How To: Finding replacement tracks for vinyl windows

July 6, 2011

Q. Our house has 40-year-old double-hung windows that slide on vinyl tracks (with springs). The windows are in good shape, except some no longer stay up. We have to use sticks to hold up the sash when we open them, and one top window can drop like a guillotine. Where can we find replacement tracks?

— Middletown

A. Blaine Window Hardware in Hagerstown, Md., (www.blaine
window.com
; 301-797-6500) carries replacement parts, including jamb liners and springs, for a wide array of windows. You can order parts directly and install them yourself.

Or, if you’d rather hire someone, you can call a window repair company. Blaine Window Repair Service in Silver Spring (301-565-4970; it’s a separate company from Blaine Window Hardware) serves the District, Northern Virginia and much of Maryland, including Middletown. The company charges $65 for an in-home assessment. That fee can be applied toward the repair work, which costs $80 for the first half-hour and $64 for each additional half-hour. Asked whether a customer could arrange for the in-home consultation and use it for advice on a DIY repair, Paul Smith, the company’s customer service manager, said, “Sure.”

The big challenge in working on windows with vinyl tracks is identifying the correct parts and instructions. If you can find the name of the manufacturer on the window, the replacement-parts company might be able to pinpoint the parts you need. If there is no clue, a repair company with long experience in working with many kinds of windows might save you a lot of hassle. If replacement parts are no longer made, Smith says his technicians can usually fashion workable ones from parts made for other models, or they might have leftovers from past jobs.

Q. Do you know where I can find a book or video or class on how to paint wooden chairs and make them look antique? I have been looking at pictures of antique Louis XVI chairs and they look too beaten up for me, as well as way too expensive. Then I see new furniture that has been painted and then made to look distressed. How can I learn to do that?

— From the Home Front chat

A. There are several ways to give a chair an antique look. One involves painting a base layer that you want to see just hints of, topping that with the main coat, and then gently scrubbing away the final finish on corners and other places where a chair naturally wears. Another approach uses faux-finish products that create crazing — a network of fine lines that resemble the cracks that naturally form in aged oil paint. Some of these lead to effects that aren’t very subtle, though.

Faux finishes, including various ways of antiquing furniture, have been very popular over the past few years. So if you go to a well-supplied bookstore or your public library, you should find several books that show the steps.

Or you could go to a well-supplied paint store, preferably at a time when it isn’t too busy, and ask for the person who knows most about the project you have in mind. “Come in and talk, and we’ll run you through the steps,” said Brent Landreth, a sales associate at the Color Wheel in McLean (703-356-8477; www.mycolorwheel.com). Monarch Paint & Wallcovering in the District (202-686-5550; www.monarchpaintdc.
com
) is another option.

Of course, there’s nothing like learning in a hands-on class. Lenore Winters Studio in Bethesda (www.lenorewinters.com; 301-654-
6004) offers a four-day class where you learn by refinishing in a chair or other piece of furniture that you bring in. But some chairs are too complicated to complete during the class, so e-mail a picture before you commit. The fee is $575, plus $100 for materials.

You can get one-on-one help at Restorations Unlimited in Sterling (703-904-9575 or toll-free 877-877-2133; www.virginiafurniturerefinishing.com). E-mail a picture and then discuss with them what you want to do and how much they’ll charge. This company will strip an old finish for you, allowing you to skip that nasty step.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line and tell us where you live.

The checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks, such as oiling your garage door, you should tackle in July at washingtonpost.com/home.

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