Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Can You Paint Aluminum Siding?
The factory finish on aluminum siding eventually fades from the sun and needs to be painted. Painting aluminum siding is actually quite easy and usually takes less time than painting wood siding. Unlike porous wood, metal siding is smooth and can be spray painted without having to roll the paint.
Aluminum requires thorough preparation before it can be painted. When the surface is prepared correctly, the paint on aluminum will last much longer than on wood. I spray painted the metal siding on my house many years ago and the paint shows no signs of failure.
Best Paint for Aluminum Siding
Not all exterior paints can be applied to aluminum siding. The paint should be acrylic, and the label on the back should indicate it can be used on aluminum.
There are several exterior paints on the market that can be used on metal. The following paints are products I have used for painting aluminum siding:
- Pittsburgh Manor Hall (Pittsburgh Paints)
- Super Paint (Sherwin Williams)
- Duration (Sherwin Williams)
I spray painted my aluminum siding with Pittsburgh Manor Hall over ten years ago and the paint has held up fine. On clients homes, I have used Super Paint and Duration with great results. Both paints are self-priming and provide excellent coverage. Two coats of paint is best.
I recommend buying siding paint in a satin finish so it's easier to clean dirt accumulation on the surface. The gloss of a satin finish also looks similar to the original factory finish of the siding. If the siding is riddled with dents though, flat paint will do a better job at hiding the damaged areas. The key to painting siding successfully is preparation. Any paint will fail if the surface isn't prepared correctly.
Apply Siding Cleaner
A chalky film develops on the surface of aluminum siding that needs to be cleaned so paint sticks better to the metal. Even if the siding isn't chalking, the surface should be cleaned anyway to remove dirt and residue.
An effective method for cleaning metal siding is with the cleaning agent trisodium phosphate (TSP). You can purchase the cleaner in powder or liquid form. Although TSP is a great cleaner, the material can damage plants and grass. Before applying TSP, spray your flowers with water from the garden hose. Covering flowers with plastic tarps is also a good idea. An alternative cleaner to TSP is a product called Simple Green, which won't harm plants.
Power washing siding is the fastest and most effective way to clean the surface for paint. Some power washers have a chemical tank that allows you to siphon a cleaner through the machine first, or you can use a garden sprayer to apply the material and wash it off with a garden hose.
Priming Aluminum Siding
Priming is necessary if bare aluminum is exposed, or if the surface is terribly weathered and peeling from a previous paint job. But if the siding finish is only faded from the sun, primer isn't needed; just use two coats of quality acrylic paint.
If priming is needed, an acrylic primer is best. If the surface is peeling, then sanding is required before applying primer.
How to Spray Paint Aluminum
The best way to paint aluminum siding is with an airless sprayer. Brushing and rolling takes too long and doesn't look as nice as a sprayed finish. If you don't already own an airless sprayer, rentals are usually available at the paint store.
Before spraying paint, windows must be masked with tape and plastic first. The fastest way to mask windows is with a handheld masking machine. The tool allows the tape and plastic to be applied to the window at the same time. The plastic comes in a small roll that unfolds after being taped to the surface.
Flower beds and grass should also be covered carefully with drop cloths to prevent exposure to over-spray. Soffits also need to be masked too if they won't be sprayed.
When spray painting siding, always start at the top and work your way down to the bottom. To achieve an even paint finish, without visible flash marks, spray the siding from one side of the wall to the other side. Never start spraying in the middle of the siding. Angle the spray gun upwards to coat the narrow edge of each siding piece.
To minimize over-spray, use a smaller spray tip and turn the pressure down on the sprayer. Two coats of paint is best for durability.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I've been told that you can't paint aluminum siding in a dark color. Is this true?
Answer: You should paint aluminum siding a color similar to the shade of the original finish, or lighter. Using dark paint colors on metal and plastic siding should be avoided. The reason is that dark colors absorb excessive heat from the sun, causing buckling and paint failure. Some paint brands have special colors designated for use on vinyl and aluminum siding.
Question: I am painting my aluminum siding and when I cleaned it most of that chalk came off and I can see almost bare metal underneath. I am using Duration from Sherwin Williams. One employee said I didn't need to use primer because its in the paint but another employee told me to use primer because I'm almost down to bare metal. Do I need primer if using Duration?
Answer: If there's bare metal exposed, yes, you should prime the siding first. If there's no bare metal showing, two coats of Duration is fine without primer.
Question: What is your preference for painting aluminum siding: SuperPaint or Duration?
Answer: Both paints are good, but my preference is Duration for aluminum siding. The paint is more durable than SuperPaint and covers better.
Question: Can this paint be applied with a roller?
Answer: Yes, of course. Spraying siding is much faster than using a roller though.
Question: Am I able to repaint over already painted aluminum siding?
Answer: Yes, but the siding should be power washed. Make sure the paint you're using can be applied to aluminum.
Question: I have a house with Aluminum siding that needs painted. On one of you responses it says you shouldn't paint the siding a darker color. So is my only option white then?
Answer: No, you should consult the paint store and ask for their color options that are safe for use on siding. This is more important for vinyl siding. Plastic and metal siding absorb heat from the sun more than wood does and some darker colors can worsen this. The store should be able to provide you with their vinyl/aluminum safe color options.
Question: My aluminum siding is peeling badly I was told it has to be replaced it is only a small area around the roof can it be painted?
Answer: If it's only a small area peeling then you can remove the loose paint with a sander and scraper. Then power-wash the siding, prime, and paint.
Question: The Sherwin Williams salesperson said I can use SW Wood Primer as a primer for aluminum siding. I’m a little hesitant. Would wood primer work on aluminum siding?
Answer: An exterior acrylic primer, or an oil-based primer, is only needed if there is exposed aluminum where the factory finish has worn off. Otherwise, two coats of acrylic paint is all you need. If the wood primer you're referring to can be applied on aluminum too then it might be fine, but I'd use an acrylic bonding primer that specifies use on metal.
© 2012 Matt G.
Annette Miller on October 18, 2018:
An acrylic primer is NOT best for aluminum siding, especially if the aluminum is fully exposed. Many acrylics contain ammonia which will react when applied directly onto the surface of the siding. It won't show immediately, but will pop the paint within a few months. It is imperative to use a quality oil primer on all exposed aluminum, then follow with latex.
Bob Davis from Thornhill, Ontario, Canada on August 19, 2016:
If you are painting aluminum siding at your home you can save thousands of dollars. Painting vinyl or another metal material other than aluminum will be greatly different. Clean the Siding, Is Priming the Siding Necessary, Mask the Windows, Spray the Aluminum Siding are the good steps to paint. Thanks for sharing and keep sharing your blogs related with aluminum.