Published: Sept. 27, 2021
Can you paint vinyl windows? Nope.
Just kidding! Well, kind of… Vinyl windows typically should not be painted once they’re installed. In our experience, it rarely turns out well, but today we’re tapping a local painting professional for their opinion, too, along with a few of our window product manufacturers.
Let’s dive into a little more detail. After all, curb appeal is important, and nothing impacts the total look of a home like windows. The color of the frames can enhance the overall look, or stick out like a sore thumb that irritates a homeowner every single time they pull up in their driveway.
Since vinyl windows can last 20-30+ years, most homes go through several iterations of roof and exterior paint colors during that time, and perhaps the home sells to new owners multiple times during that period, too – so it’s common that a homeowner might be interested in changing the color of their window frames to create a more attractive or personalized color combination.
So what can you do if the color of your window frames bothers you? If they’re vinyl, can you paint them? Are you stuck with them? Do you have to buy new windows?
While fiberglass and wood windows are easy to repaint, this isn’t the case with other materials – especially vinyl, which homeowners should avoid painting. Paint simply does not adhere well to vinyl due to its slippery surface and tendency of shrinking or expanding due to the weather, and peeling or bubbling paint can make a window look worse than it did before being painted.
DunRite Owner Sal Sucato says painting a window typically voids the warranty. “Unless it’s done by a professional, most people paint over hardware or drainage holes, and paint in a way that ultimately hinders how easily a window opens and closes. It’s not an easy thing to paint.”
John Antioco, owner of CertaPro Painters of North Scottsdale agrees. “Can we paint vinyl windows? Yes. But should we? Maybe not. We have a conversation with the homeowner to be sure they’re prepared for the extra maintenance it adds.”
“It adds maintenance to a product that was maintenance-free before being painted. That’s often enough to change the homeowner’s mind.”
While they offer a two year warranty on the paint, protecting the homeowner from issues related to how the paint clings to the vinyl, such as peeling or flaking, but they don’t provide any kind of warranty protection if the window has issues related to the painting. CertaPro frequently paints wood and aluminum windows, and fiberglass doors, but their preference is to discourage the homeowner if they are considering having the vinyl painted.
“If they’re determined to paint the vinyl, we’ll do it. We’ve had good luck with some of the Sherwin Williams products, such as their PrepRite ProBlock primer, and Sherwin Williams SnapDry, a vinyl-safe exterior paint product. We’re very thorough with our prep work to make sure the paint adheres well, including a scuff-sanding and cleaning of the vinyl. The jobs we’ve done have turned out fine.”
“But it’s risky.”
Next, we approached a few of our manufacturers to see what they have to say. All of them discouraged the idea. If it’s vinyl, they recommended against painting, but for many of their products made from other materials, painting isn’t an issue.
Can you paint Andersen® vinyl or Fibrex windows?
Andersen® Windows tells homeowners not to apply paint or any other finish to their fiberglass, vinyl and Fibrex windows as it will affect their warranty, but they’re a little softer in their directives for the aluminum-clad products, stating that it’s “not recommended” and “may” impact the warranty. We’d interpret that to mean it must follow their specifications, and that of the paint manufacturer. There’s wiggle room for interpretation. Naturally, anything painted at the factory during manufacturing has its own warranty, but we’d suggest not painting over that product without first reading the warranty and reaching out to the manufacturer.
Can Pella vinyl windows be painted?
Similarly, Pella states that they do not recommend painting their vinyl products, and that it will void the warranty. Wood windows or doors, and Pella’s fiberglass and steel entry doors can all be painted, but they recommend against painting their aluminum-clad wood products. The wood interior can be painted or stained, but the cladding on the exterior should not be repainted over its baked on finish. (Find information here for your specific Pella product.)
And what about Anlin vinyl windows, can they be painted?
According to a manufacturer’s representative for Anlin, Peter Cathey, Anlin’s stance is cut and dry. Once installed, vinyl windows and doors cannot be properly painted and it automatically voids the warranty. However, they do offer twelve colors to custom paint the exterior of the frames at the factory—including black—which carries the full Anlin warranty.
