How to Paint Aluminum Siding

One common question that Danny and I receive on the radio show is, “Can I paint aluminum siding; and, if so, what is the best method?” Great question.

The key to painting aluminum siding is preparation and priming. All of the chalkiness must be washed and scrubbed off, and any flaking paint removed. In a nutshell, you need to start with a clean palette.

Once everything is clean and dry, you’re ready to apply your primer. Here’s where a lot of people make a mistake and, unfortunately, I’ve even heard of “professional” painters who do this. They apply a latex primer.

This is probably the worst thing you can do when painting aluminum siding. Most latex paint has ammonia in it, and that includes primer. Ammonia has a chemical reaction to aluminum, which produces a tiny amount of gas.

Latex paint, by nature, is very elastic, so you end up with an elastic coating with gas bubbles underneath it. If you don’t quite see the problem here just think about how your own insides react a couple of hours after eating two or three bean burritos . . . ’nuff said, right? The gas build-up under the latex primer pushes up and out, which bubbles and flakes the top coat, in other words, it causes the paint to fail.

The solution is to use an oil-based primer specifically designed for metal surfaces. You will have to wait longer for an oil primer to dry, but it’s better than having to re-do everything within a year or two.

Once the primer is dry, top coat with a 100% acrylic paint. If you take this approach to your aluminum siding paint project, you’ll have a long-lasting finish you can be proud of.

60 COMMENTS

  1. I have heard several reliable professional sources recommend the use of a latex paint after using the oil-based primer. Why shouldn’t we use an oil-base exterior paint over the oil-based primer for the best finish and bond? I know the clean-up is harder but the result is tighter and longer-lasting isn’t it?
    Thanks.
    Robert

  2. Great question, Robert! I’ll go back to the fact that a lot of “professionals” will also use latex as a primer, and that’s the biggest mistake in my book. But, beyond that, there’s a difference in latex and acrylic latex. Instead of a water base (latex), acrylic is a chemical base. But, the latex properties of the acrylic also mean it’s going to be more forgiving to expansion and contraction. That gives it an advantage over oil top coats. And, unlike oil in an exterior venue, it resists chalking and blistering much better. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to the extra effort of an oil top coat, but for my dime, I think an acrylic latex will provide a better appearance as long as you prep and prime the right way!

  3. hay danny, the alumimum on my home is from the 70s & two years ago i sanded all the paint off only to be called away on a job. the alumimum has sat uncovered all this time in middle baldwin co. im ready to paint now. please tell me what i should do to prep the alumimum after all this time? thank you for any help… chris

  4. Danny…
    I am not disagreeing with you regarding the use of an oil-based primer on weathered aluminum siding prior to painting. We have always washed the house to remove dirt, mold and chalk. We then blend a bonding coat of a top quality latex paint and EB…Emulsa Bond followed by a coat of straight paint once the first coat has dried. We have several houses that have not displayed any signs of paint failure even after 10-15 years. Any thoughts on this?

  5. hi! danny i will like to paint my aluminum windows the problem is i don’t now which shop must i get the paint.

  6. I agree with Larry’s post. We have always washed the siding, allowed to dry and then use a bonding coat of 100% Acrylic latex paint mixed with EB followed by a coat of pure paint. We too have several houses that have been done that way and other than a little fading of the original color one is going on 16 years with no signs of peeling or paint failure.

  7. I believe this is exactly what happened to my aluminum sided home when I had it repainted last September. By December the paint was peeling off in several places. My question is will this peeling continue all over the house eventually? If so, can I request a refund from the painting company. Right now (June 25th)they are making piecemeal repairs. I believe they should have power washed the entire house to expose any flaking paint before making repairs. Do you agree?

  8. Marian..
    I agree, the washing is an important part of the process. The peeling can very well continue but no one can say for sure. It’s all about the preparation and if the company that did the work did not prepare the siding correctly failure of the new material is likely. I would certainly ask them if they are willing to come back and make things right. Is there anything in the paperwork you received from them about a guarantee? That might be your only recourse at this point. Good luck!

  9. We just had our house painted to find the painters did only one of the paid for two coats. They did not use a primer that you recommend, just the top coat. They did pressure wash most of the house before painting. What prep work is needed to ensure the paint stays on the house before a second coat is applied? we do have a couple chips and signs of the original paint in some areas.

  10. We had our steel siding painted a couple months ago and I have noticed on the front of the house there are several good size bubbles under the paint. Any suggestions on what caused this and how I can fix it?

  11. My home is covered with aluminum siding from the 70’s. Siding is very chalky but not one bit of peeling. What is the best cleaner to use for the prep washing, thank you.

  12. A solution MEX or house wash (available at most paint and hardware stores) mixed with water. Apply as directed, agitiate with a soft scrub brush and rinse thoroughly, a powerwasher works best. If some minor chalking remains don’t worry, if you use a bonding primer (combination of Emulsa Bond and paint) that will insure adhestion of the finish coats. The finish should be a good quality 100% acrylic latex paint.

