Can You Paint Vinyl Windows?

November 14, 2023


Home Improvement

A person applying vinyl-safe paint to a window frame

Vinyl windows reign supreme when it comes to quality, longevity, and cost-effectiveness. Thanks to their great insulation properties and durable structure, you can count on them to look great while not requiring a ton of maintenance in the long run. 

However, as trends evolve and design preferences shift, the question often arises: “Can you paint vinyl windows?” — and the answer is yes, but it’s not always recommended.

In this article, we’ll share our full guide to painting vinyl windows, along with some things you need to be wary of when undertaking this DIY project.

Key Considerations Before Painting Your Vinyl Windows

Before you throw on your overalls, pick up your paintbrush, and devote the afternoon to learning how to paint vinyl windows, there are some things to consider. 

Warranty Implications

Painting vinyl windows often voids the warranty. Why? It’s most often because choosing a colour that’s too dark can cause the window frames to retain more heat than they originally would, leading to warping or even broken glass. 

As such, even if your warranty allows you to paint your vinyl windows, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to have you submit a paint sample for approval beforehand. 

Material Compatibility

When deciding whether or not to paint vinyl windows, you also need to consider how well your chosen paint will actually work with the material. 

Vinyl expands over time. As such, latex or acrylic paint is a much better option than oil-based paint given its durability and ability to accommodate this expansion. These types of paint, as we will discuss in the next section, are less likely to crack and peel. 

Impact on Performance and Longevity

Applying paint directly to your vinyl windows can ruin the window frames, leading the finish to peel off or flake very quickly. You also risk cracking the surface when you repaint vinyl windows, which can cause serious complications. 

As such, while you might think that painting your vinyl windows is a way to extend their lifespan, it can actually shorten it if done improperly! 

a contractor painting a window’s exterior frames white

How to Paint Vinyl Windows

As discussed, painting vinyl windows can be a viable option, provided it’s approached with the right knowledge and techniques. To ensure a successful outcome that not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also maintains their functionality and longevity, here’s a breakdown of how to paint vinyl windows.

1. Clean the Windows Thoroughly

Begin by cleaning the windows using a mild detergent and water solution. This removes dirt, grime, and any residue that might interfere with paint adhesion. Let them dry and move on to the next step.

2. Choose the Right Paint

Opt for high-quality exterior acrylic latex paint specifically designed for use on vinyl and plastics. Ensure it offers UV protection to prevent fading. 

If you have white window frames, you’ll want to steer clear of extremely dark colours. Experts recommend that white windows only be repainted with colours that have a Hunter L value of 60 or higher. Those with terratone-coloured vinyl windows can utilize any colour that has a value of 40 or higher.  

When learning to paint vinyl window frames, you can never go wrong with neutral colours, such as grey, beige, sand, or brown. Vinyl will easily absorb them and they will blend in with your interior without looking out of place.

3. Sand the Vinyl Window Frames

We must stress that sanding the frames is an absolute necessity; vinyl isn’t an easy surface to repaint otherwise. We recommend using a medium-grit sanding sponge or 240-grit sandpaper for optimal results. Sand the outer layer away until the surface feels rough to the touch, making sure you don’t sand the glass in the process! 

4. Apply Painter’s Tape

Having removed all the dust, you can use your painter’s tape to cover everything that you don’t intend to paint such as exterior frames, window panes, and vinyl siding.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can use plastic sheets to shield the glass, panes, and your walls. It’ll save you a ton of effort when it’s time to clean up. 

5. Prime and Paint the Windows

Use a bonding primer formulated for vinyl surfaces. This helps the paint adhere better and ensures a smoother finish. Multiple brands offer vinyl-safe primers—such as an alkyd-based primer.

Take your vinyl-safe primer and apply it to the frames with a small sponge brush or foam roller. Let the primer dry for a couple of hours or as indicated.

Once the primer is dry, you can finally break out the paint! Make long strokes with just enough paint; it will drip if you apply thick coats all at once. If this happens, clean it up immediately to prevent an uneven result. 

Two coats are the standard when painting vinyl windows, but make sure to let the first layer dry completely before applying the second. 

6. Maintain and Protect

Once painted, regularly inspect the windows for any signs of wear or damage. Clean them gently with a soft cloth and mild cleaner to maintain their appearance

A close-up of the bottom half of a freshly painted vinyl window

Replacement Windows: An Alternative to Painting Vinyl Windows

While you certainly can paint vinyl windows, it’s a significant choice that could end in disaster without the right expertise or resources.

Vinyl windows are built to last, so if yours are showing signs of damage, it may be time to replace them. With over 41 years of trusted experience, Clera Windows + Doors offers comprehensive window replacements that are fully customizable to meet your expectations.

All that’s required of you is choosing from our extensive list of unique vinyl window colour options and combinations—we handle the rest!

Give us a call today to learn more.

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