Repainting the wooden window frames of your house is like putting on a nice, new summer dress after a long, dreary winter.
It brightens up everything around it and gives your home a refreshed, beautiful feeling.
However, as with anything, proper preparation and planning are key. If you aren’t careful and don’t follow the right steps, you could end up causing a lot of extra work for yourself.
Luckily, we are here to provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to make this home project a successful one.
Take a look at the steps below before getting started, and you will be well on your way to a nicer, prettier home with shiny frames on your windows and doors.
What Will You Need to Paint?
First, to repaint your door/window frames, you need to know which paint to use.
When selecting your favorite color choices, consider the fact that wooden frames do not get out of style ever.
However, they will have to bear all the consequences of moisture, scorching sun rays, wind, and rain damage over time.
Hence, think about where the door or window is located – indoors or outdoors.
If it’s in an area prone to moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen, it’s wise to use gloss paint as they tend to be slightly more water-resistant, durable, and easy to clean.
Otherwise, other great choices are satin and matte in white or light brown.
Whichever you go with, make sure you are using outdoor paint if painting something that will be….well…outdoors.
See? This is already easy-peasy.
Have your paints been picked out? Great.
Here are a few additional things you will need on hand before getting started to make sure things go smoothly.
First, several large plastic sheets will be helpful in protecting your working area from getting paint everywhere.
Remember, you are only painting the frame, not the whole room and floor.
While we’re on the subject, painter’s tape or masking tape is also helpful in keeping the plastic where it needs to be as well as protecting the wall around the frame.
Next, wood putty, sanding sheets, a bucket of soapy water, and a sponge will be critical to repairing surfaces and prepping them properly for repainting.
Make sure to pick a good soap that works on grease without leaving a residue. Dirtex or Spic & Span should do the trick.
Follow all of these up with a clean microfiber towel, too. If you don’t have microfiber, any clean, dry fabric that doesn’t leave fibers behind will work.
If you are planning to take the door off its hinges, make sure you have whatever tools you need to remove it—typically, a screwdriver is a must.
Lastly, if you are going to paint, you’ll need paintbrushes.
Rather than using a roller or a sprayer, as you would for walls, ceilings, and other flat surfaces, a handheld brush will give you the precision and control you need to paint the often uneven surfaces and small angles of a door frame or window frame decoration.
One with an angled tip is best for trims, so you have a fine point to use when working on small nooks and crannies. You also do not want the brush to be too wide.
A good guideline is to use a brush that isn’t wider than the surface you are painting. This is especially true for wooden window frames, which are typically narrower than door frames.
Steps for Painting the Wooden Window Frame
OK, now that you’ve gathered everything you need, it’s time to get started.
Below are the steps you can try to follow…
Step 1- Prep Your Work Area
Before breaking out the messy paints, you must prep the area you will be working in.
If you can remove the window/door from its hinges and frame, do so.
Then, lay it down in an area away from the paint. If you plan to paint the door as well, you can leave it where it is.
If you cannot remove the door, open it as wide as you can, then drape the plastic sheet over and around the door to ensure you don’t accidentally get any paint on it.
Remember, paint drips.
So you also want to tape up the walls around the molding as well as place your large plastic sheets on the ground under the door.
When it comes to windows, tape up the glass around the frame safely. Don’t forget to tape up any seals and rubber strips, too.
Once you have your work area prepped, the next step is to prep the subject—that is, the frame itself.
Step 2- Now Prep Your Subject
Prepping the frame of your door or window includes sanding it down, repairing any holes or cracks, and cleaning it up to create an ideal surface for the paint to be smoothly applied.
Use the wood putty to fill in any chips or holes left by old screws or nails.
You can also use caulk to fill in long cracks if that works better for you.
Doing this ensures that your frame will look as new as possible after painting it.
Painting a frame without fixing any damage first is like pouring expensive, fine wine into a glass with a hole in the bottom—you get a colorful mess that doesn’t look very good.
Once you’ve fixed up the frame a little bit, take the bucket of soapy water and give the area you will paint a nice wash to get any dirt or grease off the surface.
The cleaner the surface, the better the paint can be applied.
Once everything has been washed, dry it off with your towel, taking care not to leave any fibers that could get in the way of the paint.
