I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who have wood sash windows. Either you’re like me and they are the original wood windows from 1935 and have 37 layers of paint, including that awful lime green from the ’60s, or you’re lucky enough/not so cheap as me and have nice wood windows that are insulated and free of lead paint. Either way, I’m sure that at some point you have experienced issues with the inner sash swelling and getting hung up on the stop bead.
What’s a stop bead you ask? No, it unfortunately has nothing to do with Mardi Gras! Let’s cover some window anatomy that will help us first (I promise to keep it PG). Sashes are the panes of glass and their frames that slide up and down. In a double hung window there are two sashes total. Clever, given that whole “double” thing in the name. Separating the two sashes is a thin strip of wood known as the parting bead. Named so because it parts the two sashes. It doesn’t seem all that complicated as you work through it, does it. Finally, there is the inner most piece of wood trim that keeps the interior window in the frame and aligned perfectly up and down; it’s known as the stop bead.
Since the sashes are made of wood they tend to have a moisture and humidity problem that vinyl windows don’t. Sure there is some heat related expansion in both types of windows, not unlike my waistline’s annual holiday time expansion. Humidity and moisture can cause wood sashes (especially older ones) to swell, causing the sash to rub against both the parting bead and the stop bead. This swelling can get so bad that the window can get stuck, causing opening and closing of the windows to become difficult to say the least.
There are a couple of ways you can alleviate this problem. First, you could sand the wood sash down making it thinner, but that’s permanent. You also don’t want to do any sanding if you have any lead paint on the window or frame. Likewise, you could sand or chisel the parting bead, with similar permanent results. Or you can move the stop bead out. Typically the stop bead is attached using nails or screws. That means if you want to adjust the stop bead you have to remove it slide it out ever so slightly and then bang it back in. Doing this will work of course, but then in the winter time you will want to move the stop bead back in so that you don’t have a cold draft blowing through the gap as the window shrinks again.
Luckily for us there is a fourth more practical alternative; stop bead adjusters. These handy little items screw in the stop bead but also come with a slotted round washer. The washer can be inset into the stop bead using a 1/2″ hole keeping it flush with the face of stop bead. Or, it can be surface mounted. Plus, since the washer is slotted it gives you 1/8″ of lateral movement. So, during the summer when the window rubs you can back the screw off and slide the stop bead out a little. Conversely, when it gets cold and the window shrinks you can back the screw off again, push the stop bead tighter and reset the screws. A simple process that gives you the space you need in your window, when you need it.
These stop bead adjusters, which you can find at Smith Restoration Sash, come in four colors: unlacquered brass, oil rubbed bronze, polished nickel and satin nickel. One should, hopefully, match your existing hardware. As you might imagine these stop bead adjusters aren’t as cheap as finish nails, but at about $36 USD per two dozen, they’ll pay for themselves in elbow grease as you open and close your windows with ease.