Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
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.
Step 1: 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.
- 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.
Step 2: 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.
Step 3: 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.
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: Is it true that you cannot paint vinyl shutters a darker color than the previous color?
Answer: Yes, that's true in some cases. Darker colors can get too hot from the sun and fail, or cause warping. As my article explains, you should check with the paint store for vinyl safe colors.
Question: Is black paint safe on vinyl shutters?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: You can wipe it off with a tack cloth if there's still residue left after cleaning.
Question: What type of paint is Duration?
Answer: Duration exterior is an acrylic latex paint that's safe for use on vinyl shutters, or siding.
Question: If no Sherwin Williams store in my area what other brands of paint do you suggest for shutters that got very faded in no direct sun and are in a damp area?
Answer: Benjamin Moore has good paint.
Question: Will the Duration paint work on plastic/vinyl Indoor California shutters? If so, do I need a primer if they are in good shape and have not previously been painted?
Answer: Yes, Duration exterior paint works great for vinyl window shutters, that's what I use, but don't use exterior paint indoors. The fumes from exterior paint are very toxic and not meant for indoor use. Use a vinyl-safe interior paint for that. The shutters should be cleaned and scuff sanded. With the right paint, primer isn't needed.
Question: What about brown paint for vinyl shutters?
Answer: 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.
Question: Which exterior paint for shutters is best for mold and mildew prone areas?
Answer: Emerald (acrylic) from Sherwin Williams is a good mildew resistant option for painting vinyl shutters. Another good paint is Duration, also from Sherwin Williams, but if the concern is mildew, I'd go with Emerald. Don't use oil paint.
Question: Can I use Sherwin Duration paint on a wooden front door?
Answer: Yes, but the door should be prepped first (cleaning, sanding, and priming if needed).
Question: What airless sprayer would you recommend for spraying shutters and decks?
Answer: 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.
Question: Is All Surface Sherwin-Williams water based black enamel a good choice to paint slightly faded 10 year old black vinyl shutters?
Answer: No, I would use Duration, Super Paint, or Emerald, on the vinyl shutters. All three products can be used on vinyl. I've never used All Surface Enamel on shutters, and the datasheet for that product doesn't mention that the paint can be used on vinyl. I've used those three recommended products many times on shutters. Duration and Emerald aren't cheap but provide excellent durability. Super Paint is the least expensive of the three. I use Duration on all of my exterior painting projects, including shutters.
Question: What kind of paint brushes to use on vinyl shutters?
Answer: I spray vinyl shutters, but if I was brushing them I'd use my Purdy Pro Extra brush. These brushes are great for exterior paint. They hold more paint and have a smooth release to reduce visible brush marks.
Question: Can you use a can of spray paint to paint vinyl shutters?
Answer: Yes, as long as the paint is safe for use on vinyl. If you only have like two or four window shutters to paint, using spray paint in a can is doable, but for multiple shutters, you'll need several cans. I would just rent an airless sprayer for $50 to $75 and spray them that way instead of using rattle cans. You'll have a better finish on the shutters too, using a sprayer instead of a spray can, and it'll go faster.
Question: What paint did you use for the black shutters? I have shutters that are currently painted Jamestown Red. Originally were blue. Want to paint them Farrow & Ball Black Blue #95 color. Using SW paint.
Answer: I use Duration exterior paint for vinyl shutters (satin finish). I spray them. The black I've always used for window shutters is called Tricorn Black. It's a Sherwin Williams color.
Question: Can I use the Duration exterior for my front door to match my shutters if the door is metal?
Answer: Yes, you can use exterior Duration on your metal door. If the door is unpainted though, I would prime it first.
Question: Sherwin Williams tells me not to paint my black shutters with Duration product also black due to it will warp the vinyl shutters. What do I do?
Answer: Duration paint itself can be used on vinyl window shutters. I've used this product many times for that purpose. The store employee was correct though about possible warping if you're using black paint over a much lighter color. Using paint darker than the existing manufacturer finish can cause the vinyl to warp, especially if they're exposed to direct sunlight all day. The same thing can happen with vinyl siding painted a dark color. Black paint absorbs a lot of heat in the summer and gets very hot. This can cause problems with your plastic shutters. It doesn't mean that your shutters will definitely warp if you paint them black, but there's a potential risk, and the store might not back the paint warranty if it happens. The store should be able to help you with paint colors that are safe for use on vinyl. I don't recommend painting your shutters black, mostly for durability concerns. While Duration is a very durable product, black paint's going to fade a lot faster under the sun than other colors.
Question: I bought paint for aluminum shutters by mistake instead of vinyl, will this paint still work?
Answer: Read the specs for the paint you're using to see if it can be used on vinyl. Not all exterior paints can be used on vinyl.
© 2018 Matt G.