexpectedly.
  • Replace the old balances with new ones, again using your fingers or a pair of pliers, and re-screw them into place.
  • Then just replace the stops and window sash in reverse order.

If it’s not the pivot bar or the balances, the problem could be with the balance shoe. Read the next steps to figure out how to fix that particular piece.

Step 4: Find the balance shoe and tilt pins

Two hands using a small screwdriver to remove the balance shoe from the bottom of a vinyl window frame.

Locate the balance shoe for your window. For a double-hung window that won’t stay up, the balance shoe can often be found at the bottom of the frame.

Look for the tilt pins as well – each window sash should have one on either side within the balance shoe. To easily identify a tilt pin, look for a small piece of metal with a “U” shape.

Step 5: Unlock balance shoes and reset pins

A person wearing work gloves using an hex-key wrench to adjust the balance of a window that won’t stay up.

When a tilt pin is in a “U” shape, the shoe is “locked.” To fix it, you’ll need to unlock it. You can do that with a flat head screwdriver; just put the screwdriver into the tilt pin at a vertical angle, then turn it 45° to force it into an unlocked position. At this point, it should look like a “C” instead of a “U”.

Now it’s time to reset the balance shoe. Move the shoe two inches from the bottom of the lower sash, then relock the pin using the same screwdriver. Turn the head of the screwdriver to tilt the pin into the “U” shape.

Step 6: Adjust the lower sash

A woman cleaning the lower sash of a window that wouldn’t stay up before replacing it to test if it is fixed.

Now that your balance shoe has been reset, tilt the lower sash outward and realign the bottom of the window with the shoe. Depending on your window model, you might need to remove the tilt latches located at the top side of the sash.

Push the window sash into place until you hear it "pop" slightly. That means the balance shoe and tilt pins have successfully re-engaged.

Step 7: Test your window

A row of functioning double-hung vinyl windows, opened to let in fresh air.

All that’s left is to give your window a test drive. Snap the lower sash fully into place, make sure the tilt latches are hooked into the frame, and then lift the window sash up and down. If you can remove your hands and the sash stays in place, it’s fixed!

Replacing old windows that won’t stay up

A bedroom with several single-hung vinyl windows overlooking a nearby body of water.

Sometimes, old windows just won’t stay up, no matter how much troubleshooting you try. In those cases, it’s often smarter to replace those subpar windows with new ones. Energy-efficient modern windows offer lots of benefits, like sleek style, extra home value, and better home insulation.

That’s where Window World can help. Our knowledgeable professionals can help you find the perfect replacement windows for your property and take care of the installation from start to finish. Request a free quote today or visit your local showroom to learn more!

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