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My Vinyl Windows are Boring! Can I Paint Them a New Color?

One of our readers, Brenda Koon, asked a very good question:

“We purchased Andersen Windows several years ago and are very pleased. Would you tell me if we could paint over the coating? They are white and we would like to change the color. At the time we purchased these, we could choose but two colors. Your professional help would be appreciated. Also, IF we can paint over this without it peeling, what kind of paint should we use?

Brenda: You are not alone in wanting to paint your white window frames a new color. The answer is yes, you can paint your vinyl windows, but doing so requires several considerations:

Primers & Paints

The generally accepted answer is this: an alkyd-based primer should be applied to the vinyl so that the paint will be able to bond to the rigid (and thoroughly cleaned) vinyl surface. Following that, a paint specifically designed for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may be applied. However, it gets more complicated than that. Note these considerations:

  1. Expect that painting the window will void the manufacturer’s warranty unless specific manufacturer instructions for painting are followed.
  2. Clean the frame very well. Andersen specifically recommends wiping it clean with acetone prior to applying the primer.
  3. Color is very important. Painting a vinyl window a dark color can cause irreparable damage to its integrity and can cause the PVC to break down due to heat buildup (most certainly voiding the warranty).
  4. Do Not Paint weatherstripping, jamb liners, screen channels or any surface against which a movable window component will make contact.

Now, in Brenda’s case, the windows in question were made by Andersen, and therefore that company seemed the logical place to request more specific information. The Manufacturer A quick email to Andersen’s customer service department yielded an answer within a few days. Right off the bat came a disclaimer:

Although we state our windows and doors may be painted, we do not warrant the adhesion or durability of the paint to our substrates.”

That being said, Andersen went on to describe in detail how their windows could be painted, which you can find online, beginning with color restrictions. Here is a summary: Andersen measures their paint colors using the Hunter “L” color scale, which is a measurement of a color’s intensity from light to dark on a scale of 0-100, zero being black and 100 being white. So, painting Andersen windows is restricted by the color of the original vinyl cladding:

  • White - vinyl frames should have paint with a Hunter L value of 60 or greater.
  • Sandtone - vinyl should be painted using a product with an L value of 40 or greater.
  • Terratone - can handle an L value of greater than 40.
  • Forest Green - windows should not be painted at all.

Many manufacturers of vinyl windows, including Andersen Windows, recommend that customers send in a color chip for the paint or paints they’d like to use. The manufacturer will then render an opinion on the matter. Unless you’re sure about the paint you plan to use, this is a good idea, as it may save your warranty and provide you with the knowledge that you are doing the job right. Or, at least take your inquiry to a local painting contractor or paint store.

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