Double-Hung Spring-Loaded Windows Won't Stay Open or Closed

We have wooden spring-loaded double-hung windows that will stay neither open nor closed. Unless they're locked, the top sash will fall and the bottom sash will jump to near the center of the frame.
What is it that causes this? I understand older windows with sash weights and how to repair them, but I don't know how spring-loaded windows are balanced and why they would do this. I mean, if the spring weren't strong enough I would expect them to fall, and if the spring were too strong I would expect them to not stay closed, but what would cause the sashes to go to the center like this?
We rent, but this is not a priority for our landlord (who lives on the opposite coast). I am capable of doing most home repair myself and have been able to deduct the cost, when reasonable, from my rent in the past, but again the landlord will not see this as a necessary repair and won't want to pay too much. Bottom line: I'm looking for a cheap fix.
Thanks!
--
-J.

[To respond via email, remove the OBVIOUS from the above email address.]
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
A cheap 2$ fix is a piece of spring steel you insert inbetween the window and frame to give friction, you should find it at any hardware store.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
unfortunately the spring balances are no where near as good as weights
my current home ~60's has spring balances, fortunately we seldom if ever open the windows. In SoCal we can open the doors as needed for air.
Anyway if I understand your description the lower sash jumps up & the upper sash goes down.
unlike weights which supply a constant force, spring balance force varies slightly with sash postion and is usually adjustable.
on my windows the spring froce is transferred to the sash via a small diameter braided cable with a metal clip on the end of it. The clip hooks to the bottom corner of the sash. Some systems use a thin metal tape (not unlike tape measure)
In the case of the upper sash that falls, maybe the cable has broken or sometimes the clip gets mashed into the window sill & detaches from the sash. So the sash now moves up & down without the spring cable attached to it.
If it just goes to the middle, that indicates not enough spring force. The lower sash that jumps to middle sounds like it has too much force.
The link below shows one type of spring balance, there are a few different types. But they work on the same principle; spring force takes the place of the weights
http://www.oldhousejournal.com/magazine/2004/april/spring_balance.shtml
If you are relatively handy you can dig into the window assembly (w/o seeing it I really can't be a whole lot of help). Sometimes they have a little access panel that can be removed to get at the internals.
Having done it on other homes, I can tell you it isn't real complicated but it not as much fun or satisfying as the weights.
Be careful, the springs can store a fair amount of energy & apply a fair amount of force; getting cut or pinched is a definite risk.
cheers Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I took a closer look at the windows and some of the solutions suggested.
The windows appear to be retrofitted with plastic channels and springs. If I pry the channel away from the side of the frame, I can clearly see the holes where sash cords once were. The springs ride along slots in the back of these channels.
On the back of these channels, I can see the springs, but no adjusting mechanism as was suggested via a private response. (Thanks, Bill!)
I went to Home Depot (I know of no smaller, local hardware stores in the area anymore), and all three of the salesmen I asked had no clue as to what "spring steel" was. (Thanks, Ransley!) No big surprise there. Their suggestion was to replace the windows. Side rant: When Home Depot first opened, didn't they have people who were actual home repair experts, and not just clones of Wal-mart associates?
As was pointed out, springs do not have constant force, like sash weights do. If the windows fell, you'd think there wasn't enough tension on the springs. If the windows always jumped up, you'd think there was too much tension. (Thanks, Bob!) Since the windows always went to the middle, though, it seemed to me to be not a tension issue, but one of friction, as was suggested before. The windows were moving too freely (which, come to think of it, also explains all the rattling on windy days).
Here's what I did. I pried the plastic channels away from both sides of the frame and slipped very thin shims behind them, in essence tightening up the frame to the sashes just enough to create a bit of friction. After some trial-and-error, I found the right width so that the windows open and close easily, but only when I actually move them. Not sure whether it will work the same way through seasonal expansion and retraction, but as of right now this simple fix seems to be doing the trick.
Thanks for the help, guys.
--
-J.

[To respond via email, remove the OBVIOUS from the above email address.]
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Um, I'd like to retract my "retraction" and replace it with a "contraction." Duh.
-J.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Asking HD guys for that is understanable you got a zero. Go to the window repair-excessory area, they are common, but I cant say for HD. It is 3" long 1/2" wide , it has a nail flange on top and is slid inbetween frame and window. The piece that goes inbetween is folded over for the Spring force -------------- : : : : : : : : : : : : : : A poor daigram , top is a nail flange , Its a rental, alot of work to fix right and mess up the trim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.