Vinyl siding is commonly considered to be relatively maintenance-free. One thing that makes it so is the fact that it doesn't need to be painted. It comes with a color mixed with the material that is more or less permanent. But over time the color can fade, and often unevenly on different areas of the house, due to different rates of sun exposure. And whether it's faded or not, if you weren't the one to pick the siding you might not be crazy about the color, to begin with. The good news is, you can paint vinyl siding. Just be aware that the siding will be only as maintenance-free as the paint itself. Also, there are some rules and limitations to follow when painting vinyl siding.
Check Your Warranty
Before getting your heart set on painting your vinyl siding, confirm that painting the siding won't void its warranty if the warranty is still active. Even if the warranty permits painting, make sure you comply with any stipulations, such as the type and color of paint to use.
Use soap and water to hand-scrub the old siding to remove all dirt, grease, and chalkiness. Rinse the siding thoroughly with plain water. If there are mildewed surfaces, use oxygen bleach cleaner or one of the cleaning solutions recommended by the Vinyl Siding Institute. While some professional painters clean vinyl siding with a pressure washer, amateurs should be very cautious with this method. Improper technique can allow water to get behind the siding where it can wreak havoc (as in, mold and rot) on the wall sheathing and other materials.
What About Primer?
There are different schools of thought regarding primer. Some pros use it in almost all cases, while many others start with primer only when it's warranted by the condition of the siding. For example, a primer may be recommended if the siding is pitted or shows other signs of deterioration or severe weathering. A simple solution is to follow the advice of your paint manufacturer. Keep in mind that paint sticks to the layer directly beneath it, whether that layer is bare siding or primer. If you do use a primer, make sure the paint is formulated to stick to it.
Thermal Expansion of the Vinyl
It's important to understand that vinyl siding is designed to be installed so that it slides back and forth slightly at its overlapping seams, moving with the expansion and contraction of the material. When the siding contracts in cold weather, you may have a slight color gap at the seams.
Paint Color Limitations
Every type of vinyl siding is designed for a specific amount of heat absorption. Because dark colors absorb more heat than light colors, you should not choose a paint color that is darker than the original siding color. A darker color may absorb more heat than the vinyl siding was designed to handle, possibly leading to warping or buckling of the siding.
Type of Paint to Use
These days, quality paint manufacturers offer paints specifically formulated for vinyl siding, and usually specify a variety of "vinyl safe" colors; that is, colors that won't absorb too much heat. Many paints for vinyl are a blend of urethane and acrylic resins, combining flexibility and excellent adhesion.
Applying Paint to Vinyl Siding
You'll be glad to know that there are no special application techniques for painting vinyl siding. You can use a brush (with or without a roller) or do like the pros do and use spray equipment. If you use a roller, always backbrush—following up the roller application with a brush to ensure full coverage and remove drips and heavy areas. In any case, consult the paint manufacturer for specific application tips for your paint.