When it comes to painting varnished window frames to get a good finish you need a good start. Like any type of painting, the preparation and priming is key. Generally the main reason we are asked to paint varnished window frames is because they have been left unmaintained and over the years the varnish or stain has come away. As you can see in this picture the varnish or stain has completely come away in some areas leaving the wood exposed to the elements. Over time the wood will become black with mould and mildew in areas and also start to rot. If your windows and doors are this far gone then its going to be very difficult to get them back to anything resembling there original condition. This is quite typical of most of the exterior windows we are asked to repair and paint.
One of the first things that will need to be done is sanding and scraping all the loose coating away. Before painting varnished windows frames and doors you need to be sure that the original coating is well bonded to the wooden surface. If its not solid, that is, if it scratches or scrapes away easily, then the old coating will need to be removed. I know this sounds like a lot of work but it needs to be done! If you just skip this step and go straight to priming then you are pretty much guaranteeing that the entire job will need to be done again, properly. You don’t need to remove all the old coating, just anything thats easy to remove.
Once the old loose coating has been removed by scraping & sanding, whatever varnish coating is still left should be given a quick clean and a good rub down with sandpaper. Some soapy water for cleaning and 150 grit paper sandpaper for sanding will be perfect for this.
Now you can move onto priming. You can look at different types of primer here. Personally I would recommend using an oil based primer like Zinsser Coverstain for example. Coverstain is a good all round primer and is excellent for painting varnished window frames & doors. Once the primer has dried you might need to carry out some filling in places, for this use a combination of caulk and an exterior wood filler. The less filing you do the better as the filler will probably be the first thing to fail as the years go by, so go easy!
Once everything has been filled you will need to sand down the woodwork a little and also sand down the wood filler (try not to sand over caulk or leave caulking until after the woodwork has been sanded). You will find that the first coat of primer has made the woodwork feel slightly rough because now the hairs of the timber have risen up. This is normal and you just need to sand these hairs smooth again. Once sanded and dusted down its good to apply another coat of primer, just to be sure everything has been completely primed.
If you have used Coverstain this far then you now have the option of either using a water based top coat or an oil based top coat. Either will go over Coverstain well. I would recommend using an oil based top coat as it will last longer than a water based paint, from my experience. Also the higher the sheen the longer it will last as a general rule. Satin & eggshell finishes are what most people want these days but they don’t last as long as a gloss finish. The best paint you can use, in my opinion, is Sikkens Satura plus. This is a hard wearing semi-gloss oil based paint. This is what I would use on my own windows.
This is what painting varnished window frames & doors with Sikkens Satura Plus looks like.
This actually looks great and will last a lot longer than the varnished or stained coating. It really brightens up the house now! To do this for yourself you will need the following tools and materials.
The tools you will need for this job are:
The materials you will need for this job are:
When buying all your supplies I would recommend using a dedicated paint shop like Stillorgan Decor for example, they’ll have everything you need and can also give advice if necessary.
Here are some more before and after pictures of painting varnished window frames to give you an idea of how it can look.
All of these windows & doors have been finished with Rubbol Satura Plus.