Window Finishing

An opportunity in waiting
Jim Snyder
July 3, 2017
COLUMN : From the Field | Design & Performance
A sash being sprayed in a paint booth. (All images courtesy of the author.)

When wood-frame windows are the best option for a homeowner, finishing them is part of fulfilling the installation process. Too often, this step is under appreciated. Many may think that it’s no big deal because there really isn’t much there to be painted or stained.

But those with window-finishing experience know that painting windows is tedious, and requires real skill and a lot of time to do well. I’ve frequently seen quality installations downgraded to mediocre by unskilled finishers (or even homeowners) who left uneven cut lines or rough surfaces, or even painted the sash shut. In some cases the finishing can even unintentionally get put off for months. This can sour the homeowner’s enjoyment of their new windows and reflect poorly on the installer.

But here, there is opportunity for installing dealers to offer finishing as part of an installation package. In the end, it can be a win-win—the finishing of wood-frame products is non-optional, so the work will come to someone. Why not to you?

Part of the upsell is conveying the value of the complete package to the homeowner: they won’t need to hire another contractor and will have less “construction” disruption time in their home. This is even more convincing if you’re the only bidder to offer finishing when competing for the business.

Installing dealers can either offer the option of finishing pre-installation or post-installation. Both have advantages; you need to consider your resources to make that decision.

Here, the sash is removed from frames and masked.

Pre-installation finishing

One of the pre-installation options is to order factory pre-finishing (from some manufacturers), a very appealing and cost-effective route, although color options are usually limited. Or, installing dealers can pre-finish the products beforehand with their own labor, offsite.

In either case, pre-installation finishing has great advantages. It’s less intrusive on the home, reduces job-site time and saves the homeowner from inhaling paint fumes.

Painting in advance can also result in a better finished product because factory-finishing is done prior to much of the product assembly, while offsite finishing still allows some minor disassembly as needed for complete access to all surfaces. Either way, products can be allowed to dry completely to prevent “paint-gluing” sashes to frames.

Pre-finishing offsite with your own labor calls for a clean, reasonably climate-controlled facility and, of course, skilled labor. This can be done at many levels, from painting with brushes to wiping and sealing stains, or even masking and spraying in a drafted paint booth (as we did in my installation days).

Post-installation finishing

Offering post-installation finishing is better than offering nothing at all. The upside to this option is that it doesn’t require a facility. A primary challenge is that installing dealers must be careful painting inside the home. Inclement weather can also be a factor. It’s best to do the finishing right after the installation, at least on the interior, while access is easier.

Offering finishing has other hidden benefits. Finishing your own products may keep your laborers busy in the slower season. In addition, should you only offer finishing seasonally, you can incentivize your clients to move forward with their purchase.

Explore your factory-finish options from your product manufacturer and explore your own labor-finishing capabilities. Don’t underestimate the time and skill it takes to finish windows, be sure to convey that message to your client, and charge accordingly.

Jim Snyder is an AAMA-certified FenestrationMaster and InstallationMaster who shares his years of installation field experience as an industry writer, speaker, trainer and project/product consultant for dealers and manufacturers. A member of various industry organizations, Snyder also is involved in instructional document creation and revision. Contact him at