Painting Interior Windows

This story covers the best way to paint interior windows and what to look out for when painting windows in place.


Windows suffer an amazing amount of stress. Every time you open them, you are working against inertia and stressing the joints. What's even more damaging, however, is that windows are exposed to more changes in temperature and humidity than most other parts of the house. Those fluctuations can take their toll on both the structure of the window and its paint, so windows may need to be painted more often than interior doors or other trim.

To get started on the right track, gather all your tools at the window. Remove locks, curtain hooks, and other hardware so you'll have an uninterrupted surface.

If you're painting the windows in place, use care to keep paint from getting between the sash and the stops -- where it can glue the surfaces together. Keep paint off the sash cords also.

Painting windows can take more time than you might think. It's always best to start the job in the morning so you can close the windows at night.

Prestart Checklist

From 1 to 2 hours to paint a 23-inch, 12-light double-hung window, depending on your skills and experience -- more if you are removing the sashes

Sash knife, putty knife, 2-inch sash brush, utility knife, bucket

Painting and masking double-hung window sashes

Clean and repair surfaces

Masking tape and paint

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 1

Gently work a stiff putty knife between the interior stops and the jamb. As you pry the stops free, take care not to dent them because you'll reinstall them later. Pull the nails through the back of the stops and save these pieces, or get replacement stops from your home center.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 2

Cut the cords from the front (lower) sash; the weights will drop into the pocket in the wall. Then lift out the front sash. If your window has chains, use metal snips or bolt cutters.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 3

Cut the cords and remove the upper sash. Remove the screw to open the door in the jamb that provides access to the weight pocket. Retrieve the weights so you can insulate the cavity. Replace the access door. If your jambs lack an access panel, leave the weights in place.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 4

Remove the side and top parting stops, using a utility knife to cut the paint between the stop and jamb. You'll discard these stops, so don't worry about damaging them. Grab a stop with pliers and wiggle it out of its channel. Repeat with each stop.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 5

Pull out the sash and place a piece of tape onto the jamb to mark the knothole position when the window is closed.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 6

Make an easel from a ladder for easy sash painting. Open a wooden stepladder and lock the hinges. Drive #10x3-inch all-purpose screws into predrilled holes in the center of each leg of the ladder, using a level to keep the screws on the same plane. Set the sash on the screws. This will put the sash at an angle that makes it very comfortable to paint.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 7

Using a trim brush or a sash brush and starting at a top pane, paint the inside edge of the muntins around the pane.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 8

Continue painting the remaining muntins around each pane, taking care to remove excess paint that gathers in the bottom corners of each joint.

Painting old double-hung windows: Step 9

When you have finished the muntins, paint the top and bottom rails, overlapping the joints on either end slightly. Then paint the vertical stiles. Painting in this order will eliminate crossed brush marks.

Painting the casing and trim: Step 1

Painting the inside of the frames is best done with the sashes removed. Paint or seal the inside track of the windows with a clear sealer. Then paint the top of the casing.

Painting the casing and trim: Step 2

Use a trim guard to paint the outside edges of the window trim, or mask off the edge with blue painter's tape. Let the paint set up for about 20 minutes, then remove the tape when the paint is still wet.

Painting the casing and trim: Step 3

Paint the inside edges of the front frame, then the face of the panels themselves. Finish the window trim by painting the top face and the sill and apron.

Removing paint from window glass: Step 1

If you haven't masked the windows, you'll have to remove the paint from the glass. Wait until the paint has completely dried (usually the next day) and hold a stiff metal straightedge next to the frames and muntins. Score the paint next to the edge of the glass.

Removing paint from window glass: Step 2

Use a single-edged razor blade or razor cartridge to remove the paint up to the scored line. Leaving a narrow edge of paint on the glass provides an additional seal against the outside elements.

Comments (2)
juno2013 wrote:

Seriously, for the love of all that is holy do not follow this advice. Terrible, irresponsible advice.

4/6/2013 03:48:50 PM Report Abuse
mzenor1 wrote:

This is bad advice about old windows. Do not cut the cords or chains! And don't get rid of the weights. This system for double hung windows has worked for over 300 yrs. It's the weights that make the window easy to open and stay open when you want. If you want to paint them you can do it without destroying the current system. Check other sites for better info on how to maintain the double hung windows.

5/28/2011 07:49:42 PM Report Abuse
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