Whether you’re locked out of your house and looking for a way in or one of your windows is jammed from the inside, there are several ways to open a window from the outside. Usually, the tools required to do this are available from any local hardware or DIY store and are relatively inexpensive.
Here are a few tips on how to open a window from the outside:
- Use a hacksaw blade to push it open
- Use a putty knife between the frame and the window ledge
- Pry the window open with a crowbar
- Slide it open with force
- Break the glass
- Push open a casement window
- Fiddle the lock with a wire
- Rotate the knob with a screwdriver
- Force open sliding glass doors
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the above tips so that you can finally get that jammed window open. We’ll also go through ways to get back into your house if you’ve accidentally locked yourself out.
1. Use a Hacksaw Blade to Push It Open
A hacksaw is a valuable piece of equipment in many DIY and construction circumstances. It’s essentially a saw with a thin blade and a heavy-grip handle. You can purchase a hacksaw from any DIY store, or you can buy one online. This REALIJE Hacksaw Set (Amazon.com) is multifunction and comes with 6 different-sized saw blades for your convenience.
Before using a hacksaw, ensure you have essential safety equipment, such as gloves and construction glasses. Using a hacksaw isn’t particularly dangerous, but you still want to be prepared should something go wrong.
To use a hacksaw blade to open a window from the outside, set your hacksaw with the thinnest blade you have to hand. For this step to work, you will need to be working with a window with an exterior latch. Follow the instructions below to get your window open:
- Locate the window latch. Push the blade into the gap between the frame and the window beneath the latch.
- Gently put some force into the blade until the latch pops open. Don’t push it too hard or you risk snapping the hacksaw blade.
A putty knife looks a bit like a pancake flipper. You may know the humble putty knife as a spackle knife. It has a wide edge and can be used as a scraper – in other situations, it can help you open a window from the outside.
You can buy a decent putty knife very cheaply from almost any DIY store, and some supermarkets even stock them. You can also buy them online; these DEKEones Putty Knife Scrapers (Amazon) come in a pack of three different sizes. They have super comfortable handles built for stability to protect your wrist while using them.
You don’t need special safety equipment to use a spackle knife, but you will need a hammer. Follow the directions below to open your horizontally-sliding window from the outside:
- Gently slip the spackle knife into the gap between the frame and the movable edge next to the frame. For this task, you’ll want to use a putty knife with a wide rim.
- Carefully wiggle the knife until you hear it pop. That’s when you can use your hammer to jam open the window sash by knocking gently on the blade.
- Once you think you’re in, give the window sash a little tug to see if it has come loose. If it doesn’t, try steps 2 and 3 again until it does.
- You can then pry open the window by sliding it upwards. This method will leave the window needing a few repairs, but it’s a quiet enough way to get back into your house without your neighbors thinking someone is trying to break in.
This one is pretty self-explanatory – and perhaps a little cliché – but it might be your easiest option if you’ve got a crowbar on hand.
If the window in question is a bit insecure or old and shaky, using a crowbar should be simple enough to force it open. You can buy a crowbar pretty much anywhere, and there are no restrictions on its purchase.
If your window is quite old, chances are the sash workings around the frame might be malleable enough to come loose with enough force. Just insert the crowbar underneath the sash and pull the handle downwards so the short edge pushes the window out of its frame.
This may seem obvious, but if you have a side-sliding window that you can’t open, you might just be able to get it open by using a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease. The best way to do this is to cover the glass portion of the window with something to cushion it, such as a towel. This will ensure that you won’t injure yourself in the process.
- Cover the glass with the towel and apply gentle pressure to the center of the pane.
- Push inwards and to the side to try and force the window open.
- If it doesn’t budge, move on and try something else to prevent injury.
By far, the quickest way to get a window open is to smash the glass. It may mean replacing the window pane, but if it gets you into the house, then at least you’ve got the job done.
If you want to break the glass, you should cover it with something soft like a pillow before smashing the glass in with a tool like a hammer. Don’t try to use your fists – that’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, using a hammer and pillow ensures you can break the glass inwards without injuring yourself or others around you.
Try to smash right in the middle of the pane. That way, you’re hitting the most sensitive area of the glass, and you’re more likely to find success.
