If you’re someone who takes their quiet time as seriously as I do mine, you probably believe that you’ve fixed every errant squeak in your house. But you could still reach for the window late at night and regret the decision almost instantly, as every part of it starts groaning in protest, from the handle to the hinges. It has happened to the best of us. But don’t worry — I’m about to show you how to open a window quietly, whether it’s a slider or not.
In general, windows are some of the most disregarded yet crucial parts of our homes when it comes to soundproofing. If they’re not properly insulated, no amount of fabric panels will improve the acoustics in a room. And even if you have installed weatherstripping tape along the insides of the window frame, your desire to let in a breeze might expose the true condition of your windows.
Still, before I explain some specific methods you could use to shape them up, let’s talk about different types of windows and why they might start squeaking.
The Most Common Types of Windows
There are many different kinds of windows you might see on a house or a commercial building. But there’s no reason to list every single type. For example, picture windows are usually big, clear panels that can’t be opened. So, they don’t serve a function outside of allowing you to see the view.
Since we’re looking for a way to open a window silently, we can’t waste time listing all the windows that don’t even open. All you’d be able to do is break them, and even that can’t be done completely silently.
Instead, let’s focus on the four most common ways a window might open, and the components that might be creating unwanted noise.
Slider windows are pretty popular in residential homes. Yet, even within this category, there are different kinds. In addition to basic, horizontally sliding ones, I’m also counting:
- Single-hung movable sashes, which are windows that only have one, vertically mobile panel
- Double-hung sliders, which have two mobile sashes that can move individually on separate rails
- End vent sliding windows, which consist of an immobile glass panel surrounded by two smaller sliding panels on either side
Generally speaking, most newer sliding models have built-in measures to prevent them from producing awkward sounds. They ought to prevent the panels from shifting too much as you move them. So, if your new windows are already emitting strange sounds, I’d recommend talking to whoever put them in. Chances are, they weren’t properly installed, to begin with.
On the other hand, if your sliders aren’t exactly in their prime, you might have to deal with greater problems. After all, wooden parts are more prone to shifting over time than modern PVC frames. If the window panels have bent or moved asymmetrically, they might snag in the rails, which could produce screeching noise.
And that’s not the only sound you might hear. Remember — windows have other moving parts that could present a problem, namely, locking mechanisms and handles. As always, you’ll have to find the exact origin of the noise before figuring out a way to prevent it.
Single- and double-panel casement windows have hinges on the side, allowing them to swing open. Generally, they open inward, which makes them easier to clean on both sides — but some swing outward as well.
With these kinds of windows, there are two potential sources of noise you might have to deal with. The hinges are the first thing you should check if your windows are obnoxiously loud. Years of use might have loosened them, causing the panel to tilt and scrape against the window frame. Even more likely, the hinges might have simply gone a bit rusty over time.
On the other hand, as I have mentioned above, the sounds may be coming from the handle. Depending on the type of lock or latch you’re dealing with, the problem may be caused by different things. Generally, though, it’s a matter of metal screws rubbing against something.
Lastly, some casement windows that open outward also have metal stays that prevent them from going too far out. That’s another part that could become a problem. However, those mechanisms are more often found in the last two types of windows I’ll mention.
Hopper and Awning Windows
Hopper and awning windows are the ones that open from the top inward and from the bottom outward, respectively. Many PVC casement windows can transform into hopper windows if you turn the handle from its downward resting position up. You’ll go past the midway point that opens the window from the side hinges and move the handle vertically. Then, the panel will tilt inward from its bottom hinges and remain suspended by metal stays.
Unlike casement windows, hopper and awning windows need that metal joint to prevent them from slamming open or shut. Windows that open from the top or bottom usually have stays on the sides of the panels. Sometimes, they only have that joint mechanism on one side, which can make the weight distribution uneven, leading to more squeaking sounds.
So with hopper and awning windows, you’ll have to worry about the handles, stays, and hinges. All of those elements can produce noise if they become rusty or loose over time.
