How to Fix a Window Stile


Stiles and rails are terms used to describe wooden window parts. Stiles are the vertical parts members of a window frame. They can be on the sides as a structural part of the window or in the middle -- though these are typically used for aesthetics only. Rails are the horizontal pieces of the window. Damage to window stiles can be cosmetic or structural. You can repair both types using ordinary tools.

Cosmetic Repair

  • Repair scratches and gouges up to 1/16 inch deep without removing the window from the frame. Wipe the scratches with a cloth dampened with oil-based stain. If you can still see the scratch or gouge, try rubbing it with a color-matched putty crayon. Hold the crayon like a pencil and forcefully rub it over the damage. The crayon will fill the scratch or gouge. Rub the area with a soft cloth to remove any residue. Putty crayons work on painted or stained window stiles, choose the appropriate color to match the existing wood or finish.

Laquer or Varnish Repair

  • If your window stiles have whitened, or appear to have a rough or flaky finish, water condensation is the typical suspect, although sun exposure can also create problems. To repair cosmetic finish problems on stiles, rub them down with an oil-saturated cloth. Use a high-quality furniture polish containing any kind of natural oil such as tung or linseed oil. Allow the oil to soak into the finish for about an hour and repeat until the lacquer or varnish becomes supple and translucent again. Repeat as often as necessary to restore the stiles to their original finish. If the oil doesn't do the trick or the finish has flaked completely off, use a sanding block with 100-grit sandpaper to sand the stile down to bare wood. Apply a matching stain or paint. Finish with two new coats of lacquer, varnish or paint.

Cracks Splits and Separations

  • Remove the window from the opening if you see cracks, splits or if the stile has separated from the rail. This type of damage needs to be stopped before it gets worse. Place the window across two sawhorses. Use a putty knife, screwdriver or chisel to pry open any loose cracks and then inject glue into them. If the stile has separated from the rail, pry it away from the rail and inject glue into the joint. If the cracks or separations will not move, place masking tape along both sides and use the tip of the glue bottle to force glue into the crack, split or separation. Place long bar clamps across the window to squeeze the stiles back into the rails. Use smaller clamps to squeeze small cracks in individual rails. Allow the glue to dry overnight and remove the clamps to stop the crack, split or separation from getting worse. If you can still see the crack, use a putty crayon to fill it. If you see splinters that are too thin to clamp, smear glue under them and use masking tape to secure them until the glue dries.


  • If your window binds, won't open or sticks when you open the window halfway, it might be because the stiles are warped. Remove the window from the opening and place it across two sawhorses. You'll probably be able to see where the paint or stain has been rubbed off the stile at the high-point of the warp. Clamp the window to the sawhorses. Install a 100-grit sanding belt on a belt sander. Place it directly on the rubbed off area. If you can't see any rubbed off paint or stain, place a straightedge on the stile and rock it back and forth to identify the high-point of the warp. Turn on the sander and move it forward and back over the warp, parallel with the stile, to sand the warp down flat. Sand for a minute, check the warp with the straightedge and sand again. Continue in this manner, sanding and checking, until the warp has flattened out. Refinish the stile with matching stain or paint when finished sanding.

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