Staining new wood windows. Interior Finishing:

Staining Wood Window Sashes -
Andersen 400 Series


In This Article:

Andersen 400 Series window sashes are removed from the window frame. Wood sashes are stained and finished with urethane.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About an hour per sash

By , Editor


I prefer to use Andersen 400 series double-hung windows because they employ vinyl cladding on the exterior and bare wood for the interior components. I've never seen any suggestions for finishing these bare wood interior parts.  The first time I finished an Andersen 400 series window I just brushed on some urethane while leaving the windows in the track. That worked okay, but when a client had four new double-hung windows to stain and urethane I decided to figure out how to remove the sashes and finish them on a workbench.

Later, on my own home, I finished the windows shown in this article.

The basic Andersen 400 Series Tilt-Wash double-hung window. In the bay window part of the dining room, we installed two of these double-hung windows flanking a large fixed-pane window.


To make window washing easier, Andersen installs these small plastic "ramps" on the lower sash of their 400 series windows.


First you raise the lower sash...


...then you push down the little ramps...

Removing Andersen windows.


Remove Andersen Tilt-Wash window sash.

...until they are fully seated.


Then you grab the top of the window sash and pull firmly.

At this point the outside glass surface can be cleaned from inside the house.

Taking Andersen window sash out of frame.


Removing The Window Sashes:

Lower Sash:

To remove the lower sash, I tilted the window until it was horizontal.


There are some stainless steel spring-clips visible inside the window track.

Steel spring clips on Andersen windows.


I inserted a narrow flat-blade screwdriver in the track and pushed against the spring-clip.


Then I pulled up on that side of the sash.


Tilting Andersen window sash out of jambs for removal.

After I released the other side, I angled the sash further to allow the pins to clear the grooves in the track.


Upper Sash:

I dropped the upper sash until it was halfway down.

Andersen 400 Series windows use spring-loaded tracks that push firmly against the sides of the sashes. Since there are no "ramps" for the upper sash, I pushed hard against the plastic track to move it inward.

But this seemed kinda difficult.


Note how the sash has grooves that ride over ridges in the track.


I discovered that I could use a flat-blade screwdriver to carefully pry the track away from the sash.


Then I grabbed the top of the sash and pulled inward.


After I had dislodged the upper sash from its track, it collided with the inner portion of the track (the track for the lower sash). I had to push against the inner part of the window track to let the sash pass over.


Then I could tilt the upper sash inward.

At this point the outer glass could be cleaned.


I tilted the upper sash until it was flat.


Just like the other sash, I used a screwdriver to release the spring clips, then I pulled the sash upward and angled it to remove it from the opening.


Preparing The Sashes For Finishing:

I laid the window sashes on some boards strung across a pair of sawhorses.


I removed the window locking hardware.


Each sash has two screws holding its hardware.

This is the upper sash. Note the orientation of the hardware... it's easy to get this piece backwards during re-installation.


I used 120 grit sandpaper to clean up the wood sash, being careful not to scratch the glass.


The wider surfaces had a lot of dirt, paint and drywall mud on them, which needed to be cleaned up.


There is a gasket on the upper sash...


...that can be removed by simply prying and pulling.


After the sanding was done, I used compressed air and a blow gun to clean off the dust.


Applying The Finish:

I sprayed the first part of the M.L. Campbell two-part professional stain system.

This is an acetone-based "tinter" (WS2-M306) that dries in a few seconds, and can be recoated within five minutes.


I sprayed on the second coat of stain , which is called "Rich Cherry". This product actually has some pigment, and takes a few minutes to dry.

Applying stain to wood window with spray gun.


Brushing stain to spread evenly.

I sometimes use a very soft natural-bristle brush to touch up the second coat of stain before it dries. If I apply the stain too heavy in one area, I have a few minutes to blend it with some careful brushing.

But this takes practice.

I can also lighten the color by spraying on some solvent (lacquer thinner in this case) and brushing it, but that is r-e-a-l-l-y tricky. Sometimes I've just wiped off the second coat of stain and started over.

