Tips for Painting Vinyl Windows

Updated on May 13, 2019
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

Can You Paint Vinyl Windows?

Painting vinyl windows is a cheap alternative to replacing them, but is it a good idea? Most window companies will tell you no, while most painting contractors will tell you yes. You can, in fact, paint vinyl windows, but there are some considerations to make before you start.

Warranty Issues

Painting vinyl windows could potentially void an active warranty if the windows are still covered. If something happens to your windows, whether it's warping, or something else, the window company might not cover the replacement costs, even if the paint has nothing to do with the problem.

Before you start painting your windows, it's wise to contact the manufacturer and inquire about possible warranty conflicts if you paint them. If the windows are no longer under warranty then this obviously doesn't matter.

Paint Colors and Warping

Your color choice is very important when painting vinyl windows and siding, especially if they're exposed to direct sunlight all day. Darker colors absorb intense heat from the sun, which can actually lead to warping and cracked glass.

Most paint companies, including Sherwin Williams, can provide you with color options that are safe for vinyl. These are usually lighter colors that don't absorb heat as much as dark colors (black).

The Best Paint for Vinyl Windows

The exterior paint you choose must be safe for use on vinyl to avoid peeling and paint failure. The specifications for surface application is usually noted on the paint can label, but Internet searching the technical data sheet for the product in question is better. Technical data sheets provide more details on surface application and whether or not primer's necessary.

I rarely paint vinyl windows, but I've painted them in the past with Pro Industrial, Multi-Surface acrylic paint, as well as Duration, both by Sherwin Williams. Both products are safe for vinyl and don't require primer.

Using premium paint is absolutely worth the extra cost for exterior painting, especially vinyl. Duration (Sherwin Williams) is my go-to paint whenever I'm painting vinyl siding, garage doors, or wood trim. This is also excellent paint for painting aluminum siding.

Priming Vinyl Windows

Using a good bonding primer helps paint stick to vinyl better, but the two products I mentioned do not require primer. Cheaper paints often require a coat of primer. Check the specs to see if the paint you're using calls for primer before painting the windows.

Painting Vinyl Windows

If you have multiple vinyl windows to paint, using an airless sprayer to paint them saves a lot of time. Once the glass and siding around the windows is covered with masking paper, the spray painting part only takes a minute or two per window.

Like all exterior surfaces being painted, prep work is key for durability. Prep work starts with cleaning and sanding the windows.

Wash the Windows

Windows collect dirt, mildew, and debris. The surface must be cleaned good before painting. Mix water and TSP, a cleaning agent, in a pump-action garden sprayer and spray the solution onto the windows.

Scrub the window frames with a coarse scrubbing pad to remove dirt. For mildew stains, the product Jomax siding cleaner works well, or use household bleach mixed with water. Wash the windows off with clean water from a garden hose.

Sand the Windows

The smooth surface of vinyl should always be sanded to allow a stronger bond with primer and paint. Aggressive sanding with overly coarse sandpaper is unnecessary and can leave noticeable scratch marks in paint. The goal is to dull and rough up the surface. The best sandpaper grit for this purpose is 220-grit. Wipe the windows down with a tack cloth to remove sanding dust.

Mask the Windows

I've talked about the 3M hand masker in previous articles. This simple tool is what you need if you plan to mask the windows for spray painting. Masking windows without one is a huge time waster.

The window glass needs to be taped and covered with plastic for over-spray protection. Cover the siding on all four sides of the windows with painter's tape and masking paper. The best tape to use to prevent paint bleed-through is green Frog tape.

Use An Airless Sprayer

You can paint them with only a brush, but it's going to take a lot longer to finish than if you sprayed them instead. Most major home improvement stores rent paint sprayers if you don't already own one.

The best tip size to use for spraying vinyl windows is one that produces a smaller spray fan width, which would be a 310 tip (6-inch spray fan), or even the smaller 210 tip (4-inch spray fan). If it's your first time spraying, the smaller 210 tip makes it easier to control over-spray.

I'm partial to Graco sprayers and their RAC X spray tips. I use a Graco 495 airless sprayer for most of my painting projects. I use the Graco FFLP tips (green) a lot. These are good tips to use for spraying windows, cabinets, and trim. The tips produce a softer finish with less over-spray.

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.

© 2019 Matt G.


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