How to Unstick a Stuck Window

A wood window may stick because of swelling wood, but a likely cause of sticking is an unbroken layer of paint.
Once you get a stuck window open, soap will keep it sliding smoothly.Once you get a stuck window open, soap will keep it sliding smoothly.
Opening a window that has been painted shut can be a challenging maintenance task, and broken glass can be the consequence of any false moves. You may need access to the outside of the window in order to pry it open, so if that means climbing on a ladder, be sure it's properly situated on level ground and anchored to the siding. You don't want it to move when you're exerting force on the window.

Step 1

Unlock the window. If the locks are painted shut, cut as much of the paint off as you can with a utility knife. Tapping rotary locks lightly with a hammer usually loosens them. If the window has pins, wedge a flat-head screwdriver under the head of each pin and tap the screwdriver with a hammer to loosen it.

Step 2

Cut the paint seal between the frame and the casing on both sides of the window with a utility knife.

Step 3

Wedge a stiff putty knife between the bottom of the window and the sill and move it from one side of the window to the other. You may need to tap the knife gently with a hammer to get it into the gap.

Step 4

Work a flat bar into the gap you created with the putty knife and pry the window up. Start prying at one side of the window, and as soon as it moves, pry the other side by the same amount.

Step 5

Repeat this procedure from outside the house if necessary. If a ladder is required, position it carefully and anchor it to the house before climbing.

Step 6

Lift the window open from inside after you've opened it about 2 inches with the pry bar. If you still need to pry it, use a long piece of two-by-four lumber as a lever.

Step 7

Rub a bar of soap along the window tracks when you get the window open, then slide the window up and down a few times until it gets easier to operate.

Things You Will Need

  • Utility knife
  • Hammer
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Stiff putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Two-by-four lumber
  • Bar soap


  • Use a similar technique to open a horizontal sliding window. If the window is made of aluminum, you can usually get it to start sliding by prying with a flat-head screwdriver after you cut the paint. Lubricate the metal track with spray lubricant.
  • If the glass looks fragile, coat both sides with several strips of duct tape to hold it together in case it shatters. Remove the tape as soon as you're finished to prevent it from leaving residue.
  • If the window isn't painted shut and still won't move, the house may have settled. Consult a contractor for advice on how to proceed.


  • Whenever you use a hammer to tap, keep it away from the window, tap carefully and avoid vibrating the window frame. Wear goggles and gloves while working to protect yourself in case the glass breaks.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.