End the unsightly and potentially costly problem of chipped, peeling paint on your windowsills with these professional tips.

By Lauren Wellbank
October 15, 2020
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Credit: Getty / Kohshi Watanabe / EyeEm

The area around your window frame, just outside of the pane of glass, is often referred to as the windowsill. It's a trouble-prone area (everything from dirt to debris collects there), that can begin to peel over time. With routine maintenance, however, you can fix those peeling spots, head off any long-term damage, and even prevent future paint woes. Here's how.

Your paint's formula matters.

Peeling windowsill paint, although unsightly, isn't uncommon says Eamon Lynch, director of warranty service at Power Home Remodeling. "[Windowsills] are exposed to all of the elements, all of the time—from wind, rain, and snow to hail and UV rays. You name it," he says. Sometimes, your paint, both the type used and how it was applied, can be to blame, as well. "Homeowners sometimes use the wrong type of paint to begin with," Lynch adds. "For this type of project, it's important to use paint with latex components."

Address peeling windowsills as soon as possible.

The windows of your home are there to perform two jobs: to let light in and keep the elements out. If your paint is peeling, that means that the materials of your frame are exposed to the elements, making it harder for your windows to keep things like rainwater and temperature extremes at bay. "Clogged weep holes also may cause water to pool in places the window wasn't designed to withstand," Lynch continues. "The water can then find its way into the sill and lead to bubbling or peeling paint." When water is involved, he says, your problems increase to include rot, mold, and even unwanted pests. "If left unattended, the wet sills may become saturated enough for the water to be absorbed by the structural framing around the window."

Prep your window accordingly.

Before you begin any home repair project that will create dust and debris, Lynch says you should prepare the area and aim to make as small of a mess as possible. "Make sure you have a drop cloth and use a plastic dust barrier on the interior to keep debris from making its way into the living space," he says. "It's also helpful to have a shop vacuum and a damp rag on hand. If your home was built before 1978, you should also be aware of the possibility that lead will be present in the paint and wear a mask."

Take a gentle approach.

"A very basic thing I like to remind homeowners is to be gentle—when working on this type of project, you want to be careful not to break the window," he says, especially if the area is in particularly bad shape. "Don't just start pulling a rotted or damaged sill out from beneath the window. You'll create a bigger problem—or risk the window falling out of the frame. That's the time to call a professional."

Be cautious of where you apply paint.

After you scrape and sand the sill, smoothing uneven layers of paint, and you're ready to apply your paint—but be mindful not to paint your window shut. "Always try to remove the sash if possible," advises Lynch."

Cap your windowsills for a permanent fix.

Lynch's best tip will prevent you from having to paint your windowsills ever again. "'Capping' your windowsills, jambs, and headers in a vinyl-coated aluminum protects these parts without the need to maintain them as frequently," Lynch says, noting that this is the only option that will truly fix your peeling paint once and for all.

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