Window Painting Made Easy

Jeremy Holderness

Paint On Glass After A Window Painting ProjectA painter friend of mine was recently recounting an incident that happened while he was doing some window painting at a customer's home.  The house had old divided lite windows with small individual panes of glass separated by muntins; and if you've had any experience with painting divided lite windows you know how tedious and time consuming they are.  The customer came home from work and found that he had painted each of the windows in their entirety, glass and all.  She was furious, and promptly kicked him off of the job without giving him the opportunity to explain the situation.

In her defense, he absolutely should have communicated what his process was, as I'm certain most homeowners would be outraged to see what, by all appearances, was such shoddy workmanship.  However, if he'd had an opportunity to explain himself he could have shared with her the method behind his madness, and the reason why he was able to save her so much time and money on her project versus the other contractor bids she received.

In hopes that she's reading this article I will do just that right now.


The Old Way

Even if you're dealing with a single pane of glass in each sash with no divided lites, it's still tricky to get it to turn out looking good when you're painting windows, especially where the glass meets the frame of the sash.

You either need the steady hand of a surgeon or the time and patience to mask off along all of the edges of the frame and around each and every muntin edge with painter's tape if you don't want to make a mess out of your window panes.

But to make matters even more confusing, windows come in a lot of different designs that affect how you can and should paint them.

Simulated Divided Lites - In addition to the dreaded divided lite windows I spoke of, modern manufacturers want to give customers the classic look of a divided lite window but still provide the energy efficiency of one piece of double or triple pane glass in each sash.  So they accomplish this often by simulating the divided lite look.  We commonly see windows with wooden grills that are adhered to the glass on the inside of the window rather than traditional wood muntins, which gives it that desired look while still maintaining the efficient construction.

As I said, these are not actually individual panes of glass, but when it comes to painting them you pretty much have to treat them that way, except for the fact that they're usually only attached on the inside and not both sides -- making the faux muntins maintenance-free on the exterior.

Removable Grills - Some manufacturers achieve the same effect by installing a removable grill onto the inside of each sash.  If your windows have these then you'll be thanking your lucky stars when it comes time to paint.

All you have to do is pop them out, paint them, and put them back in.  Truly easy.

Grills Inside The Glass - This is another design we see often, where a grill is adhered in-between the double or triple pane glass.  This is even easier than the removable grills because there is no painting at all.  The only drawback is that you can't change the color (they're usually white), and there is some debate amongst competing window manufacturers as to whether this design compromises the energy efficiency of the window, but that's neither here nor there as it relates to this article.


The Easy Way

So what is this revolutionary new way that will make your life so much easier when it comes to painting windows?  Well what if you didn't have to have a steady hand or spend hours with a roll of masking tape to get clean, crisp lines around your glass?  What if you could just brush on some magic liquid all over the entire sash that would allow you to paint the frame and the muntins but protect the glass and keep any paint from sticking to it? 

As my painter friend found out -- although his customer may never -- it turns out you can.

It's called Masking Liquid H2O.  And it is just what its name implies...liquid masking tape.  Even better though, this product also doubles as a primer, which means you don't need two separate products.  Just brush it onto the glass as well as onto the frame and the muntins if you need to prime them (after the surface has been prepared), then allow it to dry and apply your topcoats over it.  It works great as a primer for:

• Bare Wood
• De-glossed Previously-Painted Surfaces
• Dull, Primed Metal
• Vinyl
• Finished Aluminum

It's an interior/exterior water-based clear coating so it's easy to work with and cleans up with soap and water.  Once your paint is dry simply take a utility knife or the edge of your scraper and score the paint film where the window glass meets the frame and any muntins, then simply peel the film off of the glass.  It really is that easy and painless.

Where You Shouldn't Use It - As great as this product is for making this job easier, there are some limitations to its use.  It is not intended to be used on:

• Stained Glass
• Frosted Glass
• Coated Glass
• Etched Glass
• Tinted Glass
• Textured Glass
• Plastic Glass
• PlexiGlas

If you have any questions about whether or not you have one of these types of glass in your windows you might want to consult a professional, consult with the manufacturer of the window -- assuming you can find that information -- or just not take the chance.

I would also not use it on windows with old, weathered, dry wood frames because that situation really requires a slow-drying oil based primer to properly seal the wood prior to painting.  Also, if you need to reglaze your old windows prior to painting, it is best to use a slow oil as well to seal the new glazing compound.



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photo by: petkation / CC BY CC0








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