Make sure everything is thoroughly dry before moving on to the next step—sanding.
Step 3- Sand the Wood Frames
When sanding, most people think they must remove all the existing paint. That would be an incredibly long and arduous process if it were true.
Luckily, you only need to create enough roughness on the surface to allow the new layer of paint to adhere properly.
This usually means that the old finish and color of the frame should look dusted or faded when you are done.
If you are working with the unpainted trim or frame, you can probably skip this step.
Otherwise, use sandpaper that is 100 grit or higher (if your paper is too rough, you could damage the wood) and try to apply an even sanding to the whole surface you plan to paint.
Once the sanding is done, conduct one more wipe-down with the clean cloth to get any final specks of wood and dust off your painting surface.
Now, finally, it’s time to get messy. But it’s the fun part.
Step 4- Start Painting the Wood Frames
When it comes to doorframes, you want to start on the inside of one upper corner, then paint in long strokes downwards.
Focus on painting the center of the surface first, and you can work your way out to the edges afterward.
Once you have one side of the door done, switch to the other, then the top part of the interior frame.
After the inside is done, work on the outside, again starting on the sides and using long vertical strokes, and working top to bottom.
Finish by painting across the top, but be careful not to have too much paint on your brush. Otherwise, it could drip down.
With interior and exterior windows, use a similar idea. You want to paint with long strokes, starting from the top of the surface to the bottom.
If you start from the bottom up, then the paint will drip down and ruin what you just finished painting, leaving you stuck doing a lot of unnecessary retouching.
For both door and window frames, use the narrow points and edges of your brush to fill in any narrow edges or fine details.
Once you think you have given everything an even coat of paint, look over it one more time and fill in any gaps you see.
Step 5- Get to Watch Paint Dry and Reapply a Coat if Required
The amount of time it takes for the first layer to dry depends on the type of paint you are using on your timber frame.
Check the paint bucket/container to see if your paint can have any recommended wait times or instructions. If not, four hours should be plenty.
You can test the dryness on a small, unnoticeable part of the frame, taking care to just barely touch the frame with a small part of your finger.
If the paint is sticky, wait a little longer.
Once the paint is done drying, you aren’t done yet!
You still need to apply a second coat to ensure a solid, professional look that will last.
Sometimes, even three coats are necessary before you get the surface looking the way you want.
If you are working on an exterior frame, then one extra coat after it looks done will provide an extra layer of protection from the elements.
If you removed your door, you should wait at least 24 hours before re-hanging it and ensure the paint is completely dry before doing so.
Avoid removing the tape until you are confident that the paint is dry enough not to bleed onto the walls or windows.
And there you have it! Fresh, bright, and colorful frame.
How Long Does it Take to Paint a Window Frame?
It may take about 24 hours to dry for most oil-based paints after you have painted your window sills and frames.
Water-based paints, if used, will take lesser time to dry.
So, an estimate is that you will need about 24 hours to get your wooden window frame painted and dried.
Until then, make sure you do not close the window, as it may stick to the freshly painted wooden frame.
How Often to Paint?
How often should wooden window frames be painted will mostly depend on the exposure to external conditions.
In general, you may need to seal, repaint, and waterproof a wooden window frame every 1-2 years.
It’s good to do the annual maintenance for the frames and lubricate the hardware used in summer or spring.
This will help weatherproof your window frames for the cold winter season.
What Type of Paint Should You Use on Wood Frames?
When choosing the best paint for frames made of wood, you may either consider latex water-based paint or alkyd oil-based paint.
In comparison to latex, oil-based paints leave lesser brush strokes.
So, if you want to paint the frames with a perfect finish and without leaving any brush strokes, you should definitely consider oil-based paints.
In addition, oil paints also dry smoother and last for long as compared to water-based paints.
The only downside to using oil paint is it has more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have been identified as cancer-causing agents.
Using a premium respirator is therefore essential while dealing with these kinds of paint materials as it will avoid the smell and health risks.
You also have the option to choose eco-friendly paints that are nearly non-toxic if you are highly concerned about the VOCs.
