Painting Wood


When you have painted your ceiling and your walls, you can tackle the woodwork. But if you are putting up a wallcovering, paint the woodwork first.

Order of work

Paint woodwork in this sequence:

1. doors and surrounds

2. cupboards and shelves

3. window frames and window sill

4. fireplaces

5. skirting boards.


Bare wood. Seal knots with coat of patent knotting to prevent resin seeping through and discolouring top coats. Then prime with a wood primer.


If painting on top of gloss paint which has been washed and rubbed down, you need not use an undercoat, unless changing from a very dark colour to a light colour or white. But bare wood always needs an undercoat after knotting and priming.

Old paintwork in good condition (ie free from flaking or blisters). No need to strip. Wash down with a solution of warm water and detergent to remove dirt and grease. Rub down with a fine grade of wet and dry abrasive paper, wrapped around a small wooden block (eg a child’s brick). Wipe over with a sponge or rag, using clean warm water, to remove all traces of detergent. Allow to dry. Dust off loose material with a clean dry brush.

Old paintwork in poor condition

Areas which are flaking and blistering must be stripped. Use either a proprietary chemical stripper in fluid form or a blowlamp.

Chemical strippers are slower than blowlamps but easier for the amateur. Wear rubber gloves to protect your skin. Keep the stripper away from children and pets. Follow the directions on the can or bottle. Here is general guidance.

1. Apply stripper liberally with a brush.

2. Leave for up to 15 minutes for paint to soften and loosen.

3. Remove softened paint with a stripping knife. Use a shave-hook for mouldings.

4. Wash down with white spirit to remove all traces of stripper.

5. Rub down with glasspaper.

Blowlamps (paraffin or gas) must be handled with care; it is easy to burn the wood — or yourself. Take down inflammable furnishings such as curtains. Strip a small area at a time. Play the flame evenly over the surface to melt the paint. Hold the lamp in your left hand and work from right to left (if left-handed, vice versa). Use your right hand to scrape off softened paint with a stripping knife, turning the flame away from the surface.

Warning: melted paint shavings are hot and can burn. Place a container on the floor to catch them. Strip mouldings first. Use a shave hook and work from top to bottom. On flat surfaces, work from bottom to top. Finally rub down with glasspaper. Note: Accidentally charred areas of wood must be rubbed away or the paint cannot adhere Black deposits on wood from paraffin blowlamps must be removed with white spirit.

Gaps between two surfaces that may move (eg gaps between a window and a frame — glass expands; wood shrinks and swells). Chip and scrape away any crumbling putty. Replace with new putty, using your fingers or a flexible putty knife. A damp cloth will keep your hands clean and moist. Note: Bare wood must always be primed before applying putty; otherwise the wood will absorb the oil from the putty and weaken it:

Gaps in wooden joints (eg window frames, mantlepieces) and gaps between woodwork and walls (eg at skirting boards). Use a proprietary plaster-based cellulose-reinforced filling compound, sold in powder form to mix with water before use. It stays workable for about one hour. Use a small flexible filling knife. Allow the mixture to harden and then smooth down the surface with fine glasspaper.

Small surface imperfections (eg open grain in woodwork, tiny cracks). A new type of proprietary filler for fine surfaces — a pre-mixed paste for use without priming — can be easily sanded down to give a smooth finish. Do not use in layers of more than 1 in. (2.5 mm) thick.


To paint woodwork you need at least three brushes, 2 in. (5 cm), 1 in. (2.5 cm) and 3/4 in. (1.2 cm) wide. A special fitch with an angled head for cutting in on window frames and straight lines is sold in various sizes. Some people prefer their own well-worn in. brush for this purpose. Radiator brushes, with a head at right angles to a long metal handle, are useful for getting behind awkward projections. The handles can be bent if necessary. Small paint pads with mohair heads are also available for woodwork.

Painting techniques

Doors. Paint doors in one session to avoid a hard edge which will show up as a ridge. Plain modern doors. Remove fittings such as handles. Paint in 2 ft (61 cm) horizontal strips with 2 in. (5 cm) or 3 in. (7 .5 cm) brush starting from the top. Moulded or panelled doors. Do not overload brush with paint for mouldings, or paint will accumulate in ugly ridges. Work paint in well, using a 1- in. (1.2 cm) brush. Paint panels from top to bottom and from left to right. Work from the outside towards the middle of each individual panel. Paint remaining horizontal sections of the door from top to bottom and vertical sections from left to right.

Door frames. Use a 1 in. (2.5 cm) or 11in. (3.8 cm) brush. Work from top to bottom on vertical frames and from left to right across top frame.

Decoration ideas. Panelled doors can be painted in two colours: you could, for example, match the panels to the colour of the walls, with the door surround and frame in white. Or you could line the panels with fabric or wallpaper to match coverings elsewhere in the room. Modern flush doors (or old doors with flush coverings) offer a large flat surface on which you can paint stripes (use masking tape, making sure the gloss base coat is thoroughly dry) or motifs with stencils. “Minimise” a door in an ugly position by painting it the same colour as the walls.


Use a ¾ in. (1.2 cm) brush or a special angled brush called a lining fitch. To prevent paint getting on the glass use a metal shield or masking tape. Hardened paint on glass can be removed with a special scraper.

Sliding sash windows.

Avoid getting paint on the cords; it will weaken them. The outer sash is at the top of the frame when the window is closed. Paint its top and bottom edges the same colour as the outside of the window. But use the same colour paint as the inside of the window for top and bottom edges of the inner sash.

Casement windows.

1. Paint the part. That opens (one side is often fixed).

2. Paint the fixed window.

3. Paint the frame.

For the opening window, work in the following order:

1. inside of frame;

2. inside vertical edge:

3. all glazing putty:

4. horizontal and vertical glazing bars, working from top to bottom:

5. top and bottom horizontal rails:

6. stiles (vertical strips of the frame at outside edge of each window).

For the fixed window, follow sequence 3 to 6 above. Then paint the frame in the following order:

1. centre bar:

2. top and bottom bar;

3. side bars.

Finish with the window sill.

Metal windows.

Treat any rusty areas as follows:

1. scrape off loose particles of rust with wire brush;

2. remove areas of defective putty;

3. apply proprietary liquid rust-remover following instructions on the can;

4. prime exposed bare metal with metal primer, taking care that hinges are fully covered;

5. also areas where putty has been removed;

6. replace putty.

Skirting boards.

As skirting boards are vulnerable to knocks and scuffs, use a tough gloss paint. Press sheeting or brown paper right up to the skirting to avoid paint stains on the floor. Fold back loose carpet. Protect fitted carpet with wide adhesive tape which can be removed after painting has been completed.


Do not use emulsion waterborne paints. Oil-based paints may be used in colours to match your décor. Turn off the radiator and allow it to cool. Remove all areas of rust with a wire brush. If necessary apply proprietary rust remover. Prime bare patches immediately with metal primer. Allow new paint to dry for one week before turning the radiator on. There will be a slight smell at first but this will wear off.

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