Painting Vinyl Or Aluminum Siding Smart Option For Thrifty Homeowners

In the current weak economy, few homeowners will be running out to replace their vinyl or aluminum siding.  But that’s not to say they can’t improve its appearance or even change the color.

“One of the best-kept remodeling secrets is that it’s actually very easy to repaint these materials, especially vinyl siding,” says Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute.


Siding manufacturers are often mum on the subject, opting to promote the long life of vinyl and aluminum siding, rather than its paintability.  But what if your siding is tired-looking, or if it’s you who is simply tired of looking at the same old color, year after year?

“Then look into painting it”, says Zimmer.  “While it can cost up to $20,000 or more to re-side a home, the same house can usually be painted by a professional painting contractor for far less, often $5,000 or so.”

Those who are especially handy and in good health have an even more economical option:  Doing their own exterior painting and saving thousands of dollars more.

“Do-it-yourself exterior painting isn’t for everyone.  It is time-consuming and can be physically demanding,” says Zimmer.

“The size of the house and number of floors should be taken into account.  And since spray-painting is the best way to apply paint to these panels, it’s preferable to have a little experience with this equipment.  But for some homeowners, do-it-yourself painting is a great way to save a bundle of money,” she says.

For those who are willing and able to tackle the job, Zimmer says there are two secrets to painting vinyl or aluminum siding:  good surface preparation and use of a top quality 100% acrylic latex exterior paint.

Surface preparation is simple when painting vinyl siding:  just remove dirt and mildew from the panels with a commercial cleaner and garden hose, or rent power-washing equipment to speed the work.  If any stubborn mildew remains, remove it with a solution of one-part bleach to three-parts water, then rinse the surface clean.  You’re ready to paint!

With aluminum siding, follow the same cleaning procedures.  If excessive “chalk” is present afterward (check by running your hand across a panel), repeat the procedure.  Use bleach solution on any stubborn mildew, and rinse clean.

Keep an eye out for surface oxidation.  The tip-off is the presence of a white powdery substance on panels that are worn down to the bare metal, allowing the aluminum itself to oxidize.  If oxidation is present, carefully remove the powdery material with a non-metallic scouring pad, then rinse again.  Apply a high quality exterior latex metal primer anywhere bare metal shows through.  That will complete your surface preparation.

Choosing the right paint to use on vinyl siding or aluminum siding is simple, according to Zimmer.  “These panels tend to be smooth to the touch, almost slippery, so you must use a paint that has great adhesion.  The paint that grips or adheres best to these and other surfaces is top quality 100% acrylic latex exterior paint,” she says.

Paints made with 100% acrylic are great for use on vinyl and aluminum siding for another reason:  They are extremely flexible.  When the siding expands or contracts in very warm or very cold weather, top quality 100% acrylic latex paint will stretch or contract right along with it.

These paints also have superior “leveling”, which means that the paint you apply will tend to duplicate the original appearance of the siding, whether it be smooth or textured.

Need more reasons to favor top quality paints?  They’re more durable than ordinary paints, and they also contain special additives to resist mold and mildew.   Plus, they are fade-resistant, so your new paint color will continue to look that way for a very long time.

Speaking of color, Zimmer offers one caution when painting vinyl siding.  “It’s wise to select a color no darker than the original.  Dark shades tend to absorb the heat of the sun and that can lead to warping or buckling of the panels,” she says.  “Whites or off-whites, pastels, and mid-tones are the safest color choices for vinyl siding.”

For those who are dead-set on using a darker shade of paint, Zimmer has this advice:  “Take time to seek out one of the technologically-advanced top quality paints that use reflective pigments to ward off some of the heat of the sun.  But be sure to do your homework and ask the paint salesperson whether the color you like can be used on vinyl siding.”

To learn more about paints and exterior painting, visit the Paint Quality Institute website at

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