Interior Window Painting Techniques
Interior window painting can be a never-ending chore. Your windows can require more maintenance than any other surface around your home. Of all areas of your home, wood windows suffer the most wear and tear. Constant exposure to sunlight, temperature changes and condensation will cause even the best paint to fail eventually.
The process for proper painting of an interior window can seem extensive. To simplify this job here are some guidelines that can save you time, money and effort.
Gathering The Right Tools For Window Painting
- Screw Driver – To remove hardware.
- Paint Scraper – For removing all loose or peeling paint.
- Spackling – To patch all holes, nicks, dents, cracks, etc.
- Putty Knife – For application of spackling.
- Sandpaper – For sanding rough, uneven or glossy areas. 120 grit or finer is recommended.
- Caulk and Caulking Gun
- 1-1/2 inch or 2-inch high quality brush.
- 1-inch cut-in brush for precision work.
- Primer – Oil base primer for unpainted areas.
- Enough paint to finish the job.
To begin, remove all locks, pulls, curtain hooks and other hardware. With many modern windows the sash can be removed from the frame. This will decrease the time needed to paint a window and produce a better-looking job.
Removing Sashes or Unsticking Old Double Hung Windows
Removing The Sashes
This will require some carpentry skills and extra time. Usually only one window stop has to be removed. The window stop is a thin piece of wood that holds the bottom sash in place.
First, cut the paint and caulk along the edge of the stop and casing with a utility knife. Cut this edge several times and be careful to not damage the frame. After cutting, insert a stiff putty knife and carefully pry the window stop loose.
With the stop removed slide out the bottom window sash. Pay close attention to any ropes connected to the counterweights. Mark or number each sash and the removed stop if several will be removed. Set the window sash on sawhorses with adjustable legs, this way you can maintain a comfortable position while window painting.
Unsticking a Window
Old windows can become stuck after a few coats of paint. To unstick a painted window you will need a razor knife, hammer and 3-inch stiff putty knife. Make sure a previous owner didn’t nail the window shut.
First score the edge were the frame and window meet with the razor knife. Be care full not to damage or cut the wood. Now position the 3-inch putty knife at this joint. Start near the top. Gently tap on it with the hammer working the blade into the joint.
Work around the window 2-3 times to split the thick paint. You may need to repeat this procedure on the out side of the window. With this done gently coax the window open using the heels of your hands positioned at both sides of the window frame near the edge. The window will open with a little persuasion.
This is the procedure for a double hung window. A similar process can be used on other window types. Once open the thick paint edge needs to be removed with coarse sand paper and a sharp putty knife.
Preparation for Window Painting
Typically window painting involves scraping, sanding and priming. All of these steps will produce some dust and make a mess. Cover the floor and protect the walls from paint drips or splatters. Use a drop cloth on the floor and masking paper for the base. The walls can be protected with blue masking tape along the wall next to the window trim.
Before starting to paint a window, repair any defect or damage to the window and properly prepare the surface. Remove all loose paint with the paint scraper, then sand smooth, feather the rough paint edges. A palm sander will drastically speed up this process on flat areas and produce better results. Use 120 grit sanding paper or a medium sanding sponge next to the glass. Blue, safe release, masking tape can be used on the glass for protection from scratching the glass.
Remove all heavy paint edges and brush marks before priming and painting. Finally remove the dust with a vacuum and tack rag.
All raw wood needs to be primed before painting. Old windows should be primed with a quick drying oil base primer. An additional light sanding can be done once the primer has fully dried. This final sanding will produce a very smooth surface.
Caulk all gaps in the trim, window stops to the trim and trim to the wall if needed. Any holes or deep scratches can be filled with spackling paste or wood filler and sanded smooth when dry.
Plan your window painting project as early in the day as possible. This will allow the primer and paint to thoroughly dry before handling or closing in the evening.
Window Painting Methods
Painting a window with a brush is simple. Always apply the primer and paint in the direction of the wood grain, back and forth for horizontal pieces and up and down for vertical pieces. Don’t be overly concerned if some paint gets on the glass, it will be removed later.
For the experienced, use the small cut-in brush in areas close to the glass. Wiping the occasional blob of paint off before it dries. Otherwise use blue safe release masking tape to provide a clean, crisp line and protect the glass. Be sure to press the tape firmly to the glass to keep paint from seeping beneath the masking tape.
The window painting method I use is to apply a thick full coat of paint right up to the glass, purposefully filling the gap between the wood and the glass. This seals this area by forcing the paint into this crack. After the paint has dried I use a new, sharp, single edge razor blade to remove the excess paint and provide a straight edge. Use caution when removing the excess paint from the glass.
Cut a straight line next to the mullion using the point of the razor blade. A mullion is the decorative piece of wood that holds the glass pane in the window frame. Now gently scrape the paint up to the cut edge. After 24 hours the window can be washed with warm water and paper towels.
An alternative to brushing is spraying. Paint spraying requires extensive masking and protection from overspray, but will make this job much easier and faster. Spray painting wood windows is a good finishing method if you have a lot of windows to paint and limited amounts of time to get it done.
One window painting method uses an airless paint sprayer. This type of sprayer produces the most overspray and requires the most masking. An airless sprayer can apply a lot of paint very quickly; it should only be used during a remodel project.
Another window painting application method is using a HVLP paint sprayer.
The glass needs to be fully masked and a 12-inch strip of masking paper needs to be installed along the wall at the trim. The amount of over spray is dramatically reduced with a HVLP sprayer, but the floor and all furniture will still need to be fully covered.
Types of Windows
Double Hung Windows
If not removed both the upper and lower sashes will need to be raised or lowered for a complete repainting.
- Raise the lower sash to within a few inches of the top and lower the upper sash within a few inches of the bottom. This will give access to the difficult areas first.
- Paint as much of the upper and lower sashes as possible.
- Slide each sash back to within 2-3 inches of there normal closed positions.
- Paint the remaining unpainted areas.
- Leave the sashes open and paint the window frame and trim. Do not paint the sliding tracks.
- Close when dry.
Single Hung Windows
- Begin painting with the movable sash in its fully closed position.
- Paint the entire upper fixed sash. Including the top rail that the locking mechanism attaches to.
- Do not paint the sliding tracks.
- Raise the movable sash a few inches and paint.
- Close when fully dry.
When possible, casement windows should be removed for painting. This will allow you to remove all hardware for a complete paint job. If the sash isn’t removed you will have to reach through the opening to paint the window.
- Open the window enough to paint the farthest edge.
- Paint the upper and lower horizontal areas, rails, as fare as you can.
- Fully open the window and finish painting the upper and lower areas, finishing with the final vertical rail and the edge that is facing you when the window is fully open.
Considerations for Multi-Pane Windows
Brush the wood between the window panes. These are called mullions. As soon as two adjacent sides of the mullions are painted gently tap the brush along the top edge. This will deposit some paint on the edge. Now lightly brush to provide a finished look. Check both sides of the mullion for thick edges and remove them with the brush.
Care of Newly Painted Windows
- After the window painting and ample drying time the tracks the windows slide in can be waxed allowing easier operation. Apply paraffin wax to these areas. Reapply when necessary.
- Allow 2 weeks of drying time before washing with a commercial glass cleaner. Ammonia in most cleaners can damage freshly applied paint.