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DH Window Sash - Linseed oil or primer?

rasher's picture

Just getting going on my window rehab project. 120 year old double-hung sashes, I've stripped all of the 16 layers of paint off and epoxy filled the holes and such and the glass and glazing is completely removed. My question is about the next step:
Do I prime the bare wood sash with a high-quality penetrating alkyd primer (Benjamin Moore Fresh Start) and go from there (glazing and then painting), or do I need to brush on a coat of Linseed Oil first?
It's my understanding that while the primer seals the wood, the oil in the primer soaks into the wood and "nourishes" it. It seems to me that the BLO does pretty much the same thing. I want a high-quality job, but not one that involves a lot of unnecessary and redundant processes.
Thanks in advance for any help.

(post #68804, reply #1 of 19)

Fresh start is a good product, though it is latex. Linseed oil is oil, and I'd use it with paint thinner; it's a lot cheaper and very effective. But either one is okay to use.


Expert since 10 am.

(post #68804, reply #2 of 19)

 Jackplane----- I am in the middle of a similar project.

 My can of FreshStart Says Moorewhite Alkyd/ Penetrating Primer-----which is, I suppose what passes for oil now-a-days.

 I hit mine with 50/50  mineral spirits /BLO----then several days later oilbase primer.

After I putty I wait over a week---- then Freshstart  alkyd primer over the putty---couple days later ,depending on weather---2 coats latex top coat.

 takes a long time and I always have several windows at various stages.

(post #68804, reply #3 of 19)

We use BM FreshStart primer, a water based product- if yours says alkyd, it's definitely oil.

 Priming over BLO is redundant, I think, and can be skipped. I'd just prime it with freshstart since you have it on hand (puttying beforehand), then one coat of finish latex. Acrylic, as you may know, is a longer lasting topcoat than the oil based because it stays flexible.


Expert since 10 am.

(post #68804, reply #4 of 19)

I thought you need to prime before applying putty- otherwise putty oils get sucked into the wood & job fails?

(post #68804, reply #5 of 19)

yes rasher
alkyd primer first - put two coats on if finish paint is white or close
then glazing compound then alkyd primer then topcoat

read the can on the glazing material - I usually think of a week of 60 degree plus days no rain before priming

(post #68804, reply #6 of 19)


I've never encountered the problem you describe, though I've heard of it. More urban myth to me, because paint failure is caused by several factors but not that one.

  Putty bonds to the wood whether it's water or oil based putty.When cured it can be sanded primed and painted. If you're fixing large surface defects, I'd not use putty anyway, bondo and the like is superior.


Expert since 10 am.

(post #68804, reply #7 of 19)

I am in the midst of rehabbing 34 6 over 6, 100 year old  windows - with plenty of putty failure.  And they do not appear to have paint, primer, etc., under the bed putty - although if they had linseed oil once, it is long since gone to hell...

But I actually like working on them, trying to make them good for another 100 yr. <G>

(post #68804, reply #15 of 19)

We use BM FreshStart primer, a water based product- if yours says alkyd, it's definitely oil.

I think BM's labelling is confusing.  I have both the oil and latex here.  A few weeks ago I picked up what I thought was the latex primer and found myself using the oil.   

(post #68804, reply #8 of 19)

My BM Fresh Start is labeled Alkyd Pentrating Primer. I think I've also seen a water base Fresh Start product as well. Regardless, I just buy the most expensive BM Oil-base primer and it's worked well for me on all of my projects.

My original intended process jives with what has been suggested:
Strip paint
Self-drilling trim screws at corners to tighted frame
Reglue or replace any loose or broken muntins
Fill holes and checks with Abatron epoxy
Sand epoxy smooth and lightly sand entire sash with 80 grit paper
1 coat Alkyd primer (Also priming the frame sides where they slide against the jamb and the presently unpainted faces of the window jambs)
Bed glass with DAP 33 glazing
Set glass with triangle glazer points
Finish glazing with DAP 33
Wait a week (windows stored in climate controlled house)
Prime glazing and 1/32" glass with Alkyd primer (1 coat)
Wait a day
Paint 1 coat of BM Latex Exterior paint on exterior face of sash and 1 coat of BM Latex Interior paint on interior face along with interior casing trim and stop trims.
Install and done.

I'm spending around 12 hours per window total to do this, I just want to make sure that BLO isn't really necessary with all of this.

(post #68804, reply #9 of 19)


 I am working on " vintage "houses,

So---with the exception of the  latex top coats---I am sticking to the procedure my father used---and his father before him.

( grandpa was in a very similar line of work and my dad---who became a professional landscape painter was always VERY appreciative of the benefits of BLO)

 I don't think I would paint the edge of the sash where it meets the jamb---that might cause you some problems with fit down the road

 But I would definitely put two coats of exterior top coat on---it will be worth it durability wise--------especially after you have done such excellent prep work---what's a few more minutes for another top coat in the greater scheme of things ?

 I hope you are having the same fun with yours project that I am having with mine.


(post #68804, reply #10 of 19)

Reading the book "Working Windows" that I've seen recommended some time ago in the forum here, the author suggests PRIMING the edges of the sashes (in order to seal the wood) but not PAINTING the egdes. I was going to do this as well.

As for fun, I've got 24 windows to do (in a 1,500SF house no less!) and I'm on the first one. So for now, yes, it's fun, but we'll see in about 6 months.