  13. I am getting ready to repaint metal siding, actually steel as it is magnetic. I cleaned the garage very well with TSP and water and bleach, most all chalk is removed, and there is NO blistering or anything, in fact just very faded smooth paint. Do I need to use an oil primer at all? Or could I just use a paint and primer all in one?

  14. I am getting to paint my 1930’s home that has aluminum siding. It is chalky, but no pealing at all. Since it is white, could it be that it hasn’t been painted since it was put up, but that is the way it came from the manufacturer? Another question, what is the best way to shore up any ends that don’t lay flat against the one they overlap? Thanks…

  15. I came to your site in a search on PCH and it was just the place I needed to find for many of our home owner questions. Thanks for much for the good info on your user friendly site. I had some really important questions today about painting aluminum siding. I found those answers but many other ideas and hints to use too. Thank you so very much.

  16. Thanks for your advice on my question about painting our home with aluminum siding an brick. I found your sight when I was searching on the PCH Search and Win program. I am so impressed with finding a place I can return to in the future for honest and and helpful answers with integrity. Thank you Danny.

  17. I live in a home that has aluminum siding. Two of my neighbors had their aluminum siding painted last summer by the same painting contractor. Overall, the paint job looks job. But, when the sun faces the aluminum siding, I can see glossy spots at certain angles. How can I avoid that outcome?

  18. My home has aluminum siding with lots of chalking. If I pressure wash it to remove all chalking, will I need to do any sanding or other prep before priming? Also can I use a primer and paint combo? If I decide to refinish aluminum siding, with a different/darker color, is there anything additional I will have to do?
    Thanks

  19. i currently have the bubbling aluminum siding situation. I do not know when the house was last painted, but once I clean and scrape the bubbles, will I have to worry about my new paint bubbling because of the previously incorrectly done paint job? Will that old paint continue to bubble and peel under my new oil primer?

  20. Good call on the Oil primer and Acrylic top coats!

    Also, make sure you test for Lead with a test kit. Next, mix 1 cup of Trisodium Phosphate and 1 cup of Chlorine Bleach to 1 Gallon of water and wash siding with a large abrasive sponge (undyed) for smaller homes/Capes; for lager homes you can add mixture to pressure washer and proceed per your normal power washing routine (remember, always top to bottom) and let air dry (to the touch). Then you apply Oil primer with a roller (never spray aluminum), then two coats of Acrylic.

    Hope this helps.

    – Bill

  21. My aluminum siding is 60 years old and the paint has pretty well faded. I just want to clean it up. Can I just use 100% Acrylic paint to cover for a quick job just to spruce it up?

  22. I hope you can help me with this annoying issue I have been having with my painted siding. So I painted my aluminum siding 6 years ago and I noticed that there is an area that started to bubble and flake off after a couple of years. This area only has about 10 rows of siding that is affected the rest of the house has no issues. I pressure washed the entire house and washed the siding down with TSP and rinsed the house thoroughly and made sure there was no chalkiness before painting. Below are the steps to try to resolve this issue.

    1. I pressure washed as much of the bubbling and flaking paint as I could off and sanded the area with fine grit sand paper.
    2. I then applied an oil based exterior primer to the cleaned area and let it dry for a couple of days.
    3. I then repainted the area on an overcast day with the same acrylic latex paint that the whole house is painted with.

    The paint started to bubble again especially after some rain. I’m at a loss as to how to fix this issue, can you help?

  23. I am going to paint my mobile home which is approximately 30 years old and is showing some wear and rust and is textured. What is the best way to paint it (i.e. spray paint, roller, brush)? Also do I need to primer the whole home first? What is the best paint to use on it and should it be a paint/primer combination? It has some mild chaulkiness to it but not much, do I need to wash it first?
    Thanks. I need all the help and info on this I can get.

  24. I’m getting ready to do this and thanks everybody for posting. How do you recommend cleaning the surface before doing the primer? I was thinking about doing denatured alchol but wanted to see what everyone else did.

  25. My home is covered with aluminum siding from the 70’s. Siding is very chalky but not one bit of peeling. What is the best cleaner to use for the prep washing?
    thank you.

  26. – found an alkyd modified acrylic latex paint (mooreglow) is designed to stick very well to slightly chalky siding. Mine was done over 6 years ago and looks like brand new with no bubbles etc — central ontario weather extremes notwithstanding.

  27. my question is should I paint my aluminum siding. I need to know if painting or replacing the siding is best. I do believe that today’s siding is made of plastic. I need help in deciding which is best. the siding is in pretty good shape and it has been on the house since the 80’s. Help

  28. Just installed new roof. Changed colors. Getting ready to paint the metal siding.I bought oil-based semi-gloss enamel.
    Is this good enough for 100 degree Temps and do I first clean with white vinegar? PLEASE HELP! To big of a project to mess up.

