How To Paint Window Frames [11 Steps]

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Painting window frames can be an especially frustrating part of performing a paint job around the home. Knowing which side of the frame to paint first, where to apply the painter’s tape, and how to remove old caulking can cause a novice DIYer to spin their wheels, wondering what to do first. But there are a few techniques that you can use to paint your window frames quickly and without a headache, and we’ve found them! 
 
Here are the steps to paint your window frames:
  1. Remove old paint
  2. Remove old caulk
  3. Clean The Trim
  4. Fill in any holes
  5. Sand the trim
  6. Apply a new layer of caulk 
  7. Tape the frame using painter’s tape
  8. Prime the window frame
  9. Paint the window frame
  10. Remove the painter’s tape
  11. Remove Paint From The Window Pane
Adding a fresh coat of paint to your window frames can offer a quick and simple way to make your home more aesthetically pleasing–not to mention that it adds to its curb appeal. Continue reading to learn more about the steps involved in painting your window frames. After this post, you’ll get your window frames painted within a couple of hours.
Close-up view on old hand holding paintbrush painting a window frame, How To Paint Window Frames [11 Steps]

How To Paint Window Frames

Man repaint a window frame with brown varnish

One of the most important aspects of painting your window frames efficiently is knowing how you will tackle the job and what materials you need to do so. Let’s take a look at how to get started with this project.
 
Things you’ll need:
  • Paint primer
  • 2″ paintbrush
  • Trim paint
  • Damp cloth
  • Small and large putty knives
  • 80 to 220 grit sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Trim paintbrush (1″ or 2″)
  • Wood filler

1. Remove old paint

Start the project by using your large putty knife to scrape away any old peeling paint from the window frames. Start at the top of the window frame and work your way to the bottom going clockwise around the frame. It’s important to remove any old paint because painting over it will cause the new paint coat to peel off quickly. If your window frame is new or unfinished, you won’t need to perform this step.
 
 
 

2. Remove old caulk

If your windows are older, the caulk between the trim and the windowsill has probably become brittle and dark. It’s best to remove it before painting the window frame. Use your putty knife or a paint scraper to dig under the layer of the caulk and then pull it away from the frame. If you cannot get under the caulk, use the corner of your putty knife and start at the corner seam of the caulk to help lift it up. 
 
 
 

3. Clean The Trim

After you removed the old caulk and peeling paint, wipe down your trim with a damp cloth to ensure that it is free of dirt any debris that may have fallen on it from the paint and caulk. Be sure not to overly dampen the cloth so that the trim won’t be wet before applying to paint. If the trim is especially dirty, you can use an all-purpose cleaner (depending on the type of trim you have) or a commercial degreaser to get rid of any dirt or grime that may be caked up on or around the trim. If your frame is made of metal, you can also use a rust-removing cleaning agent. Allow any type of frame to dry completely afterward.
 
 

4. Fill in any holes

While cleaning the trim, you may notice holes or dents in the window frame. Use wood filler to fill these holes, and then smooth them out with your putty knife. You may need to grab a 1″ putty knife if you have run into trouble getting in between the smaller cracks.
 
 
 

5. Sand the trim

If the trim has been painted before, you will need to ensure that the edges are smooth so that the new layer of paint bonds to it. For this, you can use 120-grit, 150-grit sandpaper, or 220-girt if the surface of the wood is especially smooth. Be sure to pay special attention to the corners of the trim and smooth out any scratches or areas where the wood has chipped. 
 
 
 

6. Apply a new layer of caulk 

Since the windows’ seams are now exposed, you’ll need to apply a new layer of caulk before painting frames. It’s best to use a caulk gun to ensure that the caulk is applied in smooth, even beads. Take your caulk gun and while applying gentle pressure, run it across each seam of the window, making sure to seal the gap between the windowsill and the trim completely. Go back over the caulk application with your finger or the edge of your putty knife to smooth them out. If the caulk beads up too high on the trim, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe it away.
 

7. Tape the frame using painter’s tape

Apply masking tape to the juncture of the window trim and frame, lengthwise. It’s best to cut the painter’s tape so that it measures about a third of the length of the section that you’ll be taping. Grab a pair of scissors to cut the painter’s tape at a 45-degree angle. Cut off another piece of painter’s tape and apply it to the other side of the window frame as you did previously.
 
 
 
Next, apply masking tape to the interior of the window frame. For this section, you can just tear the tape off normally–no need to cut it at a 45-degree angle. However, it’s best to tear off the tape using a smaller section so that you can avoid wasting any tape.
 
