How to Paint Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is great stuff, and you don’t have to replace it just because it’s losing its finish and growing lichen. That’s where painting comes in. It’s entirely possible to repaint aluminum siding by yourself with a brush and have the results look great and last a long time. This is especially true with the great exterior paints we have now. The question below came from a subscriber wondering about how to paint aluminum siding.

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Q: The aluminum siding on my house has growths on it and the paint seems to be rubbing off as a powder. Other than these problems, the siding is in good shape. What can I do to make things look better? Some people tell me new vinyl siding is the best option.

Even aluminum siding as far gone as this can look nearly new after surface prep and painting. The key is to choose the right primer and paint.

A: Painting is the easiest and most economical option for renewing the look of tired aluminum siding. There are three reasons I recommend against siding replacement in favour of repainting in your case:

  1. Painting is much less expensive than replacing all that metal with vinyl.
  2. The physical durability of aluminum is better than vinyl. Aluminum is simply a much better product in several ways.
  3. Sprucing up the aluminum also saves lots of resources, so it’s good for the environment.

How to Paint Aluminum Siding

New paint applied to aluminum siding can last a long time as long as you address a few unique details. Begin by washing the surface in the same way you’d tackle the outside of your car, but with a little more vigour. Scrub with warm, soapy water and a brush. Don’t use a pressure washer.  Rinse well with a garden hose to remove dirt, soap residue and oxidized paint. It’s essential you get rid of all the old powdery paint residue as part of the process.

You might be tempted to use a pressure washer here, but that’s not a great idea. It’s all too easy for water to be forced up underneath the siding and into window trim. And besides, scrubbing with a brush removes dirt, chalky old paint and mold better than a pressure washer ever can. Don’t settle for any old powdery residue to remain on the old siding. It needs to be perfectly clean with all loose stuff removed before proceeding. Let the siding dry for a couple of good days, then get ready to paint, unless you have old holes to patch.

Patching Holes in Aluminum Siding

Siding can get holes for various reasons, and the best way to fill them before primer and paint goes on involves polyurethane caulking. This is about as close as you can get to the perfect caulking. It remain flexible for years outdoors, it sticks like glue, and it’s entirely paintable. Polyurethane caulking used to be easier to find than it is now, but here’s a good brand.

Keeping your place truly clean is something that many people have trouble with, both on exterior (like siding) and interiors. The internet can help with that in ways you might not have considered. Whether for office cleaning or at home, help is easier to find than ever.

Oil-Based Priming for Aluminum Siding

The key to successful painting of aluminum siding is oil-base primer, ideally one made especially for the job. As good as latex primers are these days, don’t use them in this situation because chemicals in the mix will react badly with the aluminum. That said, the paint itself should be the highest grade of 100% acrylic exterior latex you can find. Let the oil-based primer dry for a week (don’t rush on this timeline because you need full and complete drying), then apply two coats of latex paint. A flat or low-sheen formulation looks best on siding because it doesn’t show imperfections like high-gloss paints do.

For best possible results, experiment with rollers. You’ll get faster coverage than with a brush alone and a more even results. One excellent option involves brushing on the paint so you can get into all nooks and crannies, then immediately roll out the paint in that area with a paint roller to create an even texture that’s free of brush strokes. I know professionals who paint the entire outside of multi-story buildings like this and they do it faster than spraying because no masking is required.

Got vinyl siding that needs some color? The same approach applies to vinyl, except you should use a primer and paint made especially for vinyl. Ask at any specialty paint store for recommendations on primer and paint for vinyl siding.

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– Steve Maxwell