Trying to fix a broken window balance system can seem like a frustrating and overwhelming repair for someone with no actual window repair experience. As a former “person with little-to-no window repair experience,” I’m here to let you in on a secret – It’s really not so bad.
My hope for this guide is to arm you with everything you need to know to get your windows functioning again. From the initial phases of removing your window balance to the final celebratory pat on the back, SWISCO will be here to answer your questions and help you along the way.
How Do I Know When My Window Balances Need to be Replaced?
It all starts with a little inkling that something isn’t working quite right. Maybe your window takes too much effort to close, or just the opposite – slams down unprovoked. Maybe one day after decades of working perfectly, the balance shoots up and becomes jammed in the window track. Now the panic sets in that you’re going to have to buy completely new windows. Instead, you’re only a few steps away from extending the life of your existing windows.
When replacing broken balances, we always suggest replacing them on both sides of your window. This prevents the older balance from breaking under the additional stress of keeping up with the newer balance.
First, you’ll need to remove the balances from the window. This process looks a little different depending on the type of balance you have. Below are the major balance styles to get you familiarized. Once you’ve identified the general style of your balance, jump to the section in this guide that pertains to you.
* Crossbow balances are an outdated style of balance that can be replaced with a less expensive, and better quality style! See our full conversion video here.
2. Find Your Stamp
Once you’ve removed the balance, examine it for a stamped or imprinted set of numbers and or letters on the metal channel. Often times this number seems to be the solve-all solution to cracking the code of your window woes. Unfortunately, this code doesn’t identify your balance — just the weight of your window. As an example, if your stamp reads something like “28 3” or “28 C” followed by additional letters or numbers, you’ll choose the stamp option “2830” to support a window with a weight range of 16 lbs. to 23 lbs.
If the balances are older, the stamp could be worn off or difficult to read. You can try to make the stamp clearer by cleaning the area. Another option is to try a balance from an identical window in the house. If you happen to not have a stamped code on your channel, no sweat! Just remove the bottom sash and place it on a bathroom scale, or hop on the scale while holding the sash and subtract your weight. Viola! You’ve discovered the weight of your window sash. With the weight of your sash, review the weight ranges associated with each “stamp option.”
Before determining your style or series of balance, you’ll have to gather a few critical measurements. First, find the length of your balance by measuring just the metal portion, not including the top or bottom plastic parts. Next, measure the width of the channel.
So, now that you know your stamp and the length of your balance, you’ll need to assess the style of your balance to the options in our catalog.
Details to Look Out for with a Non-Tilt Channel Balance:
Do the top and bottom plastic fittings have wings? While these plastic fittings can look very similar to the blind eye, it’s vital to choose correctly. These pieces help to keep the balance snug in the track and against the sash with no wiggle room. Getting something even 1/32” off will make a big difference! So, here are some details to keep in mind during your search:
Details to Look Out for With a Tilt Channel Balance:
Does the channel have a rib in it or is it a straight, plain style?
Accessories You May Need
While you’re still in the initial stages of replacing your balances, now is a good time to check the other features that interwork with your channel balances. Check surrounding hardware like take-out clips and top sash guides for non-tilt windows and pivot bars, pivot shoes and tilt latches for tilt-windows.
And, as always, use our Part Identifier to send us a photo of the hardware that’s stumping you and we’ll be happy to lend a hand in your search.
2. Identify Stamps
When first removing your coil balance, take note of any stamped numbers. Often times, they are found imprinted on the tongue of the metal spring, cartridge or coil casing. If you don’t see one, weigh the window and divide the weight between the number of coils in your assembly.
3. Examine Your Assembly
Since most coils tend to look very similar, your search for the correct coil will rely heavily on pivot shoe or coil cartridge identification. Each series of coil is designed to work with a specific pivot shoe, so if you can identify yours, the coil will follow! Other times, the assembly is part of a complete housing unit that comes with a pivot shoe, coils and cover. Compare the style and dimensions of yours to our selection.
1. Remove the Balance
If you have a tilt window, your balance search will be short and sweet! Remove the balance from the window and measure the diameter of the tube. If it’s ⅜”, you’ll need the Series 900 Spiral Balance. If the diameter is 9/16” (rounded to ⅝” in the trade), you’ll need the Series 600 Spiral Balance.
2. Measure and Check Color Tip
Measure the length of the metal tubing (don’t include the internal spiral rod or colored tip) and choose the color tip option on our product page that matches your original hardware. If you don’t have a color tip, or it’s faded beyond recognition, you’ll have to weigh the sash and choose the appropriate weight range.
1. Measure the Tubing
Spiral balances in non-tilt windows are a dying breed but still turn up on occasion in older windows. To identify yours, first, measure the diameter of the tubing.
2. Identify the Shoe
After measuring the length, compare the shoe attached to the spiral to the options in our catalog.
If you don’t see what you’re looking for, reach out to us here. We can make custom balances that work for your unique specifications!
Andersen Sash Balances
1. Remove the Balance
While Andersen balances are easy to identify once they’re uninstalled, it does take a fair amount of effort to remove them from the sill.
2. Locate Your Stamp
Once the balance is removed, all that’s left to do is locate your unique stamp numbers. Usually, the number needed will be located between “#” symbols. It can be found on the backside in the upper left corner or on the left-hand tab. Occasionally, it will be in the right-hand corner. Once you have your number, you can match it to with the corresponding SWISCO product code.