Painting timber sash windows

painting timber sash windows
Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

Before you start painting your sash windows, it is important to fully prepare properly – the amount of work you will have to do in this regard will depend on the condition of the existing paintwork and it’ll determine how quality the finish will be. If you prepare well, then chances are, the finish will be considerably better. If you do not prepare well, the result will never be all that amazing. The most important part of getting a lovely, lasting job is to ensure you put the hours in prepping.

Painting timber sash windows

Image source. Painting timber sash windows can be made easy if done properly

Remember that repairing sash windows can be serious task, but it is a necessary task unless you are considering replacement, and as I covered in a previous post, in most cases, that’s going to be a bad idea. Replacement sash windows may not need to be decorated , but they will be expensive and eventually, you’ll have to paint them as well, you might as well take advantage of the use of colour to produce some amazing effects. You might as well get good at decoration now!

If the existing paintwork is reasonably good, maybe a little flaking but nothing serious, you can probably repaint a window sash without stripping the old paint from the frame – it’s not advisable to strip lead paint anyway, for obvious health and environmental reasons. Old lead paint bedded down well, is doing a great job of keeping your windows protect from the elements. So let’s unscrew or take off any catches or sash window locks that are removable, and sometimes the locks will be painted over and damage the sash when removed. This is acceptable, simply remove and clean up the surface, then it will require two part epoxy filler to make good.

Remove old locks to paint

Image source. Remove old locks to paint

When your decorating it is a great time to clean up the sashes of old furniture. Brush and rub down the frames in order to remove any dirt and repair / fill any other small blemishes, old screw holes, this is all about personal preference – a great tip is realising your old sash windows will never look new, the best value for time spent comes from a good rub down, removal of all loose flakey paint, run filler all over the windows in one go, and then sand. Preparing this way will be the quickest and will provide a nice finish without spending weeks. You can take a look at the decoration in a hurry link for further tips on painting with haste.

One other point I worth mentioning, before you go ahead with this, it is best to remove any blinds, curtains, or close hanging fabrics before you commence. You do not want your beautiful fabric curtains to be damaged by paint striper or putty, or even get dusty for that matter.

Take your curtains down before painting your lovely sash windows

Image source. Take your curtains down before painting your lovely sash windows

Any damaged paint work, blisters, knotted areas, etc, should be sanded down, filled with a two part epoxy filler and rubbed down again in order to get a smooth finish – it’s up to you how far you take this. The entire frame should then be rubbed down with a medium grit paper, another good tip here – bother with a finer paper, the overall result won’t benefit significantly, your quality gloss will hide up anything fine paper would remove anyway!

In cases where the paint has flaked off to the point where is has to be removed in areas, just get a quality scraper, and ensure that all the loose debris is removed, then start from rubbing down procedure above.

When you start painting the timber sash windows, first apply a primer coat to any exposed timber and when this has dried you should rub the frame with a medium grit sand paper, just to smooth the surface, not to expose the timber work and it’ll provide a perfect key for the next layers of paint. If you get this right, it’s highly likely you’ll get many years good service from your decoration. You’ll probably decorate your windows white, but that’s not to say you have to it’s your home and some people make brilliant use of colour on sash windows, just take a look at the image below. Normally Londoners are using neutral paint on the walls and white for their windows, to make some very nice looking decor.

Colour sash windows

Image by oriel- – Sash windows don’t have to be white – Colour sash windows

You might like to protect the window sash glass from getting paint by placing masking tape on the glass before commencing, this is also good to avoid scratching when you run your sandpaper over the putty to prepare for painting. It’s important to paint onto the glass a little bit because this is what seals the putty to the glass and stops any problems down the line.

Your job will be made easier if you purchase a sash trim brush set, a brush which it’s slightly angled to make it easier to get into 90-degree corners and tight spaces – many sash window specialists are using just this and it makes life much easier.

Sash trim brush

Sash trim brush – You can get this one from Home Depot

If you are starting on the inside of the home, raise the bottom window sash and lower the top sash and paint the available lower half of the top sash, if we do this in the right order, then there will be no problem with making smudges or streaks. Using a smallish brush with a little paint on the brush at any one time you won’t go wrong, or get any runs. When you have completed this area, raise the top sash and lower the bottom sash and complete the top sash. By painting the upper sash first you ensured that you’ll have an easy job finishing the lower sash and the frame surrounds.

Once you have completed the top sash you will be able to paint the bottom sash, which is completely accessible to you at ground level, unless you have really big windows! Once you have finished painting the sashes, leave them open to dry and make sure that the paint is well set. You should wait for the sashes to dry and then move onto the frames. This isn’t necessary but if you have dried sashes, moving them will not damage your paint work.

Now that you’ve painted all the framework you can see move both sashes down as far as they will go and you can start to paint the top half of the outside of the frame. Paint the exposed jambs. Simply reverse the process raising both window sashes and paint the lower jambs, in a similar fashion to the inside. Put on only as much paint as is necessary remember paint is damaging to the environment and we should select wisely. Wait for the paint to dry and oil the stiles with a suitable lubricant, be it candle wax or a silicone spray.

Painted sash windows

Painted sash windows

The continued maintenance of your timber sash windows by painting, will allow you to enjoy the beauty of your sash windows without picking up costly maintenance and repair bills. It’s quite likely you’ll want to repair your sash windows at some point and maybe even upgrade draught proof them.

About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.

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