How to Open a Window Quietly From the Inside
Now that we’ve discussed all the different things that could potentially cause noise, let’s see how you might open a window quietly.
There are two methods you might use. One of them involves a few different steps you can take to make a window temporarily quiet, while the other deals with the causes more directly.
Having said that, let’s talk about how you could deal with the problem head-on.
Secure or Remove the Curtains or Blinds
If you’re trying to get some air without waking up your household, you’ll have to start by removing anything that could swing back against the glass when you open the window. So, make sure to slide the curtains to the side and secure them in place. Alternatively, lift the blinds and get the cord or wand that controls their angle and length out of the way.
If a brisk wind blows into your house, these decorative elements may snap against the glass. So leaving the curtains or blinds hanging against the window may end up causing even more noise when you’re trying to be quiet.
Unlock the Window
Next up, you’ll have to find a way to open the locking mechanism silently. That may sound easy, but I know from experience how difficult it can be.
Squeaky handles were only one of the many problems I experienced with the decades-old wooden windows I had in my bedroom until a few years ago. Every time I wanted to let some air into the room, I had to get past the old-fashioned pull-lever handles.
Sadly, the only solution I’ve found is to get it over with as soon as possible. That lessens the chance that the prolonged screeching will rouse your housemates out of their slumber.
However, there are more efficient ways to deal with the cause of the problem. After all, speed sometimes isn’t even an option — like if you’re dealing with a crank handle.
If the handle is squeaky, it probably just lacks lubrication. But to deliver it, you may need to unscrew the faceplate to get to the latch mechanism. Once you do, thoroughly saturate the parts with WD-40 spray and move the handle to distribute the product.
Finally, make sure to screw the faceplate back in firmly. You don’t want it to rattle when you’re trying to be stealthy.
- Drives out moisture and quickly dries out...
- Acts as a corrosion inhibitor to shield...
- Frees sticky mechanisms, loosens...
- Removes grease, grime, gunk, gum, tar, sap,...
Handle With Care
If you don’t have WD-40 on hand, you’ll have to be extra careful with how you open your windows.
For one, you don’t want to go at it one-handed. Use both hands, evenly spaced out on the window. If you have sliding panels, you’ll need to pull close to each rail to ensure that the window opens without a hitch.
As for casement windows, you’ll need to support the window pane with both hands. While opening the window, keep it slightly elevated to prevent the hinges from squeaking due to the uneven weight distribution. Move slowly so that you can adjust the way you’re holding the window as soon as you hear a creak.
Lubricate and Secure All Moving Parts
I’ve already mentioned how useful WD-40 can be if you’re dealing with a squeaky handle. So it should come as no surprise that other parts of the window might need the same treatment.
First, if you have a sliding window, you should make sure that the panel can move easily by lubricating the rail. If we’re talking about a wooden frame, you might want to sand it smooth and apply wax. Otherwise, if the window is made of aluminum or PVC, make sure to clean it before applying some lubricant. If a rag or sponge doesn’t get the job done, scratch off any rust you find with steel wool.
Now, if the hinges of a casement window are rusty, you might have to take them off to give them a proper cleaning. I’ve explained how you might go about doing that in a previous article on silencing squeaky door hinges. Generally, the method you’ll use depends on the hinge type and how they’re installed.
Even if you decide that the hinges are clean enough, you should lubricate them liberally. And, if you don’t have WD-40, you could use soap or candle wax. Then, to make sure the pane is securely attached to the window frame, tighten any screws you see.
Lastly, while you still have your trusty WD-40 spray, apply it to the window stays. Hopefully, you’ll be doing all of this during the day when you won’t bother anyone. After all, the sounds won’t go away until you spread the lubricant by opening and closing the window several times.
Breathe a Sigh of Relief
As you have seen, there are two ways to open your window silently. You can either adjust the way you handle the window or deal with the source of the noise ahead of time.
Now that you know all of this, you can use your newfound skills as you choose. If you only want to avoid waking up your whole household every time you wish to cool down at night, you have the solution right here. But if this has only been the first step in figuring out a way to sneak out of your home for a few hours — I’ve got you covered.