Now here's perhaps another question that maybe someone can answer here (or perhaps I should start another thread):

We have pristine wood storm sashes installed already with no weatherstripping. They have done an excellent job cutting drafts and heat loss in the winter time as-is, reducing our gas bill by 60% compared to no storms. Now, all of the resources I've read suggest weatherstripping (either PVC or Spring Bronze) the primary sashes. But historically, the primaries (in my house at least) were never weatherstripped with anything.

Weatherstripping my operable primary sashes would be much more difficult than just weatherstripping the storm sashes. Wouldn't logic have it that weatherstripped storms (with provision for condensation escape) would actually be BETTER than weatherstripped primaries? Why> Because the storms, when tightly shut against the casing have fewer points for air to get through and also help protect the inside edge of the casing where it meets the jamb (which is often cited as a primary culprit for air infiltration).

Any comments or suggestions. Of course it would be significantly easier and cheaper and faster for me to seal the storms versus the primaries. Come on, somebody, tell me what I want to hear!

(post #68804, reply #11 of 19)

Dinosaur would be the go-to guy for this question - he'll probably be along sooner or later.

(post #68804, reply #12 of 19)


I'm putting in new wood storms and weatherstripping them, instead of the windows. I have foam ws for the tops and sides, but can't decide what to do for the bottom. I'm assuming some sort of material that will block air flow, but allow water and water vaport out.

Is there some type of foam that can be used?

(post #68804, reply #13 of 19)

I suggest thinned BLO,  glaze,  then paint -



"there's enough for everyone"
"there's enough for everyone"

(post #68804, reply #14 of 19)

Oil based primer. Tried linseed oil once,IMOP oil based primer is better.


(post #68804, reply #18 of 19)

Benjamin Moore confused everybody a few years back when the relabeled all their primers as "Fresh Start." Their old Moorwhite primer (alkyd) is now part of the Fresh Start line, but the line also includes latex primers.

I have been down this same road, and I think coat of primer prior to applying the glazing compound is actually better than brushing on BLO. At least I have some windows that I did 25 years ago using both techniques, and the compound is starting to fail with those where I used the BLO only, whereas those with the primer are doing fine. I am assuming the primer does a better job of actually sealing the wood.

As far as weatherstripping is concerned, it does help; and it is not difficult if you have already removed the windows. I wouldn't waste my time or money on the PVC stuff -- wears out too fast. I was able to find heavy duty spring bronze (from a local company that sells wetherstripping), but mostly I used a copper vee shaped strip that you nail on (with copper nails). It is as functional now as the day I installed it.

However, if these are double hung windows with sash weights, the marginal gain from weather stripping is pretty slight. The real problem is all that space in the sash pockets, which you can't do anything about unless you eliminate the weights, fill the cavity with insulation, and go to another system to hold the window up.

"It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts."

John Wooden 1910-

Edited 11/4/2005 12:56 am by nikkiwood

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-2010

(post #68804, reply #16 of 19)

oil based primer on the entire sash with the exception of the vertical edges (where it meet the jambs) - seals the wood and preserves it - let that dry well (24 hrs) - glaze with good glazing and glazing points (2 or 3 per side depending on the size) - bed the glass in the window opening, points, then glaze (I usually use DAP 33) - let that set for a week +/- for the glazing to skin over then oil prime the glazing (sash brush/angled) - after that top coat with either latex or oil - current trend is oil prime then latex

be sure to remove the existing glass and any old glazing - gentle heat is good for getting it off, too much heat, you'll crack the glass

you can clean the old glass with a razor type wallpaper remover

about the storm windows - seal them with weatherstripping and you should have some pretty tight windows - seems to me one study (years ago - before the ease of replacement windows) found good external storms with well maintained double hungs were as tight as the available replacements of the time and more cost effective (less labor)

hope this helps

(post #68804, reply #17 of 19)

BM's labeling is confusing: You can say that again. I think their products are great, but their marketing is truly atrocious.

I can testify for certain that my wood storm sashes have DEFINITELY had a SIGNIFICANT impact on the thermal effectiveness of my 120+ year old windows. This is without any weatherstripping / air seals on either the storm or the primary sashes. I imagine weatherstripping the storms would help even more.

I'm currently looking into the press-in pvc weatherstrips at the top and sides of the storm sash. I've left about a 1/16" gap at the bottom of the sash to the sill for water and vapour to escape. All of the things I've read seem to unanimously agree that venting the storm sash to a certain degree is a requirement.

By the way, I bought a bench grinder today and put a paint stripper wire wheel on one side and and buffer wheel on the other and went to work on my cast iron (I assume) pulleys that were somewhat rusty and very dirty. An hour later and I tell you that the pulleys look AWESOME all polished up.

(post #68804, reply #19 of 19)

I just read your post about the using the bench grinder.

Everybody with an old house with quality hardware should know about that trick.

I bought a cheap ($30) 6 " grinder, threw out the wheels and guards, installed a fine wire wheel on one side, and as you did, a buffing wheel on the other, which I use with assorted buffing compounds.

You can use it for cleaning up grimey stuff like window pulleys, even if they have been painted -- but also polishing up fine brass door knobs and hardware.

I have actually had one of those fine pieces of wire lodge itself in my cheek, so safety glasses are imperative. And a respirator is not a bad idea if you are removing paint, since it probably has lead in it.

"It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts."

John Wooden 1910-

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-2010