Restoring Wood Windows: Frame Work

by Josh on December 31, 2009 · 4 comments

in Bedroom,Projects,Windows

Old windows get a bad rap. To listen to the way replacement window marketers tell it, old windows are creaky, stubborn, lead-coated draft monsters possessing a single-minded intent to kill your monthly heating & cooling bills. The current U.S. federal tax rebates for energy efficiency are also helping push window replacement to homeowners who want to consume less energy or get free money.

But the greenest–and likely cheapest–solution for old windows showing their age is to fix the windows you already have. And this is the best kept secret of old windows: unlike the new windows that too often replace them, old windows are made to be repairable. What’s more, when properly fitted with caulking, weatherstripping, and a tight-fitting wooden storm window they can compete on performance with new storm-less thermal pane replacements.

Meanwhile, back at Bungalow ’23…

When we last saw the project bedroom window frames, they were being stripped of paint.  The next steps in the restoration include repainting the frames, cleaning the mechanical parts, replacing sash cord and attaching new weatherstripping. The supplies for this work are easily and cheaply available at your local hardware store– I had no problem finding oil primer, quality paint brushes and sash cord at my neighborhood True Value store.

In fact, your local hardware store can be an excellent resource for window restoration. Besides selling the necessary supplies (like primer, paint, brushes, sash cord, weatherstripping, caulk, glass, glazers points, glazing compound, etc.) these stores often offer  reglazing service if you would rather have someone else set the glass in the window. Or if you want to outsource the whole window restoration project, the staff at your local hardware store will probably have a referral or two for you– after all, they probably outfit these people with their supplies.


Primer is the key to an effective paint job, and all my reading and recommendations encouraged oil-based primer for the windows. On bare wood, oil primer bites into the wood and is absorbed more deeply than water-based latex. It is worth the hassle of cleaning up with paint thinner. Once primed, I put two coats of high-quality acrylic latex paint over the primer.  My paint was color matched to “Light Antique Buff” from Sherwin William’s historic color palate for Arts & Crafts interiors. This color has nice warmth to it without being too buttery.

Window Frame Painted

When deconstructing the windows, I couldn’t help destroying the parting which had been well painted to both the upper sashes and the window frame. Fortunately, replacement parting stop was available at a nearby lumber yard for just $4 per 8 foot length. The parting stop is a strip of wood that fits between the sashes forming part of the track the sashes slide within. After I finish restoring the upper sashes of the windows, the parting stop will go in the slot seen in the photo above. For now, I have primed and painted the new parting stop to match the window frames.

Priming parting stop


Like the window frames they attach to, the pulley hardware required paint removal. I accomplished this by boiling the pulleys in a mild baking soda & water solution for an hour or so– a technique I’ve also used successfully on my entry light and other house parts. After their bath, I oiled the parts to prevent rust and help the pulleys roll smoothly. (The photo below also shows the original roller shade hardware, which I plan to re-install.)

Cleaned pulleys and hardware

To see these pulleys back in place, stay tuned for the second part of this window restoration series, which focuses on sash weights and weatherstripping.

Disclosure: I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Leeke December 31, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Hi. I’ve enjoyed the details on your window work.

How much did true value pay you for their DIY blog squad?



Richard July 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I enjoyed this article. I myself have an old house with no less than 33 windows! We have 8 or 8, 6 over 6, 4 over 4 etc with nice looking mullions? None of these windows curently open due to age paint and sealing off. I would love to save them, They look nice and 33 replacement windows would be really expensive even for the cheapest brands.
I would enjoy your advice/comments further
Oxford, NC


Howard November 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I enjoyed reading your blog. When we restored our windows, we stripped the channels but did not repaint. Wood does not slide over latex paint well. Beeswax on unpainted wood is the traditional method.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: