How to Repair an Old Pulley & Weight Window

Many older houses use double-hung windows that operate on a pulley-and-weight system.

Old double-hung windows use a pulley-and-weight system.Old double-hung windows use a pulley-and-weight system.
The pulleys sit high on the window frame, with the weights hanging behind the side jambs. The cords used on these windows were typically strong nylon that dried and split with age. Repairing the pulley-and-weight system requires disassembling the window frame somewhat and restringing the weights. A steady hand and patience allows you to repair these windows with ease.

Cut along the joint between the side jambs -- the left and right edges of the window frame -- where they meets the wall, using a razor blade to cut the paint. Cutting that line helps to avoid chipping the paint as you remove the side jamb.

Work each side jamb loose from the bottom up, using a small pry bar. Remove the jambs and set them aside. You will be able to see the weights in the exposed area of the wall. Remove these.

Remove the running strips that hold the window in place. The strips run from the base of the window frame to the top and act as channel guides for the window when it is being raised and lowered. Remove them the same way you removed the side jambs.

Remove the window. You should be able to tilt the window out and lift it clear of the frame. Some double-hung windows have a runner channel, a metal strip that goes about halfway up the frame. Lift the window to a point where it almost clears the strip, then lean the window outward to remove it from the frame.

Remove the old cord from the window. Some cords are anchored to the window using a plate; others are simply nailed into grooves cut into the window. Use a pry bar and screwdriver, if necessary, to remove the plates. Use scissors or wire cutters to remove cords that are nailed into grooves.

Cut new cord for the window that is twice the window's height.

Attach the new cord by inserting it into the groove. Secure it with a nail. You may have to tie a small knot into the end of the cord first. Plates use compression to hold the cord in place. Tape the cord to the window and reinstall the plate in the reverse manner that you removed it.

Insert the windows into the frame. Feed the new cord through the holes where the pulleys are located. Pull the cord tight and tie it to the weights. Make sure the weights are sitting two to three inches beneath the pulley, inside of the open area of the wall. Test the window to make sure that it will raise and lower with ease.

Reinstall the side jambs and running strips. You should be able to reuse the original nails and nail holes. Add another nail to the top and bottom of each strip for additional security, using a hammer and nails.

Things You Will Need

  • Pry bar
  • Scissors
  • Wire Cutter
  • Screwdriver
  • Razor blade
  • Nylon cord
  • Hammer
  • Nails


  • The weight-and-pulley system was fairly universal, but the method for attaching the cord to the window varied by manufacturer. The key is keeping the cord on the outer edge of the window so it is hidden. You can get creative with how you accomplish this if the original groove is too small or damaged.