  29. My aluminum siding house has been primed with oil based exterior paint by spraying. I had planned to use oil based exterior next. I have been told that
    I have made a mistake with the choice of the oil based paint. U.S. There a solution for me that you could you recommend.

  30. I have recently hired someone to clean the aluminum siding to our park model RV. They left the Spray 9 on too long and instead if cleaning the black streaks the cleaner stripped the paint down to the aluminum and now where the black streaks are there is aluminum streaks. I want to repaint what steps would you recommend and the types of paints and primers? Can I paint a darker colour? It is white but I was thinking a dark beige or gray to hide future black streaks a little better. After repainting, what cleaner would you recommend so that this doesn’t happen again?

  31. I had a hard time getting my oil base primer for my aluminum siding. Ace actually sells an acrylic latex with the phrase aluminum siding primer in the title. After reading your site I took it back and went to Sherwin Williams to find what I needed. It cost a little more but I’d rather pay and not have to do this again. I’ve already treated with TSP and gotten the siding clean and ready. I’m just waiting for the weather to cooperate before I paint. I plan on wiping with vinegar and water for a final clean before painting and using a top coat of 100% acrylic latex. Thanks for your info, this is a great site!

  32. Hello again,
    My oil base primer looks so good I am debating on not putting on that acrylic latex top coat. I used two coats of the Sherwin Williams white primer and it is such a bright white it looks great! What the worst that could happen if I leave it like this? I want to do a good job, but I am working by myself and I am sixty.

  33. Don’t bother answering, I saw the primer was turning grey from the sunlight and knocked out two coats of acrylic latex. Looks even better now, glad I’m done!

  34. Is there a problem when using enamel paint on old already painted aluminum siding? Should we stick with satin? We live in Florida and in a double wide home.
    Thanks.

  35. I painted my aluminum siding home 2 days ago after pressure washing it & sanding where original paint was flaking. We recieved a lot of rain last night & there are numerous spots where paint is bubbling. I did not use any primer. I used WeaterAll Exterior 100% Acrylic Latex. What should I do to fix this ? Where did I go wrong ?

  36. hello,
    I have a steel project am about to embark on. should i use aluminum steel or i should use normal steel and paint with aluminum paint? Which one is the neatest and durable?

    thanks

  37. our House is over 50 years old,and the aluminum siding is some what faded
    what is the proper way to restore it.Every body gives me differend advice
    of preparation and what paint to use. I was told to use a paintbrush, with three rows of hair. By the way no flaking. Thanks, patiently waiting, Bill

  38. Great instructions. I’m 71 and have a large 2 and 1/2 story house. I’m retired, so time is not important. I figure to start at the back and get a feel for it. Thanks

  39. As a professional painter I have found, clean, clean clean prep. I use a combo of water, bleach, trisodium phosphate w/trisodium not trisodium free and DAWN soap. . Start on the shady side of the house, use a medium stiffness brush and scrub the surface. If heavy mold is present add bleach and make certain all mildew is removed. Use a power washer or ordinary hose spray to remove soap etc. Do a side at a time and let dry. Unless something has changed I used Ben Moore Moor- Gard. Did not prime and used two coats of finish paint. Sixteen years later my brothers home looks like the day it was painted.
    I don’t believe an oil based primer is a good idea, I never primed aluminum siding but always applied two coats of finish.

  40. Whats the best paint to use for aluminum siding And should I primer first or put two coats on its not in real bad shape!!! Thanks

    • Hi, Gary! Each home is different, so without knowing the details about yours, we recommend visiting your local The Home Depot, explaining your home’s specifications and unique needs, and asking for tailored advice. Good luck on your project!

  41. I’m worried about overspray getting on other trailers and cars. Is it ok to use a brush to paint the aluminum siding on my Mobil home? I also heard white vinegar is the thing to use to clean the aluminum siding. Is that right? My plan is to do this very soon so any response would be very much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    Chris

    • Hi, Chris,
      Danny says, “No problem in using a good-quality brush to apply the paint. I would suggest you clean it first with TSP (trisodium phosphate), which is available at any paint store or home center.
      Good luck!”

  42. I recommend looking at Sherwin Williams updated aluminum safe Paint color book as a guide for topcoat colors to paint aluminum siding as well. I believe that Benjamin Moore also has an aluminum safe color booklet.

    • Hi, Arnie!
      Painting your aluminum siding is a great, economical way to refresh your home without replacing the siding.
      But definitely remove that rust before cleaning and painting the siding.
      Then, add oil-based primer and 100% acrylic paint.
      Good luck!

  43. Hello! This site was super helpful to get me started: the only question I have is that I have aluminum siding (light yellow) on the front of my house but the previous owners added an addition with the plastic siding and in a different colour (white). Just wondering if you know if there will be a huge difference if I use the same acrylic paint all around? Will the acrylic adhere nicely to the plastic siding?!

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