5 Ways to Restore and Repair Your Window Frames

Windows deliver light into your home and provide a view of the world outside your door. Through your window, the sounds of nature and the activity of your neighborhood filter into your home. You can open your windows to enjoy a soft breeze flowing through your home, and you can close them to keep the rain and cold out on harsh winter days.

Your windows beautify and enhance your home, but sometimes they need some TLC. Time, weather, and the elements deteriorate the finish and materials of all kinds of window frames. The sooner you get to restoring yours, the sooner you can help preserve them for the future and re-establish the attractiveness of your home.

Depending on the condition of your window frames, restoration may be a DIY job, or it may require a professional’s help. If you’re ready to dig in and get started, read on to learn five ways to restore your window frames.

  • Remove Rot and Rust

Depending on the frame’s material, you may face wood rot or rust. It is imperative to remove all corrosion and rust before doing any other restoration work. Damaged and leaking window frames also can lead to structural damage to your home, so repair is always necessary.

Sometimes the problems are obvious. Other times, however, you need to look more closely. Check for signs of discoloration, sponginess, or improper opening or closing of the window. All of these are signs something is wrong and needs further investigation.


Once you’ve identified any problems, you can begin to work on repairing the frame. With steel frames, surface rust is removed easily with a rag and any number of acidic liquids you have around the house, such as soda, vinegar, or lemon juice. Embedded rust will require a stronger acid purchased from a store, as well as some elbow grease on your part.

Wood rot must be removed from the wooden frame. After removing the decay, drill small holes into the remaining undamaged frame and use a wood epoxy and filler to repair the area. Larger areas of rot may require repair with similar pieces of wood cut to fit the damage. A restoration of this magnitude generally requires carpentry skills, so calling a professional may be in order.

  • Remove and Replace Putty

Window putty is the material around the glass’s edges next to the frame. Over time, the putty can become cracked and damaged. When this happens, the airtight and watertight seal of your window is compromised. A damaged seal leads to harm to the frame, sill, and beyond.

Replacing window putty is a tough job. It will require removing the window and chipping the old putty out with a chisel, and removing the old glazier points that held the glass in place. After cleaning the frame and removing the remains of the putty, prime the structure and install new glazier points.

Once the glass is back in place, apply a new bead of putty and trim off the excess. You may need to practice your technique to get the putty’s application right. When used correctly, window putty can last years and even decades.

  • Remove Old Paint

Peeling paint is an eyesore. Sometimes layers of paint were piled onto older frames, and it shows. Before removing paint, determine whether the old paint contains lead. Lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978. Lead-based paints cause health problems when inhaled or ingested. If the paint on your window frame tests positive for lead, take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself and others.

You can remove old paint in several different ways. Paint shavers and a sander are standard tools. A chemical stripper can help speed the process. A heat gun used with a scraper or putty knife is effective and less messy than chemical strippers, but don’t use heat near glass or cast iron because the heat the gun puts out can damage those materials.

  • Sand the Frame

Exposure over time may leave the surface of your window frame bare. Without protection, frame damage begins and worsens. If you’ve removed old paint from your frame, you are faced similarly with a bare frame that’s in rough shape. Sanding your window frame brings back the smooth finish the wood originally had, giving you an attractive surface with which to work.

Start with a heavier grit paper, but not too heavy. Too heavy of a grit or too heavy of a hand can etch deep scratches into a wood or metal surface. For metal, start with about 180 grit and work your way to 220. For wood, you can start with as low as 80 grit depending on the condition of your frame, then work to 220. You can sand by hand or using a random orbital sander to help make lighter work of the project. A mouse sander can be used in smaller areas if needed.

  • Paint Your Window Frames

Paint serves as more than an aesthetic tool for your window frames. It is also protective. After using the appropriate type of primer, select a quality exterior paint for your frames. Cover any nearby home surfaces with painter’s tape to protect them. You can use painter’s tape on the glass as well; however, it is just as easy to scrape any excess paint from the glass once it dries.

Paint the surfaces going in the same direction as the grain. If your window has any grid pieces, paint those first with a light coat of paint. Then, move on to the sides of your window and the sash, painting in the direction of the grain to hide brushstrokes better. After allowing the first coat to dry, paint a second light coat to ensure uniform color and a more durable finish.

Restoring your window frames is a labor of love, but it’s well worth your time and effort. If window frame restoration seems like too big of a chore, contact local professionals and get their opinions. Your window frames enhance your home’s appearance and prevent damage. By keeping your windows in good repair, you safeguard their longevity and your enjoyment of them for many years to come.