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      It is undeniable that wood windows deliver a warm, natural beauty to a home that is difficult to achieve using alternates such as vinyl or aluminum units.  However, to preserve the beauty and functionality of wood windows, routine maintenance is essential. This routine maintenance does not require extensive knowledge or the help of a professional.  Here are a few homeowner friendly tips on how to properly keep wood windows functional and beautiful!



Begin by using a cloth dampened with a mild detergent solution to lightly wipe window frames, tracks and glass. The detergent solution can be made combining a few drops of dish detergent and warm water.  Spraying directly onto wood frame can result in oversaturation potentially resulting in damage to paint, finish or wood itself.



 After cleaning, begin carefully inspecting the window frame inside and out. You are looking for cracks in the frame, signs of rot, mildew or general damage needing repair.

  • ROT

Due to the wood frames consistent exposure to outside elements such as rain, snow, high humidity etc., moisture can penetrate the wood resulting in rot. Once discovered, rot must be dealt with immediately.  Moisture spreads very quickly so what may have started as a small area can grow rapidly.  Use steel wool to clear away as much rot as possible and uncover the extent of the damage suffered.


Due to its unique structure, wood expands in heat and contracts in cold.   A window is formed by series of joints that connect vertical frame sections to horizontal sections and are what make windows strong and resilient.  In cold weather wood fibers contract and window joints tighten whereas in a warm, humid environment, wood swells and joints expand. If the crack resulting from winter fiber contraction is immediately filled in the colder climate, the filler will be pushed out in the warmer climate as the wood expands. Sometimes it is best to leave the crack alone.  A general rule of thumb, unless light can be seen through the crack or the crack is large enough to fit a quarter, leave the crack alone. 



  • ROT

For minimal rot, sandpaper is all that is required to repair the damage suffered.  However, extensive rot may require a tool such as a wood chisel to uncover and remove damaged areas. Small gaps where the rot used to be may be visible.  If the gap is not extensive, epoxy wood putty can be used as filler before applying sealant.  For significant rot damage, a replacement part or replacement window may be required. 


Begin by sanding cracks of sizes large or small lightly with sandpaper.  For small stress cracks, sanding may be all that is needed to eliminate the crack. After sanding be sure to clean all dust generated in preparation for filling.  Epoxy compound or wood putty are popular fillers used to repair cracks.  To determine the best filler for your project, visit your local hardware store and read the product labels, which list their intended uses. Apply filler to the crack using a spackle to ensure it is packed tightly.  Give 24 hours for the spackle to dry completely.  Once again sand the surface for a clean application.  And of course, clean that dust!


                                            SEAL AND PROTECT

Protect the exterior and interior frame of a wood window by applying paint or stain.  For exterior applications, UV protected paint or stain is a good option for preserving your wood windows.  It is important to note that some UV protectant products may trap moisture, which could warp and potentially destroy the window.  To protect windows properly, moisture and UV protectant stains are another option to consider if needed. To determine which product best suits your windows, read the labels found on the paint or stain can. 

Prior to application, lightly sand the wood frame exterior. Coarse wood can break down sealant during the year.  Sanding for a smooth surface, which would allow the sealant to last, longer, can eliminate this.  After sanding, thoroughly clean the window frame using a turpentine dampened cloth.  Again, do not saturate the wood by applying cleaning solution directly onto the wood surface. 

Stains produce a distinctive look on different wood types therefore it is important to test the stain on scrap wood beforehand.  If the test looks blotchy, you should consider first applying a wood conditioner.  Apply stain using a brush or rag and let sit for a few minutes.  Remember, the longer the stain sits, the darker the finishing color will be therefore it is important to pay attention to time. Wait for the desired results, wipe off excess using a cloth and allow 24 hours to dry.  You may apply finish to complete the look.

For a professional looking finish, apply primer prior to paint.  Primer is a strong chemical bonder, which helps paint adhere to wood surfaces.  Using quality primer makes a significant difference in your paint job.  Once primer is applied, sand a second time and clean away dust.  Next, apply paint using a quality brush applying along the grain, NOT against.  It is important not to rush this step so to avoid the need to re apply to botched areas after drying.  *Note:  Do not paint in open sunlight, wind or under heated vent or fan.  For a professional finish, sand the painted area as done with the primer earlier, clean and apply final coat of paint. 

By following these simple steps every 12-18 months,   homeowners can keep wood windows looking great and optimally functioning WITHOUT needing to hire a professional.


**Note:  Do not paint in open sunlight, wind or under heated vent or fan.  Paint in a well ventilated area.