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Tips for Painting Vinyl Siding

Updated on April 22, 2012

Can You Paint Vinyl Siding?

If the vinyl siding on a house is old, but totally intact, it is cheaper to paint siding than replace it. If you aren't willing to save the most money by doing the hard work yourself, hiring a painting service would still probably cost less than replacing the siding altogether.

Acrylic exterior paints bond exceptionally well to vinyl siding, as long as the surface is cleaned beforehand. Unlike aluminum, a vinyl surface tends to collect more mildew and dirt over the years. As long as the siding is thoroughly cleaned and a quality paint is used for the job, the finish will last for several years.

To achieve the best visual results, and to save time, an airless paint sprayer is the most professional way to complete an exterior painting project of this size.

Choose Colors Carefully

Unfortunately, there are limits when selecting paint colors for vinyl siding. The general rule is to always choose a paint color lighter than the existing color of the siding.

This is because vinyl siding is manufactured and specifically colored to withstand a certain amount of UV exposure, so a darker paint color on top of this will absorb more than acceptable heat from the sun, causing the paint coating to peel off from the expansion of the vinyl.

The same rule applies when painting vinyl shutters. There are newer paints claiming to provide protection against this problem, but still, I would stick with a lighter color to play it safe.

Remove Mildew and Dirt

Like most exterior surfaces, painting vinyl siding requires cleaning first, so the paint sticks to the surface as intended. Vinyl collects a lot of mildew and dirt, which can be removed quite easily with the right cleaner.

One of the best cleaners for both vinyl and aluminum siding is TSP (tri sodium phosphate). It won't harm plants or the grass. Bleach works good too, but it will kill vegetation at the base of the house. Another good cleaner is a product called Simple Green, sold at Home Depot and paint stores. It won't harm plants or irritate your skin.

I recommend using a garden hose to clean vinyl siding because a power washer can loosen vinyl and even force water underneath which can lead to all sorts of problems inside your walls. Scrub the siding with a hard bristle brush and rinse everything off with a garden hose. Allow everything to totally dry before painting.

Buy A Vinyl Siding Paint

I'm sure there are special vinyl siding paints, but most acrylic exterior paints are formulated for use on vinyl and aluminum siding and work fine. I recommend applying two solid coats of paint for the best coverage and long-term durability.

Primer isn't necessary unless the vinyl siding is slick or really glossy. Primer will help the paint stick to an overly smooth surface. If the surface isn't really glossy at all, primer isn't necessary, but definitely not a bad idea if you're willing to spend the extra time priming and applying two coats over the top. If you decide to use primer, make sure it's tinted to the same color as the paint, or very similar. That way there's a much better chance of having to only apply one coat of paint instead of two.

SuperPaint and Duration are two premium paints that work great on vinyl siding. No matter what paint you choose, make sure it's acrylic exterior paint. Read the label on the can to see if vinyl is acceptable or not.

Should I Spray or Roll Paint On Vinyl Siding?

Spraying is best because it returns the siding to its original factory-finished look. It also gives you more control over coverage. Rolling paint on siding takes forever and shiny paint can reveal angular marks from the paint roller, not to mention visible roller stipple. An airless sprayer is the best way to go and spraying horizontal siding is easy with a little practice in the beginning.

If the sprayer is only going to be used one time, rent a sprayer for $75 instead of buying one. Before spraying, you will need to cover windows, doors and downspouts with plastic. Throw drop clothes, or tarps, over the bushes and concrete. It would also be wise to park nearby vehicles further down the street. Ask the neighbor to do the same. Over-spray travels great distances if you aren't careful.

Over-spray is greatly reduced by turning the pressure down on the paint sprayer and by using the recommended spray tip size. The recommended tip size is always noted on the side of the paint can. Spray vinyl siding from left to right, starting at the top and working towards the bottom of the house. It is really important to avoid spraying paint in direct sunlight because the paint will dry faster than intended, which can comprise its longevity and leave ugly marks. Always paint in the shade whenever possible.

Check out this article about aluminum siding: Tips for Painting Aluminum Siding

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