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How to Paint Windows

Homeowner painting a double-hung windowOf all the areas within the home, windows suffer the most stress. Constant exposure to temperature changes and condensation means that windows often need to be painted more frequently than doors, moldings and trim.

Unfortunately, the process involved in painting windows can be confusing. To simplify things, the Paint Quality Institute offers some window painting guidelines that can save you time, money and aggravation.

Start by gathering the right tools for window painting:

  • a 1 1/2" or 2" quality brush (use synthetic bristles if you are painting with one of the popular latex interior paints);
  • a cutting-in brush for precision work;
  • a paint shield or masking tape;
  • a screwdriver;
  • enough top quality paint to complete the job.

Remove locks, curtain hooks and other hardware from the windows. This will speed your work and produce a better-looking paint job.

Homeowner painting a double-hung windowDouble-hung windows

For double-hung windows, follow this six-step procedure:

  1. Raise the bottom sash and lower the top sash most of the way, so that there is a 6" overlap. Paint the bottom horizontal section of the top sash, then the accessible vertical members. Use care to keep paint from getting in between sash and frame which can "glue" the window in place.
  2. Nearly close the upper and lower sashes, then finish painting the rest of the top sash.
  3. Paint the entire bottom sash.
  4. After allowing the sashes to dry, paint the window frame.
  5. Close the windows and paint the exposed parts of the runners. If your windows have sash cords, avoid getting paint on them.
  6. Paint the window sill and apron.

Casement windows

If your home has any casement windows (windows that open out or in, rather than up or down), use a different technique:

  1. Open the windows and paint the top, side and bottom edges.
  2. Paint the crossbars and frame casings.
  3. Complete the job by painting the sill and apron.

Painted white window with red trimRegardless of the type of windows you are painting, if you have a steady hand, you can keep paint on the frame and off the glass by using the cutting-in brush. But be sure to overlap the paint onto the glass slightly to help seal off moisture and drafts.

There are two other techniques for keeping paint off of the window panes: holding up a paint shield as you work or applying masking tape to the glass.

When using tape, press it firmly to the glass to keep excess paint from creeping beneath it. (If stray specks of paint get onto the glass, simply remove them with a razor blade.) Remove the tape before the paint dries to a hard film.

Some final tips:

Painted red shutters, black windows and white trimBefore starting to paint, repair any damage to the window and properly prepare the surface. This can be done by scraping off old paint, then sanding, and priming any spots where bare wood shows. (Get more advice on surface preparation at your local paint retailer, hardware store or decorating center.)

Paint windows early in the day so that they have enough time to dry before you close them in the evening.

Finish painting each piece in the direction of the wood grain.

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