Can You Paint Vinyl Windows?

By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons“Can you paint vinyl windows?” You may be asking this if you just had new energy-efficient vinyl windows installed … but they need a special finishing touch. Or maybe you replaced your rickety old aluminum window frames with vinyl a few years back … and now the new frames are starting to look a little dull, especially if you’re repainting your house’s exterior. So let’s look at the question in depth.

Can you paint vinyl windows?

The short answer is yes. However, there are a couple of important conditions and caveats related to painting vinyl (PVC or cellular PVC) window frames. To begin, we’ll address painting the exterior of vinyl frames.

The essential second question

After “Can you paint vinyl windows?” the second question to ask is “Are you prepared to invest a lot of time and energy in maintenance from here on out?” Painting vinyl window frames is very much like painting brick walls. Both may improve the appearance dramatically, but doing it once is a lifetime commitment to repainting every year or two. So consider your decision carefully.

Why would you want to paint?

  1. Weathering. Over time, vinyl window frames often fade, discolor or develop a chalky appearance.

  2. Style. You might want something a little zingier than standard white or almond window frames.

  3. HOA. On the other hand, your homeowners association may require a more subdued color.

Check the warranty on your windows

Manufacturers usually address the query “Can you paint vinyl windows?” with specific guidelines in the fine print of your warranty. They’re not trying to spoil your DIY fun, but to protect you. If you paint white window frames a darker hue against recommendations, they may absorb more heat than they can handle and end up either warping or damaging the window itself. In that case, good luck trying to collect on your warranty!

Clean first

If your vinyl window frames are looking dingy or streaked, they might just be dirty or even mildewed. After all, they are exposed to outdoor dust, dirt, air pollution, and moisture 24 hours a day. Today’s vinyl window frames can generally be tilted or completely removed for easier cleaning. Use a soft cloth and warm soapy water to wash the vinyl frames. You might be so pleased with the results that you decide not to bother painting.

Use the right paint

Be sure to purchase the correct product if you want to paint your vinyl windows. Look for labeling that specifies “vinyl safe” paint. Paint white or light-colored window frames with a formula that has an LRV (light reflectance value) of 55 or above. Frames that are currently a dark shade may be painted with a lower LRV, but it’s not advisable to go darker than the original color.

Tips for success

  • Consider a pro. Painting vinyl windows is tough to get 100 percent right, so you might want to hire a professional to handle the project for you.
  • Sand frames. This roughens them so paint will stick. Gently does it – you don’t want to scratch the vinyl! Wipe off sanding dust before you move ahead.
  • Protect your window glass. Cover the glass with newspaper, held in place by painter’s tape.
  • Prep frames. If you’re using paint that requires priming, apply 2 coats of vinyl-safe primer with a foam brush. Allow each coat to dry overnight.
  • Apply paint. Once again, 2 coats (or even 3) are advisable for thorough coverage. For the paint, though, you’ll only need to wait a couple of hours between coats.
  • Finish with clear-coat. Make sure your paint has dried completely; then spray on a UV-resistant clear coat.
  • Take down newspaper and tape. Scrape off any paint or primer splotches from the window glass with a razor blade.

Can (should) you paint the frames on the inside?

If you paint the inside of your vinyl window frames, you’ll face the same problem with potential damage from strong sunlight (although the frames will be slightly more shielded). In addition, painting the interior sash and track may make the window stick when you want to open and close it, and paint in these areas will tend to wear away quickly.

Laura Firszt writes for

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