How to maintain wood windows & doors

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04 Jul 2013

Wooden windows need periodic care in order to ensure they maintain their good looks, durability and proper function.

Sealants offer an easy wipe down preparation for trouble-free maintenance and are basically an oilier, thinned-down, solvent-based varnish.

Cobus Lourens from Swartland has a few tips for homeowners on proper maintenance of wooden windows and doors:

What kind of finish do you have on your windows?

Lourens says there are three main types of finishes used to seal wood.

Varnishes: In the past, varnishes were commonly used in wet and humid coastal areas. The idea was to encapsulate the timber in a skin. However, if varnish is exposed to the sun, it becomes brittle and hard and this prevents it from moving with the substrate, causing the coating to tear and crack. Eventually, this will lead to water entering behind the skin – initiating pealing and flaking.

Removing and recoating wood that has been sealed with varnish is hard work. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to sand the entire window – simply close the window to see which parts are exposed to the outdoors, and sand down the coating on the exposed parts. You will find that in some parts, normal sanding won't remove all the varnish and you will need to use sugarsoap or paint-removers to remove it in these spots. Once all the varnish has been removed, you have to wash the residue off with water, and allow the wood to dry before re-coating. All other internal surfaces only need to be roughened slightly with sandpaper in order to give the new coating something to grab onto.

Sealants: Sealants offer an easy wipe down preparation for trouble-free maintenance and are basically an oilier, thinned-down, solvent-based varnish. Sealants are a better option for sealing wood as they are easier to apply and easier to maintain. They are durable as well – with a lifespan of anything from one year to five years on exposed surfaces.

Manufacturers recommend that you treat your wooden windows and doors annually, however, for our harsh South African climate, it's recommended that you treat it just before the rainy season and again before the sunny season.

When the coating dries out, all you need to do is to give the wooden window a slight sand, and in some cases, you can forego the sanding altogether and simply give it a wipe down with a cloth soaked in a mineral turpentine. Then, allow the surface to dry well before re-coating it in fresh sealant.

Oils: This is an old method of sealing wood. Inland regions used oils to nourish wooden windows and doors, however, oil as a sealant has a short lifespan and if it is not thinned down, build-up can occur, making the surface look tacky.

To remove and re-coat the wood, all the tacky bits have to be scraped off and the timber must be washed down with mineral turpentine and allowed to dry before you reseal the wood.

What is the best option to reseal your wooden windows and doors?

Lourens says that water-based coatings are the best option on the market for sealing wood as they are the easiest to maintain and apply.

He recommends using Maxicare water-based coatings as it offers the best protection, durability, and ease of maintenance currently on the market.

The benefits of the Maxicare water-based wood sealant are that it is eco-friendly, the coating offers increased flexibility and it has excellent durability - if the wash-and-wipe maintenance programme is followed, there have been reported cases where this sealant has lasted for up to nine years in the harsh conditions of the Arizona desert.

The benefits of the Maxicare water-based wood sealant are that it is eco-friendly, the coating offers increased flexibility and it has excellent durability - if the wash-and-wipe maintenance programme is followed.

Lourens says the sealant is fast-drying, making it easy and quick to apply, it is lead-free, stain and water repellent. And it protects the wood against fungus and dry rot.

Treat your wood

Manufacturers recommend that you treat your wooden windows and doors annually, however, for our harsh South African climate Lourens recommends that you treat it just before the rainy season and again before the sunny season.

He says with the Maxicare Wash-and-Wipe maintenance programme, the maintenance is quick and easy to do, comprising of three steps that need to be followed twice a year.

  • Step 1: Wash the frame when you wash your windows with normal soapy water.
  • Step 2: Clean the wood with the cleaning agent provided in the kit in order to remove any salts and chemical residues where necessary.
  • Step 3: Simply apply the protective emulsion supplied in the kit. You can apply the emulsion to a sponge and then wipe it onto the timber. 

Lourens notes that if the water-based sealant dries out after many years, a good wash and a light sanding will be more than enough preparation before re-sealing. Simply recoat the wooden surfaces with a brush and do your normal preventative Wash-and-Wipe maintenance as laid out above.  

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