The first time I stained Andersen 400 Series windows, I used the same M.L. Campbell stain system, but I brushed it on. This stain is meant to be sprayed, but brush application may work for small projects. When I brush on this stain it is very difficult to control the darkness of the color. I can spray a very thin coat, and then add a little more... there is no way I can brush on a very thin coat.


To clean off the overspray, I put some solvent in the spray gun and sprayed a little bit on a paper towel.


Then I just wiped off the excess stain. By constantly turning the towel I could prevent the stain from being re-deposited on the glass.

After I cleaned the stain overspray off the glass, I sprayed the first coat of urethane on the wood.


Different Window, Different Stain:

On this pair of windows, I tried a white pickling stain from Cabot...

Staining window bare wood with Cabot pickling stain.


...This stuff.

This product, like many consumer-grade stains, contains linseed oil. I'm no chemist, but I'd guess that these products are meant to be user-friendly because they give you time to wipe off the excess. But that advantage comes at the expense of a slow drying time.


After letting the stain sit for about 10 minutes, I wiped off the excess with a paper towel.

This stain is supposed to dry for 4-6 hours before covering.

I didn't have that much time, so I sprayed a coat of urethane over the pickling stain after about 2 hours. Since spraying urethane does not involve actually touching the wood, I have been able to successfully cover stains that were not completely dry. But... if I get a run or a drip, then I need to brush it smooth, and the brushing can "dig up" the stain and mix it with the urethane. But that is not always a problem.


This stain looks so... 1985. Yuck. This is not proper old-house interior finishing, but I'll let it slide this time.

Now I understand why my Mom gave me this nearly-full can of stain. Nobody wants it. It's like fruitcake!


Back To The Real Stain:

On the red-stained windows, I scuff-sanded the first coat of urethane, using 220 grit sandpaper.


I used fine steel wool on the edges of the sashes, next to the glass.


I applied the second coat of urethane with a brush, because it was too windy to spray.


The brush shown above is the best paint brush I've ever had. It leaves very few brush marks in the finish.

In the early 1990's a former neighbor, a retired furniture-industry worker, gave me two of these. I can't ask him about the source because he passed away in 1996. The words "oxhair signwriter" and "Made in Germany" are printed on the handle. The bristles are fine and soft, and hold together when wet with urethane or stain.

Using water-based products with animal hair brushes like this can ruin them.


After a couple of hours of drying, I removed the excess urethane.

First I ran a razor scraper around the joint between the glass and the wood.


Then I scraped the glass with the razor scraper.


Jambs, Etc:

The sash of the large fixed-glass window could not be easily removed, so I stained it in place, using a small brush. At the same time I also stained the jambs around all three windows.

After the stain was dry I brushed on a coating of urethane. When the first coat was dry I scuff-sanded it (because the first coat always raises the grain) and applied a second coat.

As you can see, I got some stain on the white plastic parts of the window. I've found that the best solution is to let the stain dry and scrape it off with a paint scraper.

The Tilt-Wash windows have been stained and urethaned. Now they need jamb extensions and casing.


A Note On Stain Products:

The M.L. Campbell professional-grade stain I used on this project is intended for painting contractors and cabinet builders. I bought this stain from a local contractor-oriented paint supply store. Their products are only sold in gallon cans, and at $30 to $40 a gallon it requires a considerable investment just to experiment with some stain colors.

I have also used various brands of consumer-grade stains, such as Minwax and Old Masters. These worked quite well in my HVLP sprayer, but they take a long time to dry, perhaps up to 12 hours. All of the consumer-grade stains I have used are based on mineral spirits, which is less volatile than lacquer thinner or acetone, so there is (slightly) less risk of blowing yourself up in a cloud of flammable vapors. These windows could be finished with consumer-grade stain and ordinary urethane, but it might not be possible to complete the job in one day, thereby requiring another round of sash removal and replacement (or placing a sheet of plywood over the window opening).

Of course, these window sashes could be finished by hand-applying consumer-grade stain, and brushing on urethane when the stain is dry, but the entire process could require two or more days.



Tools Used:

  • HVLP Sprayer
  • Air Compressor
  • Paint Brush, Natural Bristle

Materials Used:

  • Stain
  • Urethane

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Written January 13, 2006