How to Paint Vinyl Siding

A house painter works around the window trim

ftwitty / Getty

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 that 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.

Using 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.

Expect Thermal Expansion

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.

Choose a Safe Color

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.

Warning

A darker color may absorb more heat than the vinyl siding was designed to handle, possibly leading to warping or buckling of the siding.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

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. You'll need:

  • Garden hose and spray nozzle
  • Bucket
  • Laundry detergent
  • General-purpose cleaning powder
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Soft-bristle brush, sponges, or rags
  • Painter's tape
  • Masking material
  • Paint roller with 1/2-inch nap roller covers or spray paint equipment
  • Paintbrushes

Instructions

Mix the Cleaner

Mix a cleaning solution containing 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent, 2/3 cup of general-purpose powdered household cleaner (such as Spic n' Span or Super Washing Soda), and 2/3 cup of oxygen bleach (such as OxyClean) for each gallon of water. Stir the solution well in a bucket

Clean the Siding

Rinse the siding with clean water from a garden hose, then hand-scrub the siding to remove all dirt, grease, and chalkiness, using a soft-bristled brush, a sponge, or a rag. Work from the bottom up, and rinse each section thoroughly immediately after scrubbing. Hand-scrubbing does a much better job and is safer for the siding than pressure washing. Let the siding dry completely.

Mask Off Trim, Doors, and Windows

Use painter's tape and masking paper or plastic sheeting to mask off any areas you do not want painted, including doors, windows, trim, and hardware.

Prime the Siding (Optional)

Apply the primer (if you are using one) to all of the surfaces to be painted, using a paint sprayer, a roller with a 1/2-inch nap (for smooth surfaces) cover, or a paintbrush. If you use a roller or sprayer, always backbrush—following up the roller or sprayer application with a brush to ensure full coverage and remove drips and heavy areas. Let the primer dry as directed.

Apply the Paint

Paint the cleaned or primed surfaces with an even coat of exterior paint, using the same techniques used for priming. Let the first coat dry as directed by the paint manufacturer. Apply a second coat, and let it dry.

Clean Up the Site

Remove all masking materials, and complete any final detail painting and touch-ups with a paintbrush.