Keeping all the above things in mind, you also need to consider the following things before choosing the right kind of paint for a wooden frame and sills:
- The material and surface of the frame
- Previous paint that is present on the frame
- The desired sheen and finish you want to get for the frames
- The best color options for frames like white, black, brown, grey, etc
Based on your requirement, the paint you need to choose is available in semi-gloss, high-gloss, eggshell, satin, and flat/matte finishes.
How to Get Paint Off Wooden Window Frames?
If your window frames show signs of old peeling paint, do not paint over them.
Instead, first, remove the paint altogether from the frame and then prepare the surface for painting.
For an old stubborn paint that’s hard to remove, you are going to need a paint stripper, as opposed to paint thinners like turpentine and mineral spirits.
Because paint stripper is a more potent chemical, it should be handled with gloves and protective eyewear.
Using a paintbrush, apply the store-bought or homemade paint stripper thickly over the old paint.
Make sure you thoroughly get the stripper over every part of the paint, including cracks and gaps between the wood panels.
The label on the paint stripper should specify how long to leave the stripper to set it into the paint.
After waiting for a specified time, use a firm but non-damaging edge to scrape the paint off.
This can be a plastic putty knife, an old credit card, or something similar.
You can use a thin object like a toothpick to scrape the paint out of the cracks. Be careful not to scratch the wood while doing this step.
If the paint does not come entirely off, use a heat gun for paint removal to soften the paint.
Then add a little bit more paint remover and try again.
Once all the paint is removed, wipe the area with a damp cloth to clean off any last debris and remaining paint stripper.
Once the area is clean and dry, you are ready to apply the paint.
What to Do if the Window Frames are Water Damaged?
This is usually a problem for homeowners with old pre-painted window frames made entirely of oak and installed outdoors.
With rainwater and moisture seeping over time into the sash and other parts of casement window frames, water damage is a common problem for them.
Fortunately, there are ways by which you can deal with the wet wood problem without making a hole in your pocket.
If the damage is minor, you can repair and seal the rotten frame using a caulk or wood filler and then paint.
Make sure to use an exterior grade caulk for doors and window frames before painting.
Conversely, replacing a rotten piece of wood is good if there is significant damage. And paint it over.
Repairing and fixing wet wood may seem to take a lot of your time, and there’s no guarantee that the problem will be solved completely.
What Additional Steps to Take to Keep the Frames and Sash from Rotting?
A great way to avoid all the maintenance and keep your frames from rotting again is to consider installing metal frames (made of aluminum or steel).
That will come at a steep cost. So , if you do not want to invest that good amount of cash, here are a few things you can do:
1- Storm window with proper drainage:
Storm windows with weep holes at the bottom of their frame ensure that the moisture, when collected between the storm window and window, gets drained off freely.
Once in a while, you must examine whether these weep holes are adequately drilled and not clogged.
For prevention, use a wire piece and push it through the holes, so they drain freely. If clogged severely, you may consider re-drilling them to clear the blockage.
2- Repair all the holes and cracks:
Small cracks and holes (often made by thriving insects) can also be a reason for water seeping in and causing the wood to rot.
You can see them as brownish or yellowish stains on wood, which often feel spongy when touched.
If there are such signs, you fix them by filling them with high-quality wood filler meant for filling large holes.
You may need tools like an awl, wood chisel, and medium-grit sandpaper to smoothen and fill the surface.
3- Prime and waterproof the frame with a sealer:
There’s nothing better than priming and sealing the wooden frames – before and after you paint.
Using a high-quality exterior-grade weather-resistant primer and sealer will make the frame waterproof and keep them from getting damaged very soon.
Follow all the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully when applying multiple coats of waterproof sealers, and it will protect the wood from rot due to extreme weather conditions for a long.
For such a big payoff and relatively little cost, repainting your timber-made doors and window frames should be a no-brainer for anyone who wants to give a facelift to their home.
However, repainting your wooden door and window frames is not as simple as repainting your picture frames or a TV frame at home.
The project may need good attention and care before you can get the desired PERFECT finish.
So, choose the right paint products and tools before you get started. And follow the proper steps, so you do not end up creating a mess.
Following the steps I have mentioned above will hopefully make your job easier. And the result you will be getting is like what you have in your mind.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.