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 innermost 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 SRS Hardware, 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.
3 thoughts on “Stop Bead Adjustors – Making Life Easier for Wood Window Owners”
I had original wood sashes in my previous home from the late 1800’s and they were wonderful. Yes, they still worked fine. Up and down with the lead weights and the thick white cords. Only occasionally would one of them tend to not want to stay open. That was what they made screens for.
Fast forward, or back. The house my father and I bought prior to the one above had brand new Anderson replacements put into service in the early 80’s. Wood frames, double paned and some kind of heavy plastic covering the outside sill. They never worked well. Always took every ounce of strength you had to move them an inch up or down although down was easier than up.
When I moved back in the early 00’s when my father was dying I could literally feel the air moving throughout the house. The house needed painting and I decided that other than windows that I normally opened I would paint them shut. Still with the cold air. Seemed impossible to stop.
Onto the scene come Anderson Renewals made especially for homeowners with their crappy 80’s windows that had water problems that caused the sill under that heavy plastic to rot away. Hmmm. I wonder where the cold air was coming from? Could be the lack of an external sill? I had noticed years earlier what appeared to be heat wrinkles in the plastic in the front windows. Turns out that was steam under there causing the plastic to heave up as it melted. Who knew?
I’m finishing a replacement project in the next month. I have the last 4 windows to go out of 12 which I’m doing with double paned vinyl’s. I’ve done a good job of picking the vinyls. You can’t even tell the difference of the Anderson’s I replaced, other than they’re slightly whiter. Keeps those pesky historian’s off my back. More importantly they tilt in for easy cleaning they have light weight almost invisible screens that stay in year round as opposed to the big old metal ones that covered the entire window and were a pain to install and clean.
After 3 years for the first 4 replacements and they seem to be holding up well for their very reasonable price and doing a much better job of keeping the cold out. Of course I’ve also had to replace some wooden sills that were rotten. But most importantly these windows don’t have that thick look like many of the vinyls which was so important in maintaining that wooden look.
Mi’s are what I’m using. I was considering Harvey’s but I decided that I could replace two for what one of the Harvey’s would cost. The Harvey’s were also a bit thicker looking.
Anyway, here’s hoping these windows outlast me.
When I was in my early-teens my dad and I reconditioned the old windows in our house and used similar adjusters. They worked great! And the windows are still holding up well after about 20 years.
Very encouraging to hear Ethan, as I’m in the middle of replacing restoring a number of wood sashes in our house. It’s a time-consuming process, but good to hear yours are still holding up well!