Durability is one of vinyl siding’s greatest advantages, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll love the look of your siding forever. If your siding has faded or you’re tired of the color, replacement isn’t your only option. You can paint vinyl siding to freshen it up, and you won’t even need hard-to-find paints or equipment. Before you start picking out paint colors, though, consider whether painting is the best way to get the look you want.
Making the Choice to Paint
Before the advent of latex urethane paint, painting vinyl siding was all but impossible. While this modern paint formula has opened up new options, painting isn’t always the best way to change up old siding. If your siding is looking dull and grimy, a good pressure washing or hand scrubbing might be enough to restore it to its former beauty. You’ll need to wash the siding before painting anyway, so get this step done before you invest in paint.
High quality vinyl siding lasts between 20 to 40 years, although some perform well for 60 years or longer. Many brands are under warranty for 50 years. If your siding is more than 30 years old, painting can help it look and perform better for the last five to 10 years of its life. That’s around as long as the average exterior paint job lasts. After that, you’ll most likely need to replace the siding. Whether a relatively minor improvement for that time is worth the expense and effort of painting is up to you.
This is assuming your siding is in good condition and free from cracks, holes, buckling, and other issues that can let in moisture and damage your exterior walls. Damaged siding should be replaced. Installing new siding means more expense and effort upfront, but you’ll reap the rewards for at least 20 years.
Painting siding is tricky and, compared to replacement, less likely to give you good results. You’ll need to clean the siding thoroughly, wait for the right weather, and choose the right paint. If any of these conditions aren’t met, you could end up with bubbling, peeling, cracking paint, or warped siding when you could have had new siding. What’s more, painting voids the manufacturer’s warranty on most vinyl sidings, so it’s only worth the risk if your warranty has expired.
On the other hand, because painting costs around 50 percent less than replacement, it’s an economical option if your siding is in good condition, but is looking faded or you want a custom color. It’s also a practical way to boost your home’s curb appeal. On average, you can expect to recoup 75 to 80 percent of the cost of new siding, meaning an overall loss. Exterior repainting, however, is more likely to give you a net gain.
Preparing for a Long-Lasting Paint Job
Correct preparation is essential. When you’re ready to paint, check the weather forecast for an upcoming period of mild temperatures, low humidity, and an overcast sky without rain. Paint applied in hot, bright, humid or windy conditions might not adhere properly and will flake and peel sooner, and rain can ruin fresh paint.
A clean surface is also necessary for the paint to adhere well. Either pressure wash or hand scrub the siding to remove all dirt, mildew, chalky oxidation buildup, and other debris. If you decide to pressure wash, use care or hire a professional because incorrect pressure washing can damage siding.
To remove light debris by hand, use a commercial vinyl siding cleaner or mix up a solution of 5 cups white vinegar in 1 gallon water. A solution of 5 cups baking soda in 1 gallon water also works well. For tougher debris, try 2/3 cup non-abrasive, ammonia-free household cleaner and 1 quart bleach in 1 gallon water.
Gently scrub the siding with a cloth or soft-bristled brush, rinse off all residue, and let the siding dry completely. Before you paint, check the seams and corners for lingering moisture that could damage your paint job.
When you’re ready to paint, look for a latex urethane paint formulated for exterior use. These paints contain resins that let them expand and contract with the siding during temperature changes. Water-based paints, such as acrylic latex formulas, don’t adhere well and are more likely to peel.
Choose a color that’s the same shade as the siding’s original color or lighter than the current color. Darker colors hold in more heat than the siding was designed to withstand, which increases the risk of warping. Paints labeled as vinyl safe are the exception and the only safe way to get a darker color. Even with these, avoid dramatically darker colors. A satin finish, which reproduces the soft sheen of vinyl siding, looks more natural than a matte or gloss finish.
Primer isn’t necessary unless your siding is scratched or pitted, has a chalky buildup you weren’t able to wash off, or has become porous due to weathering. If you need a primer, use one specifically formulated for use on vinyl siding, apply it with a roller or brush, and let it dry before you paint.
Using a paint brush or paint sprayer, apply a thin, even coat of paint. A roller also works, but you’re more likely to miss spots around ridges, edges, and corners and need to fill them in with a brush later. You’ll get better results by layering several thin coats than by trying to finish the job faster with a single thick coat. After applying the first coat, let the paint dry completely. Give the second coat a full 24 hours to dry before you do anything else with the siding.
Painting might not be the most common approach to freshening up vinyl siding, but it is a more economical option than replacing siding that’s still in serviceable condition. If you have any doubts about your siding’s condition, however, consult a professional about whether or not it’s safe to paint.