You’ve probably come here searching for the silver bullet. The one ultimate and best paint for wood windows. The paint that you can slap a quality coat on and then forget about it for generations and your grandkids will sing songs of praise and admiration to you and your mad painting skills.
Sadly this magic paint doesn’t exist no matter what the internet and paint manufacturers tell you. Companies like RhinoShield claim that their product will allow you to “never paint your house again” (if you live less than 25 more years that is).
Here’s the truth most paint companies won’t tell you. Paint is designed to wear out. It is a protective layer that needs to be renewed from time to time to protect the structure beneath. Setting the proper expectations of what paint should do will go a long way.
How Long Will Paint Last?
According to CertaPro Painters, which is one of the largest painting contractors in the US, an exterior paint job should be expected to last approximately 5-10 years. That’s not very long and that price can add up quickly over decades of homeownership.
But don’t accept that average as fate for your house. The south and west side of your house will need repaitning more often due to excess exposure to the sun, whereas the north side can last twice as long before being repainted. Proper paint maintenance can also dramatically increase the life of your paint as can a restoration paint job, where all previous paint layers are removed and you start from a clean slate.
Determining how long a paint will last is largely determined with how well it is applied and if proper preparation of the surface is done (read: don’t hire shoddy painters). Another good determining factor is the solids content of the paint. A high solids content means more pigment and better color fastness as well as longer life.
The Best Paint for Wood Windows
With all this in mind I want to give you a few recommendations of my favorite paints for wood windows and more importantly why they are my favorites so you can make a better decision and not blindly follow some contractor blogger, even he is extremely intelligent with a winning smile like me!
Let me start by saying I only use exterior paints on wood windows whether I’m painting the interior or exterior. Both sides of a wood window get lots of UV exposure so having a paint designed to resist this is important. There are a few other things I look for when searching for the best paint for wood windows.
- Adhesion – For wood windows you want a paint that has extremely strong adhesion because in traditional windows you are lapping that paint onto the glass. Not many paints have the right characteristics to adhere well to wood, glazing putty, and glass equally well. The only way to know this is to do some testing on your own like I have. Each of these paints below I have tested and they perform admirably in this category.
- Durability – Enamel paints have typically been the preferred paints for windows and doors because they provide a very hard durable surface. For historic wood windows you have to walk a tight line here. If the paint is too hard then it won’t have the flexibility needed for exterior applications. As the wood expands and contracts the paint becomes brittle over time and can open up joints and allow water into the window where it doesn’t belong. You need a paint that it hard yet flexible and that can be hard to find.
- Blocking – Blocking is when paint sticks to another painted surface. Just look around the edges of most doors today and you’ll see the evidence of blocking. Windows are especially prone to this. If you use a paint designed for siding then you’ll be left with a window that is painted shut or operates marginally well. You need a paint that once cured isn’t too tacky to the touch.
- Color Fastness – This is where the high solids content and quality pigments come in. This is less important for light colors, but if you are painting your wood windows a dark color, then color fastness needs to be ranked at the top of your list.
So which paints are at the top of my list of the best paint for wood windows? There are three that I like in particular and my use of these will vary depending on what the project calls for. All of these paints are acrylic waterbased formula so clean up is simple. I’ve ranked each of them below based of the criteria I mentioned above so that you decide which might be a good choice for. I’ve ranked them on a scale of 1-4 check marks with 4 being the best in a category.
Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel
- Adhesion ✔️✔️
- Durability ✔️✔️✔️✔️
- Blocking ✔️✔️✔️✔️
- Color Fastness ✔️✔️✔️
Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec Exterior
- Adhesion ✔️✔️✔️
- Durability ✔️✔️✔️
- Blocking ✔️✔️✔️
- Color Fastness ✔️✔️✔️✔️
Sherwin Williams SherCryl HPA
- Adhesion ✔️✔️✔️✔️
- Durability ✔️✔️✔️✔️
- Blocking ✔️✔️
- Color Fastness ✔️✔️✔️
Give these paints a look if you are painting some wood windows. My company, Austin Historical, paints close to 1,000 windows a year and we have found these to be the best paint for wood windows.
Occasionally. we get to experiment with other types of paint at a client’s request and they each have their strengths and weaknesses, but these three have done well in a multitude of projects over several years for us and I’m confident that with the right prep and proper application they will work equally well for you too.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
6 thoughts on “The Best Paint For Wood Windows”
Perhaps this is a matter of preference, but I am wondering about sheen. I would ordinarily have used semi gloss, however the BM ultra spec comes in either satin or gloss (not high gloss). They’re just messing with me, I’m convinced. Please, someone, guide me toward the right answer for my little 50s ranch house in so cal.
Scott – Same priming question as John, except for the Ben Moore Ultra Spec. The Ben Moore product sheet for the Ultra spec recommends for wood: Ultra Spec® EXT latex Primer (N558). What is your experience?
For context, I’m preparing to remove, strip, reglaze, and paint the 2-over-2 single hung windows in our early 1800s house in coastal maine.
thanks for all of the work you do helping us learn how to save our old houses! We have an 1879 folk victorian in central Mass. We redid out windows several years ago. We used Linseed oil paint and glazing on the outside and are considering milk paint for the interior side. We are convinced after some testing that these were the original paints used. Do you know how these paints compare to the modern ones? Thanks!
Ok, but why NO comment about any oil based paints even if they are more and more difficult to obtain.
Scott – I greatly appreciate your real- world experience on this. As a home owner about to embark on some serious window work, I only get one time choose.
Do you use primer?
My windows are white, and in Charleston SC are exposed to humidity and sunload. I’m thinking I should use SherCryl. Would you agree that’s the best choice?
And what is the best paint for wood windowsills ( inside)?Thanks for this information.