Should you Tape Glass Panel Windows to Paint?

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jan 30, 2021 | Professional insight, Miscellaneous | 2 comments

The great tape debate rages amoungst professionals on several Facebook groups, including the Painter and Decorators Forum UK. So, what is the answer? Should you tape up a glass panel window before painting by brush, or just cut it in freehand? I’ll take you through my thoughts, but I know some people will disagree.

A lot of decorators scoff when they see a picture of a part painted window with the glass all masked up. They see it as a cheat! They think a fully fledged decorator should be able to just cut something like that in without issue and if you use masking tape, then you simply don’t have the required skillset.

Others think it’s just quicker and easier to tape. Tape up once, then each coat of paint will take a fraction of the time.


What do I Think?


I normally just cut this type of thing in freehand, but I probably shouldn’t and I have used both methods in the past. Taping up does not show a lack of skill and I think just about any professional decorator can cut into glass without issue. Taping doesn’t even save time.


It feels like it takes a lifetime to mask, then de-mask glass panels. Taping is however, in a lot of cases, better.

I’ll give you an example. You’ve got some varnished glass panel doors to paint white. The timber rarely meets the glass evenly on each panel. You need to be able to work a lot of paint tight into each edge between glass and timber to avoid any brown varnish being on show. The way you do that is to tape the glass, then really push a lot of paint into every edge. You simply can’t do that as well freehand and still keep your lines super sharp, it’s impossible. The only alternative is to caulk every panel, which is a nightmare.

Another situation when taping a window to paint it would be the better option, is when you’re using a loose water-based paint. It is harder to cut a straight edge with this type of material, but you’ll achieve razor sharp lines every time with masking tape.


So Why do so Many Decorators Hate Seeing Masking Tape on Windows?


As I mentioned earlier, I think the decorators who hate seeing masking tape on windows see it as a lack of skill. I don’t think a lot of them have even tried masking up windows to paint, but still shoot others down when they see them doing it. (I know I’m going to get shot down for all this, it is my opinion though). It’s strange really, because I actually think there’s more skill needed to mask windows up neatly than there is to cut in with a sash brush.

Do these decorators really think they are the only ones who know which end of the paintbrush to use? That said, it’s each to their own. Decorators are a funny breed and we generally do what we think is best

All that said and done, a lot of my work is on price, so I take the easy option and cut in freehand. Call me a cowboy all you want, but it’s just easier than faffing around. I maybe mask 20% of the windows I paint by brush. I mask every time when spraying.


Masking up Sash Windows


WARNING: the following article contains opinions which some may find offensive! Those with a nervous taping disposition, please scroll on by!

Old-school decorators hate the idea of people using making tape to paint sash windows. But, I’m a decorator, and I use masking tape every time.

If you can make it past paragraph one, good on you, because I get it, reading about a chancer talking tapes, It’s hardly going to set your world on fire, but hopefully it could change a few people’s views on such a dividing subject.

Hold onto your butts boys and girls, this is about to get super interesting!

For the last couple of years, I have found myself using more and more masking tape to carry out jobs within my day to day work. As I have been experimenting more with different water-based products, I feel it has been essential to completely re-think the process and order of how I work to achieve the best results in the quickest time with these products.

Up until a few years ago, I was ‘one of those guys’ that believed only amateurs used masking tape, but after looking at getting into spraying, I soon realised that it becomes a vital part of kit.

Beforehand, the thought of taping up a 12-pane Georgian sash window would be enough to make me sack off the whole decorating game completely and work in a McDonalds drive thru instead. However, like anything, with practice and patience, it all clicks into place.

For me personally, I pick and choose what I tape and what I don’t. Sometimes a window doesn’t warrant masking tape in my opinion, but sometimes it does, especially if there is going to be 3 coats of paint. For example, spending 15-20mins to mask said Georgian window… yeh yeh, proper decorators would have smashed in the first coat by then, but you are soon catching up on the second coat, and overtaking on the 3rd.

Not to mention you are also avoiding fat edges, less likely to get misses. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you simply don’t get a straighter line than you do with masking tape.

When masking windows, I tend to tear at an angle away from each corner and keep a sharp blade on hand to trim and snags. It is a bit of an unorthodox way of doing it, but it works for me. A lot of people mask, overlap and trim straight.

There are so many variables when taping, which tape to use, when to apply, when and how to remove. A lot depends on what type of tape you use. For example, if you apply a standard crêpe type tape to freshly painted woodwork, you are asking for trouble. However, a good quality low tack sensitive tape will still give you crisp, sharp lines, but less risk of lifting paint from the substrate. This is down to how thin the tape is and how little it pulls on the dry paint.

With good quality water-based paints curing quicker than ever these days, it is possible to paint the woodwork and mask off on the same day (although, best left until next day where possible). I find the process of finishing all woodwork first, and then walls after, a much quicker process when using water-based woodwork/trim paints. As well as sharper, crisp edges between the two. I leave a low tack sensitive tape on until I have finished walls and ceilings, then remove at a 45-degree angle. You may get the very odd catch of the paint, but generally it isn’t a problem.

The main tapes I use are from the Q1 range. For me, they perform on par and sometimes better than the likes of Tesa and other big boys in the taping world.

I use the general purpose ‘crêpe’ type tape for taping down correx sheets, and masking carpet edges, as it has a perfect amount of tack.

For windows inside and out, I use the Precision line washi tape (equivalent to the Tesa yellow and Deltec gold), as it is easy to apply and remove, and leaves lines sharper than the Liverpool fc 1996 white fa cup suits (if you don’t know, google it).

For delicate surfaces, the Q1 purple is the place to be. Other options are the likes of Tesa pink, Ciret MASQ purple, or Deltec purple. (other brands are available). Click here to see a range of good quality masking tape.

That brings me to the end of this enthralling blog on masking up windows. If you made it this far, congratulations, and thank you for sticking in there. (see what I did huh?). I get that taping isn’t for everyone, and you don’t need to apply this into your everyday work. But after seeing how upset some people become at others using it because ‘they didn’t tape during the war, so why should we now’, I think people accepting it as another option or another string to their bow, can only be a good thing.

All that’s left to be said is move with the times, or the times will move without you.

On that note,
Big Love,
happy taping

Wes Knight

Professional Decorator

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jan 30, 2021 | 2 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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  1. Gary Melville

    Great blog Mike. Contentious but that’s cool with me. As you say, everyone to their own. As I spray, in the main, taping up is a very important art of the process. Once you get the knack of it you become pretty quick. I see this method as easily transferable to painting with a brush. Mask up once, apply three coats and job done. With the correct tape the paint edge is razor sharp.

  2. Mike Cupit

    Perfect, thank you Gary. I really appreciate your feedback


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