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How To Care For Wood Window Frames

Wood window frames for homes have many benefits. Their classic look makes them an excellent choice for historic and craftsman homes as well as log cabins. And they are made from wood—a natural, renewable resource.

Natural wood window frames have the power to insulate a home 400 times more than steel window frames and an incredible 1,800 times more than aluminum window frames. They’re also much better at limiting the noise that travels from outside your home than aluminum and vinyl window frames.

The downside? Wood window frames do require more regular maintenance than other types of window frames. But, with proper upkeep, these aesthetically pleasing window frames can last as long as 30 years and increase the value of your home.

How Does Climate Affect a Wood Window Frame?

Unlike aluminum and vinyl window frames, all wood was once a living material and is therefore susceptible to changes with the weather. Wood expands and contracts as temperatures and humidity fluctuate. The more your window frames change with the weather, the more maintenance they require.

If you live an area with harsh and direct sunlight, you will need to care for your wooden window frames more often to prevent the wood from drying out and cracking. Regularly oiling or waxing the wood will nourish it and help prevent problems from arising.

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In areas with high humidity, like homes by the beach, wood windows may take on moisture. This will require more regular sealing and re-caulking as they expand and as old caulking comes loose.

Wood window frames are especially subject to damage from regular wetness common in areas with lots of rain or winter snow. The longer the window frame stays wet, the higher chance it has of rotting. However, it’s still possible to install wooden window frames in these climates. Just be sure to install an overhang or awning over the window frame to prevent water from running down and knock any snow accumulation from the exterior of the frames.

Problems Common with Wood Window Frames

With regular maintenance, wood window frames will retain their timeless look and last as long as 30 years. If you neglect them, though, they will deteriorate and begin to look old and unloved.

Common problems arising from lack of maintenance include:

  • Cracks

  • Foggy glass

  • Mold and mildew

  • Wood discoloration

  • Peeling paint and stain

How to Care for Wood Window Frames

Wood window frames should be checked and cleaned every six months to maximize their life and keep them looking nice.

Charl Jacobz, a Swartland homeowner with wood frames explains that periodic maintenance does not have to be too time-consuming. "If done regularly, it can head off any potential problems before they have begun or in the early stages. This will no doubt save you lots of time, effort, and money in the long run.”

Do a Quick Cleaning & Inspection Twice a Year

Start by wiping the window frame interior and exterior clean of dirt, dust, and debris with a clean, dry cloth. Soot and dirt can cause serious damage to a wood's finish due to their relative acidity. Wiping them clean will reveal any issues hiding underneath and help prevent any others from cropping up.

Next, use a cloth, gentle scouring pad or soft-bristled brush to clean the wood window frame with warm water and mild soap. You can use any neutral soap you have on hand or a specially formulated wood soap. The trick is to use minimal liquid and avoid soaking the wood, so definitely do not wash it down with a hose or pressure washer.

If your window frames are exceptionally grimy, you might consider adding a teaspoon of baking soda to your soapy water. And, if your window frames are painted white, you can apply a little diluted bleach to lift stains quickly. To avoid discoloration, never apply bleach to window frames that have been treated with a stain, varnish, wax, or oil.

Once clean, wipe the frame with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture and let dry. While your frames dry, check for any signs of:

  • Cracking

  • Peeling paint or finish

  • Loose or torn caulking

  • Weatherstripping damage

  • Moisture between window panes

Preventative Maintenance Hot Spots

Cleaning and checking your wood window frames twice yearly will help you spot any changes in the wood and point you in the direction of extra maintenance needed to prevent issues from arising.

If You Notice Mold or Mildew

Mold and mildew may collect on wood window frames as moisture builds up inside or outside your home. If you notice these problems on the interior of the frames, consider investing in a dehumidifier that will proactively remove excess moisture from inside your home and help keep your family healthier.

To clean up existing mold and mildew, mix a solution of four parts water and one part distilled white vinegar and apply it to the affected areas. Let the solution sit for a few minutes and then clean as instructed above.

If You Notice Cracks in the Wood

Cracks can show up out of nowhere as the wood expands and contracts with the change in seasons. If you do notice a crack forming, clean it out, and fill it with exterior wood filler. Once dry, sand the spot smooth and refinish the entire window frame to seal it.

If You Notice Loose or Cracked Caulking

The caulking on the edges of your window frames will need to be touched up every so often. Any signs of cracking, broken or loose caulking is your cue to trim the old caulking and re-seal with a heavy-duty exterior caulk.

If You Notice Foggy Glass

Windows that appear foggy or frosted are often a sign that the seal on your window is broken and moisture has found its way inside. Call a professional to determine whether a whole window replacement is necessary, or if it’s possible to replace just one pane and re-seal.

How to Refinish Wood Window Frames

Last, but certainly not least, every wood window frame should be refinished every two to three years to protect it from the elements proactively. You’ll find the exterior will require refinishing more often than the interior, but doing them both at the same time is a good practice.

Start by sanding the entire window frame with some fine-grit sandpaper. Wipe the dust away with a clean, dry cloth.

Next, apply an even coat of your choice of stain, varnish, wax, or oil to the smooth, dry wood. If you choose to paint your wood window frames, be sure to use a latex or oil-based paint with primer included or prime first for best results, especially on the exterior. For interior finishing, look for zero or low VOC products. Water-based sealants such as Bio-Shield are healthier for your indoor air quality and won’t make you sick.

Bottom Line

With just a little love and regular maintenance, wood window frames can last at least 30 years. While they do require a bit more care than more modern aluminum and vinyl window frames, the aesthetic appeal of wood window frames is hard to beat.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Metro Detroit Windo does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.

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