Painting Vinyl Windows? Yes, It Can Be Done, And Here Is How

Vinyl windows offer homeowners an attractive, low-maintenance and affordable option when choosing new windows. They are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and pre-molded colors, and this makes them ideal for buying and installing the same day. Some people looking for a specific color may not always find their exact choice, though, and they would like to paint their windows. Despite rumors to the contrary, painting vinyl windows is a possibility. However, before you break out the brushes and paint, you should get more information and understand the drawbacks of painting vinyl windows and how to be successful if you decide to move forward. Here is what you should know:

Know the challenges associated with painting vinyl windows

Vinyl windows are manufactured from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same material you can find in plastic pipes. This material has a proven track record in a wide variety of applications, but here are some cautions you should understand when attempting to paint vinyl window frames:

  • Vinyl windows need a primer coat for good paint adherence

  • Some primers can damage or warp vinyl

  • Painting vinyl darker than its molded color can cause heat damage

With these things in mind, be sure you understand the particular challenges that come with painting vinyl windows. It can be done successfully, but it requires a willingness to do the job right if you want lasting results.

Obtain the tools and materials needed for painting vinyl windows

  • Medium-grit sandpaper – the specific grit isn't important as long as the sandpaper doesn't take off too much material or make gouges and grooves in the vinyl.

  • Tack cloth – this is a "sticky" cloth used in woodworking to remove sanding dust.

  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner – avoid substitute TSP and use the original formula for best results.

  • Foam paintbrushes – a variety of sizes from one-half inch and up will make the job easier.

  • Vinyl-safe primer – it's important that you choose a primer that will not react with the vinyl or your windows could sag or warp.

  • Vinyl-safe latex exterior paint – as with the primer, choose a paint that is safe for vinyl.

  • Spray UV-resistant clear coat finish – this will protect your paint from the sun and other harsh elements that can cause fading. Choose either a satin or glossy finish depending upon your preference.

  • Masking tape

  • Newspaper

  • Bucket

  • Sponge

  • Garden hose

Follow these directions for painting vinyl windows

  1. Sand the vinyl – use your sandpaper to lightly sand the vinyl surfaces. Try not to sand too much, and vary your sandpaper strokes to avoid making grooves in the vinyl.

  2. Remove the vinyl dust – with the tack cloth, wipe down the vinyl to remove all traces of sanding dust that may adhere to the vinyl. Carefully inspect the windows under a light to check for spots that may need additional sanding.

  3. Clean the windows –prepare your TSP solution following the manufacturer's directions and apply it to the windows with a sponge. Rinse the windows with a garden hose and allow them to air dry. Once the windows are dry, avoid touching the vinyl with your bare fingers to prevent transferring oils from your skin. Primer won't adhere well to a greasy surface.

  4. Tape off the glass areas – use the masking tape and newspaper to cover glass and exterior trim pieces. Leave only the areas exposed that need painting.

  5. Apply the primer – using a foam brush, lightly apply primer to the surface of the windows. Allow the primer to dry overnight, and apply one additional coat the next day. Priming is a key step in making this successful, so be sure the vinyl is well-covered before moving to painting.

  6. Paint the windows – after the primer has dried overnight the second time, apply a vinyl-safe exterior paint to the windows. Allow the paint to dry for two hours, and apply a second coat of paint. If necessary, apply a very light third coat to cover any areas that aren't well-covered.

  7. Clear coat the windows – once the final coat of paint has dried completely, make a few passes with a UV-resistant clear coat spray over the vinyl.

  8. Remove the tape and paper – after applying the clear coat layers, remove the masking tape and paper from the windows and scrape any paint or primer overruns from the glass with a razor blade.