How to paint window frames

Learn how to paint window frames properly and you'll be able to give your home a new lease of life

How to paint window frames
(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

Learning how to paint window frames takes patience and a steady hand, but it's super rewarding when you see the finished result. Painting wooden window frames will transform the look of your home, both inside and out, and it's much cheaper than investing in new windows. However, there is a tried and tested technique to painting windows to get the very best finish. 

It isn't complicated and as with any painting job, the key is good preparation and quality materials and tools. Follow experienced renovator Sian Astley’s advice on how to achieve a professional finish. Watch the video, or read the simple steps below.

Find out more about how to maintain timber windows on our dedicated page. 

You will need:

1. Clean the window frames

Before you begin painting timber window frames, wipe the window frames down with a clean, damp cloth to make sure there’s no dirt or debris on the wood. You may like to use a sugar soap for a deeper clean, which will also help the primer and paint adhere better. Lay a dust sheet under the window if needed.

2. Sand away any rough edges

Use a small piece of medium-grade sandpaper to sand away any rough edges or grooves in the timber window frame, which could show up through the paint and create an imperfect result. Work on small sections at a time and use your finger to feel where the rough parts of the timber are.

3. Brush off any dust

Once you’ve smoothed the surface, use a clean, dry paint brush to brush away the dust, making sure to remove it all so none goes into the paint. Use a toothbrush to get into corners or narrow areas.

bright yellow painted timber window frame from Crown

(Image credit: Crown)

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4. Remove handles

You don’t want to get paint on your window fittings, so it’s best to remove them at this stage. Simply use a drill or screwdriver to remove the screws and gentle pull the handle out. Keep the handle and screws in a safe place until you’re ready to reattach them.

bedroom window in 1700s new england farmhouse

(Image credit: John Gruen)

5. Mask off the area

For perfect straight lines and to make sure you don’t get paint on the window itself, use masking tape to mask off each window pane, ensuring you stick the tape as close to the timber as possible.

6. Apply an undercoat

This is a step that is worth the extra time and effort, as an undercoat will ensure the finish lasts. Ask your local DIY store if they can apply some dye to your undercoat if you’ve chosen a specific colour as the top coat. For example, if you’re painting your timber window frames in dark grey, you could use an undercoat, which has had some grey added to it. For white finishes, stick to a simple white undercoat.

7. Paint the first coat

Now you’re ready to paint the window frames in your choice of colour. Start in one place and carefully work away from this and around the entire frame. Avoid starting in one place and jumping to another, which could result in ‘dry lines’ and create an uneven finish. Use a small brush and a little amount of paint and paint thin layers, rather than a thick coverage. Leave the first coat to dry completely.

Freshly painted window frames look great against dark walls

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

8. Carefully finish the top coat

Apply the final coat of paint, ensuring that this is also a thin layer. Make sure that the whole window frame is equally covered. Leave to dry.

9. Reattach fittings

Once dry, carefully remove the masking tape. Then, use a screwdriver or drill to put the handles back into place and admire the results of your perfectly painted timber window frame.

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