Tips for Painting Vinyl Shutters

Updated on February 12, 2018
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter sharing house-painting tips, related product reviews, and his experience in the trade.

Painting Plastic Shutters vs. Buying Replacements

Vinyl window shutters that are badly faded from the sun can either be painted or replaced, but replacing them can be costly. The price for a two-pack of plastic window shutters costs anywhere from $40 to $100 each, depending on the size and style. The cost adds up fast for a house with multiple shutters.

Unless they're cracked, or severely warped, painting them yourself is a much cheaper alternative to buying new ones, and the work itself is easy when done correctly. The main challenge is taking them down, which often requires an extension ladder, but I'll share some tips to make the process easy.

Remove the Shutters

The easiest and fastest way to go about painting vinyl shutters is to take them down and use an airless sprayer to paint them. Attempting to spray paint them from a ladder takes too much time to mask the siding and glass around the shutters, and painting them with a brush takes even more time.

You can rent an airless sprayer from the paint store, but if you don't want to mess around with a sprayer, another option is to spray them with aerosol spray paint, but I still recommend using an airless sprayer though because it's a lot faster.

Supplies needed for this project:

  • Bucket hook
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Power drill
  • Black marker
  • Step/extension ladder
  • Airless sprayer
  • Premium exterior paint

Unless the shutters are accessible from a step ladder, an extension ladder is needed to take them down, but you'll need somewhere to safely place your drill after removing the screws from the shutter. Place your drill and the screws into an empty five gallon bucket attached to the ladder rung with a pail hook.

Marking the back side of each shutter with a black Sharpie is important if there are different sizes, so it won't be confusing installing them at the end. I count them from left to right, starting with the high shutters first.

Do you have plastic shutter buttons instead of screws?

Some vinyl shutters have plastic buttons instead of screws, but the buttons are usually hard to remove. If the buttons won't come out, scrape them off, pull out the plastic piece inside with a wrench, and buy a pack of Shutter Lok Fasteners from your home improvement store. These fasteners are paintable.

Clean the Shutters

Window shutters accumulate dirt and mildew, which requires cleaning before painting. A power washer, or garden hose, is fine for cleaning them, but if peeling paint exists, a power washer is the best option. Vinyl cleans up well with a power washer without becoming damaged like wood can.

Scrub them with soapy warm water first, using a coarse scrubbing pad. No harsh cleaning chemicals are needed, but if mildew exists, you can add a little bleach to the mix to help remove mildew stains.

Is Primer Needed?

If the vinyl is only faded and in good condition, without peeling paint, no primer is needed, using the premium paints I recommend in this article, which are also safe for use on vinyl. The surface should be scuff sanded before priming or painting.

Peeling paint should be power washed and scraped until no loose paint chips are left behind, and then a bonding primer can be sprayed onto the shutters. A bonding primer, designed for peeling paint, helps keep old paint intact underneath new paint. Products like Mad Dog latex primer works well for this purpose. One coat of primer is all that's needed.

Spray the Shutters

Most paint stores will rent you their airless sprayer (spray tip included) for $50 to $75 for the day. The amount of time spraying will save you is well worth the rental cost if you don't already own a sprayer. Spray painting vinyl shutters takes less than ten minutes, plus dry time in between coats. Two coats is best. Not only does spraying save time, but the paint finish looks so much better.

The best way to spray them is horizontally with a drop cloth underneath to protect grass from over-spray. For storing freshly painted shutters, I use the same drying rack I use for cabinet painting, but you can place them on buckets, or boards, to keep them above the grass while drying. Two coats of paint is best for durability and color.

Best Paint for Vinyl Shutters

Not all exterior paints can be used on vinyl. Based on my experience, the two best paints for painting plastic shutters are Duration and Super Paint from Sherwin Williams. I've been spraying shutters with these products for many years without any problems. Price wise, Super Paint costs less than Duration and provides excellent durability. The satin finish in both of these products looks really nice on plastic shutters.

Vinyl Safe Colors

Like vinyl siding, not all paint colors are safe for plastic shutters. Certain colors can absorb too much heat, resulting in warping and paint failure. Sherwin Williams offers a huge palette of vinyl-safe colors though to make color selection easy.

Questions & Answers

  • When painting vinyl shutters, does the white chalky residue need to be removed even after the shutter has been scrubbed with soapy bleach water but is still evident?

    You can wipe it off with a tack cloth if there's still residue left after cleaning.

  • Is black paint safe on vinyl shutters?

    Check and see if the paint brand you're using has a brochure with vinyl safe colors. Some do. You also want to make sure the paint you're using can be used on vinyl. Personally, I've painted vinyl shutters black before without any problems.

  • What type of paint is Duration?

    Duration exterior is an acrylic latex paint that's safe for use on vinyl shutters, or siding.

  • What about brown paint for vinyl shutters?

    Check with the paint store to see if they have a list of colors that are safe for vinyl. Make sure the paint itself is safe for vinyl application too.

  • What airless sprayer would you recommend for spraying shutters and decks?

    I use a Graco 495 airless sprayer for shutters and decks, but their 390 or 395 sprayer would be fine too. Titan also makes good sprayers. Both brands are usually the rental choices at the paint store.

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