Tear off another piece of painter’s tape, making sure that it is about three to four inches longer than the frame’s bottom. Place the tape along the bottom and center it about two inches from each end. Next, take another piece and place it on the adjacent side of the trim, making sure that it overlaps it.
 

8. Prime the window frame

Start by priming the frame closest to the window (the inside of the frame). This is better than priming the outer-facing section, as you may accidentally smudge it with the back of your hand when you move into the inside of the frame. Use your angled paintbrush to apply the paint to the corners of the frames. Be sure to wipe any access paint off of your paintbrush to avoid dripping. Give the primer about an hour or two to dry before applying the paint.
 
 
 

9. Paint the window frame

Using a different paintbrush, apply paint to the insides of the frame in the same order as you did the primer. Follow it up by painting the section of the trim that faces the inside of the room. After the first coat of paint has dried (which can take about 30 minutes to an hour), apply a second coat. If you notice any small bubbles on the surface of the frame after the first coat of paint is applied, be sure to gently send them down with 220-grit sandpaper. 
 
 
 

10. Remove the painter’s tape

After the paint has completely dried, remove the painter’s tape. Never remove the tape before the paint has dried, or you’ll risk smudging the paint job. When peeling the painter’s tape away, use a steady swipe to avoid peeling the paint, in case it hasn’t completely dried).
 

11. Remove Paint From The Window Pane

Inspect your work after you apply the last coat of paint to ensure that there are no areas that were messed up. Also, take a look at the wall around the trim to make sure that you haven’t accidentally spilled any paint on it. If so, take a wet rag and wipe the paint away so that it doesn’t dry. If it dries, you may be able to remove it using a wet rag and soapy water. 
 
You can also use a utility knife or the edge of your putty knife, carefully, to go along the frame’s edge to remove any overlapping paint. Your cut line should be clear and neat ,and there should not be any overlapping or excess paint between the insides of the frame or on the wall trim (which will make the paint job look unprofessional).
 
 
 

How Do You Prepare Window Frames For Painting?

Preparing your window frame properly helps to guarantee a beautiful paint job. Here is a quick overview of how to repair your window frame before painting it:
  1. Assess the condition of the window frames
  2. Remove any old paint, caulk, and glaze
  3. Sand window frame to help the paint adhere to it
  4. Clean and dust the window frame to remove any dirt and debris that may hinder the final finish
  5. Fill any gaps or holes with wood filler 
  6. Re-caulk the seams of the frame and trim

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Window Frames?

The kind of paint that you use on your window frame depends on the material of the frame, and certain paints will work better with certain materials.
 

Wood

The most commonly used window frame material is wood. For wood window frames, the best type of paint to use is a high-quality semi-gloss or high-gloss paint. Both oil and acrylic based paints will work well. Paint with a higher gloss is best on the frames, as it is easier to clean and stands up better to wear and tear.
 

Vinyl

Vinyl is probably the second most commonly used material for window frames. Due to the impermeable nature of its surface, traditional paint will not fare well on it, and it may peel off prematurely. For window frames, it’s best to find a semi-gloss, gloss, or high-gloss paint specifically designed for vinyl surfaces.
 

Metal

Metal is also used for window frames, particularly on commercial buildings. The best paint for metal frames is an exterior gloss paint specifically designed for metal. This is important when painting metal as this type of paint contains rust-resistant agents that can help prevent rust from developing on the frame.
 

Medium Density Fiberboard

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF) is also sometimes used to build window frames. For this type of surface, latex gloss paint works well. The gloss on the paint will give the frame the durability that it needs to stand up to scuff marks and dirt. 
 

What Is The Best Color For Window Frames?

The best color for window frames depends on the overall decor of the home. The most commonly used colors for window frames include warm colors such as yellows, browns, reds, and oranges. However, if you are looking for a more contemporary appeal, cool colors such as purples, blues, greens, and grays may work better. No matter what color you choose, it’s best to be consistent so that the window frames flow smoothly with the rest of the colors of the home.
 

How Often Should Wooden Window Frames Be Painted?

On average, window frames may need to be painted every four to six years, though they can last for almost a decade before they require serious attention.
 

Wrapping Things Up

Close-up view on old hand holding paintbrush painting a window frame, How To Paint Window Frames [11 Steps]

We hope that this provided you with a comprehensive guide on how to paint your window frames. Remember, the best paint job starts with the best preparation.
 
Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:
 
 

 

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