Q&A / 

Painting Vinyl Siding

DEAR TIM: My house has a combination of wood and vinyl siding. The wood siding needs a fresh coat of paint, but I want the color of the two sidings to be consistent. My wife wants a new color that is different than what we have now. Can I successfully paint vinyl siding? If it is possible, are there special paints and techniques that I must use? Donald N., Scranton, PA

DEAR DONALD: If you had asked this question several years ago, I don't think you would have liked the answer. But fortunately, there have been some major breakthroughs in the paint and coatings industry. Several new exterior paints are available that have been formulated to stick to vinyl siding. They perform so well that the paint manufacturers offer a long term warranty so long as you follow the paint label instructions.

Painting vinyl siding is challenging for several reasons. Vinyl siding has a very high expansion/contraction coefficient. This simply means that it expands and contracts significantly as it experiences periods of exposure to sunlight and then periods of shade or darkness. This movement of the siding caused traditional exterior paints to fail in short order as the bond between the paint and the siding was severed by this constant back and forth movement.

Vinyl siding also soaks up heat to a great degree. If it gets too hot, it can buckle and distort. This is why many vinyl products are offered in lighter colors. Because of this fact, you can actually damage your vinyl siding if you paint it a color that is too dark. The paint manufacturers highly recommend that you paint the vinyl siding a color that is no darker than the current shade of your vinyl siding.


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For example, if your siding is currently a light shade of beige, you can paint it a light shade of green, blue, tan, etc. The trick is to use paint store color chip cards to guide you. Locate a color that is as close as possible to your existing vinyl siding. Use that color chip card as a benchmark and find complimentary paint chip cards that have the same depth of color as your card. You can then select a color that is equal to or less in color richness and depth as your existing vinyl siding color.

You must use the right paint to achieve victory. The ones that seem to work best with vinyl siding are ones that have a blend of urethane and acrylic resins. Water based urethanes mixed with high grade acrylic resins produce a user-friendly paint that has extraordinary adhesive qualities. This is exactly what one needs to combat the daily movement of the vinyl siding. Exterior latex paints that contain urethane are readily available. Simply look for the word urethane on the label of the paint can.

To get the absolute best results from this paint job you need to do a few other things. I feel that a clean, dry surface is very important. If you clean your house like your own body or your car, you will have a great head start. This means using soap and water and some good old fashioned elbow grease. You must mechanically remove the dirt film from the existing painted surfaces with soapy sponges, rags or brushes. Do not count on pressure washers to clean your existing surfaces. Not only do they not get all the dirt off the surfaces, but they also can inject massive amounts of water into and behind the siding. This hidden water can cause big problems as you begin to apply the new paint.

If mildew is present on the existing surfaces, use an oxygen bleach solution to remove it. Oxygen bleach will not harm the vinyl siding nor any vegetation near your home. Avoid chlorine bleach as it is highly toxic to vegetation. Oxygen bleach can be found easily on the Internet.

Painting in direct sunlight is also not the best idea. If you can paint your home in cooler weather and preferably on overcast days, the paint will have excellent conditions in which to dry and bond to the vinyl siding and existing wood siding. Windy, hot and sunny weather is not the best time to paint contrary to what many people believe.


Message from Tim:

Years ago while researching a column about cleaning decks, I discovered the wonders of Oxygen Bleach. It is perhaps the 'greenest' cleaner I know of as it uses oxygen ions to break apart stains, dirt and odor molecules. There are no harsh chemicals, and it works on just about anything that is water washable.

I decided to create my own special blend using ingredients made in the USA. In fact, the raw materials in the active ingredient are food-grade quality registered with the FDA. I call my product Stain Solver. I urge you to use it to help with cleaning your vinyl siding. You will be amazed at the results!

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