How to Paint Exterior Windows


Exterior windows need to be kept in good condition, not only to keep the exterior of your house looking sharp, but to keep the edges sealed and energy-efficient. Window sash, sill and trim are typically painted the same color; with some more ornate homes, however, such as Victorian or Craftsman style, the sash was traditionally painted a separate, usually dark color. Although wood windows can be a bit tedious to paint, attention to detail will give your paint job a professional, clean look.

Things You'll Need

  • Detergent
  • Bleach
  • Scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • Palm sander
  • Primer
  • Wood filler
  • Caulk
  • Putty
  • Glazing tool
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint
  • Clean the windows to remove grime, dust and cobwebs. Use a mild detergent and a scrub brush, and rinse them well with a hose. Use a mixture of one part bleach to three parts water to remove mildew by spraying or brushing it on and waiting about five minutes before rinsing. Allow the wood to dry.

  • Scrape all loose paint with a chisel-edged paint scraper. When you can't remove any more paint, sand the window down with 80- or 100-grit sandpaper. A handheld electric palm sander will speed up the process on flat areas.

  • Remove old, loose caulking and glazing compound. Brush the dust and loose wood fibers out of the cracks and around the edge of the wood sash.

  • Prime all exposed wood with either acrylic or alkyd primer. Use alkyd primer over old oil-based paint or if the wood is very soft and punky. Allow the primer to dry as directed on the label.

  • Caulk or fill cracks, gaps and holes. Use paintable silicone caulking for gaps and cracks in the wood; exterior spackle for smaller holes; and wood putty or automotive body filler for large holes or damaged wood. Prime over spackle, putty or filler. Caulking does not need to be primed.

  • Glaze the window sash if you are painting older wood windows. Use a glazing tool or flexible one-inch putty knife to lay the glazing smoothly along the window glass. Purchase modern glazing compound that can be painted within a day or so; some of the old-style glazing compounds have to cure for about 30 days before being painted.

  • Paint the windows with two coats of acrylic latex paint. Paint from the inside out: first, the window sash, then the frames and finally the sill. For the most professional look, paint the returns, which are the edges of the trim to where it meets the siding.

  • Open and close the windows periodically for about 24 hours to make sure the paint doesn't stick. Do this whether you have double-hung sliding windows or cranking casement windows.

Tips & Warnings

  • To ensure a better seal where the paint meets the glass, run a bead of clear silicone caulking along the edge after painting. Make sure it gets well into the crevice between the wood and the glass. Clean excess away with a damp rag as you work so it dries invisibly against the glass.
  • A three-inch sash brush is versatile and will allow you to paint the sash, edges and trim with speed and ease.

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