Q. The double-hung wood windows in a relative’s house are jammed shut so tight that we can’t get them open to ventilate. Could moisture do this, and will they dry out so we can open them?
A. Swelling of wood because of moisture could well be the cause, although there are other reasons for wood windows to become jammed.
If the windows are badly swollen, it could take a rather long dry spell with low humidity to dry them out. Keep doors open to ventilate the house on fair days, along with any windows that you can get open. You should be able to dry them out faster with some help from a hair dryer set at moderate heat, but first make sure moisture is the problem.
Another common reason why wood windows jam is that they are literally glued shut by paint. Careless painting can allow paint to get in the channels in which the windows slide and into the space between the sashes and the sills and stop moldings (stop moldings hold the sashes in place). To make sure paint isn’t the problem, take a sharp utility knife and run the blade along the cracks at the sides and sill. If you have a rubber mallet, bump the bottoms and sides of the sashes to help break them loose. If you don’t have a mallet, use a block of wood as a buffer and rap the wood with a hammer. Also make sure the channels are free of dirt and paint.
If the outside of the windows have been painted, follow the same procedure outside. If none of this works and you are convinced the problem is moisture swelling, run a dehumidifier in a room where you want to ventilate. Make sure drapes or curtains don’t interfere with the dehumidifying action.
Try the window again each day for a few days. If the window is still stuck, carefully pry off the stop molding on one side of the window frame so you can examine the edge of the sash. If the molding is removed carefully it can be replaced. I use a five-in-one tool to pry off moldings; it has a sharp, strong, wide blade, but you can also use a putty knife. If moisture swelling has been severe, the wood in the sash will be pushed against the side of the window frame. You can try the dehumidifier for a few more days with the stop molding off, but a lasting repair might require removing the sash and sanding or planning off enough wood to make sliding easier.
The ultimate repair for badly jammed wood windows is to remove the sashes and install vinyl or fiberglass replacement windows. Many do-it-yourselfers have installed their own windows at reasonable cost. Good quality replacements can be bought at most home centers, complete with instructions, and they can be installed from inside the building, eliminating dangerous ladder work. Even if you replace only a few of the windows, you will enjoy such benefits as better energy efficiency and easier cleaning of tilt-in sashes.
Q. Our one-story house is built on a slab and has good drainage around it, and we have been told we don’t really need rain gutters. However, the trim boards below where the roof slopes get wet a lot and the paint doesn’t last long. They also look like they might be starting to rot. I know I can pay someone to cap the trim, but is there some way I can do this myself? -Jerry
A. You can buy covering for the trim boards or fascia at any home center. It is usually vinyl and eight inches wide, but can be cut to suit the width of your fascia with metal shears or good scissors. The pieces usually come in lengths of 12 or 16 feet, and are flexible enough to be difficult to haul. When I buy it, I cut it to 6- or 8-foot lengths so it is easier to haul.
Once you have the trim cut to width, it is rather easy to install. If the fascia has a narrow strip of drip edge across the top, right under the shingles, the fascia cover should be slipped up under the drip edge.
If there is no drip edge, it should butt against the bottom of the shingles. You can fasten the strips of cover to the fascia with adhesive caulk, running a bead of caulk across the top inside edge of the cover and another near the bottom. Put some additional caulk between the top and bottom beads.
You can also use trim nails to fasten the cover; these are small nails, usually aluminum, and are pre-painted to match white cover.