Our other window manufacturers did not reply to our request for information. However, all of them use language in their warranties that make it clear their product may not be covered under a warranty if aftermarket painting contributes to a defect or issue. Naturally, however, painting done at the factory typically has some sort of warranty coverage from the manufacturer.
Why are they concerned?
Why are manufacturers so concerned about vinyl repainting? It’s not just the likelihood of improper painting leading to water damage or operational difficulty. Certain chemicals in aftermarket paint can actually soften vinyl, causing it to warp, sag and otherwise lose its structural integrity.
It can hamper energy efficiency of the window, too. If a window reflects UV rays and the heat of the sun through specific formulations – such as a UV inhibiting additive to the vinyl – aftermarket paint can mask the very properties that make the product energy efficient.
“It’s always best to look over your warranty and check with the window manufacturer before making a change,” says Sucato.
Be prepared to find out painting vinyl will void the warranty. Homeowner’s insurance may also deny a claim, too.
Your best alternative
Instead of painting the vinyl, it’s better to choose a paint color for the home’s exterior and interior walls that works with the existing window color. Professional painters like CertaPro offer a free color consultation to help you choose the right colors. They’ll come out to your home to look at the color of the windows, roof and landscaping, then recommend colors for the exterior walls, trim and doors that complement the color of the windows. They’ll even provide paint samples called draw-down sheets that a homeowner can place on the walls in different areas of the home to view how the paint color looks in different light settings.
Of course, if you are having trouble with your windows or they’re outdated, then replacement might be a better alternative to painting. We’ll talk more about that in a moment, but a free quote is never a bad idea, right? It just makes sure you’re making an educated decision you won’t regret later.
If you truly want to paint your vinyl windows… use a professional
Still considering the idea? If your vinyl windows are already outside of their warranty coverage or you’re willing to risk denial on a claim, vinyl windows can be successfully painted according to some professional painters, provided you’re up to the task when it comes to increased maintenance.
It isn’t for the faint of heart and we definitely recommend finding a paint professional who will warranty their work, instead of trying to do this yourself.
Not only will the windows need to be prepped the right way with the right products – including a light sanding and products that are specifically formulated for vinyl, hot weather and a surface that expands and contracts – but the paint is likely to need repainting frequently, since it won’t have the same longevity you’d get from paint on the home’s non-vinyl exterior surfaces.
Using a professional may ensure that you have recourse if the paint doesn’t stick.
It will also help your home keep its resale value, since windows that are incorrectly painted don’t just look unsightly, but can have a shorter than expected lifespan or cause structural integrity issues, such as warped frames, damaged seals or caulking and broken glass.
If the painter offers an extended warranty, this is one case where it’s definitely worth considering.
Already decided to paint your vinyl windows? You’ll need a gentle touch when it comes to maintenance. Keep them clean on the inside and out, but never use a power washer, which can strip paint right off the vinyl. Also, avoid using any chemicals to clean the glass or frames, and stick to just a mild dish detergent and water. Vinegar, ammonia and other cleaning agents can damage the paint.
You can also expect to re-paint the vinyl fairly frequently.
Color selection matters, too. It’s important to avoid dark colors of paint, such as black, which can cause the vinyl window frames to overheat and warp, sometimes breaking the glass as a result of vinyl movement.
Black vinyl from the manufacturer is fine, since it has additives to prevent issues and warranty coverage if something happens, but we always, always, always recommend against dark colors for aftermarket paint. In Arizona’s weather? Trust us, you’ll have issues.
If your windows are under warranty, be sure to work with the manufacturer on paint selection, as they can help you choose the right products and colors, and their preapproval may protect any remaining warranty.
Consider replacement instead of painting if you have these issues
Most people only consider painting a vinyl window if they want to change the color. However, if the windows are experiencing other issues, too, then replacement might be a smarter alternative.
If your windows are single pane or more than 15 years old, investing in new windows can help cut down your heating and cooling utility bills. Newer windows are far more energy efficient than older double-pane vinyl windows, and have a broader range of colors available.
It also might be time to consider replacements if the windows are fogging up between the panes of glass, indicating a broken seal, or showing signs of water damage, rot or mold.