A casement window is hinged at the side. These windows are often opened and closed using a lever, making it easy to see if the window is locked or not from the inside.
If the window opens towards the inside of the house, you can often apply a bit of blunt force to the central window sash to force it open. Hinges can be relatively unstable, so with the right amount of impact, you’ll get that window open in no time.
If a window is locked shut from the inside, you can use a wire in between the frame and the sash to loosen it up a bit. This method isn’t exactly foolproof, but if the window has a small gap that you can fit a wire through, you might be able to maneuver it open.
Alternatively, you can use this method alongside another method, such as the crowbar. Once you’ve loosened up the hinges a bit, get in there with your crowbar and force the window open.
You might also want to read: Different Types of Window Locks
If the window has a handle, you can fiddle with it to get it to open and then use a screwdriver with a flat head to twist the handle from the outside. If you’re looking for a good screwdriver, this HALMAI Screwdriver Set is the one to beat. It has 3 heads and a non-slip handle to make any DIY task effortless.
Sliding glass doors are often made from sheeted tempered glass, making them very easy to maneuver. If you’re stuck outside and looking for a way in, and you’ve got some sliding French doors at the back of the house, you might be in luck.
Try to use a tool such as a crowbar for this method. While you can just use your hands, you might end up doing your back in – and being locked outside your house is not the time to injure your back.
Once the door is wedged open, you can throw aside the crowbar (or whatever tool you’ve been using) and just pull. The doors should slowly come apart.
What to Do When You’re Locked Out
The first rule to follow when you’re locked out of your house is to avoid panicking. If you’ve left the oven on and you’ve got a baby in the house unattended, the situation might give rise to a bit of panic, but there are still some ways to get you safely back inside.
First, check to see if anybody else has a key; check with a neighbor, your partner, or a friend. You may have forgotten that you gave someone a spare key. If you’re the only one with a key in the daytime, you can always call an emergency locksmith to come out and unlock the door for you.
If you’ve tried all the windows and none are budging, you can try to open the front door with a credit card, wire, or any other tool you might have on you. Have a look at this YouTube video from Innovator if you want to try using a credit card:
Otherwise, if you’re a renter, you can call your landlord to come and open up for you. Whatever you do, don’t call 911! If it’s not an emergency, you’re wasting emergency services’ time, so try to wait it out for a locksmith or your landlord.
Whatever you decide to do, here’s what NOT to do: do not, under any circumstances, try scaling the building to get into one of the upper floor windows. This is a recipe for disaster, and you could end up falling and severely injuring yourself – or worse.
What Can You Use to Pick a Lock Without a Key?
You can use almost anything with a long and narrow body to pick a lock without a key. You can use a bobby pin, a thin screwdriver, or even a lockpicking kit if you’re really into it. As long as it’s stable enough to push open the components without flexing or breaking, you’re good to go.
While there are many ways to get a window open from the outside, picking a lock might just be the most effective – and the least messy – method. It means not causing panic among your neighbors by having to smash the glass. It also means no repair costs once you’re finally back in the house.
Locks have tiny components inside them that pop in and out of a lined mechanism where the key usually goes. When you put a key in a lock, the key will push all the tiny components upwards so that it can turn freely. They all have to be in the same position to allow the lock to be opened.
To that end, you’ll need to find a way to keep the pins held upwards in the same position while you open the door. This is why you sometimes see people in movies using bobby pins to unlock doors since the bobby pin can be straightened out and applied horizontally to keep all the little components held up.
If you’re looking to learn more about lock picking and the many methods available, have a look at the article linked above.
When picking a lock, bear in mind that you could end up permanently damaging the lock. One of the ways to do this is by the tool breaking inside the lock – leaving you unable even to use a key to open it.
If you’re trying to open a window from the outside, there are many ways to do so, whether you want to go the old-fashioned route and pry the window open with a crowbar or enjoy the art of lockpicking. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Just remember that, in some instances, you could end up hurting yourself if you’re not careful. Don’t ever try to smash the glass with your fist, and use something soft to prevent any glass from cracking in your face. If you’ve got professional safety equipment, that’s even better.