Can you paint vinyl windows? Expert painters urge caution and vital steps to avoid damage

Painting window frames is a good way to update their appearance, but with vinyl, there are a few factors to consider before picking up your paintbrush

pvc window
(Image credit: Getty images / tarasov_vl)

A fresh lick of paint is a great way to refresh tired old window frames without having to replace them. And vinyl or PVC windows can be painted – there are just a few reasons why it might be better not to.

Vinyl windows are a low-maintenance, energy-efficient option, and they do a brilliant job of keeping our houses warm. While they offer a range of positives – especially when you compare them to aluminum, wood, composite or fiberglass frames – the main drawback is that they are susceptible to wear and tear.

Over time, the material expands and contracts when exposed to changing temperatures, causing the frames to sag and crack. We asked experts if taking on the DIY project of painting vinyl windows is the solution.

Can you paint vinyl windows?

Vinyl windows are made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a synthetic polymer used to make pipes and fittings for plumbing. In other words, PVC is plastic, so it can be hard to paint.

large set of windows with vinyl frames

(Image credit: Getty images / phototropic)

Reasons not to paint vinyl windows

First, the paint professionals generally advise against it: 'The truth is that no matter how much prep is done and what kind of paint is chosen, no paint will last as long as the original vinyl finish,' says Matt Stone from Hometown Painting. This may cause paintwork to chip and leave it looking unsightly before long.

Second, it can nullify your warranty. Shlomo Cherniak, a handyman and the owner of Cherniak Home Services in Baltimore says that while you can certainly paint vinyl windows, doing so while they are still under the warranty is not the best idea. 'Those kinds of DIYs can void your warranty, which I believe is not worth it,' he comments. So be sure to call your manufacturer and run the paint selection by them before going ahead.

Shlomo Cherniak

Shlomo Cherniak is a handyman and founder of Cherinak Home Services in Baltimore. He has over seven years of experience in home improvement, with him and his team specializing in everything from installing kitchen cabinets to fixing leaky faucets to hanging pictures on the wall.

Zach Kozuch from Bear Mountain Custom Painting highlights various issues you can run into when painting vinyl windows. 'Vinyl doesn't play nicely with paint, and you have to sand it down before you can even get started,' he begins. 

'You also can't really paint over a dark vinyl window frame (forest green, for instance). You can only paint over lighter-colored vinyl frames. If you want to go from dark green vinyl windows to eggshell, for instance, you probably need to buy new windows.' 

Painting frames a darker color will also cause them to absorb more heat, which can cause them to get damaged in warmer weather.

How to make paint last on vinyl

yellow paint can and brush by window

(Image credit: Alamy)

To make your paint last as long as possible on vinyl, pro painter Matt Stone offers up the following advice:

  1. Use a bonding primer – this will help the paint to stick to the slick vinyl surface
  2. Lightly sand the vinyl window frames first to scuff them up
  3. Use a vinyl-safe color – many paint manufacturers will list which colors they recommend for vinyl
  4. Use the highest quality paint you can afford

'If all this prep is done you should not have to repaint your vinyl window frames any more regularly than the rest of your house,' he says.

After you have finished, neaten things up by getting paint off glass and getting rid of condensation inside windows.

The type of paint to use

'Paint choice is crucial. In general, you should choose a paint that is specifically designed for use on vinyl surfaces,' advises Ray Brosnan of Brosnan Facility Management. 'This type of paint is formulated to adhere to the slick surface of the vinyl and can withstand the expansion and contraction that occurs due to temperature changes.'

For example, you may want to pick a paint from this list by Sherwin Williams.


How long does painting vinyl windows last?

If you do all of the necessary prep – such as cleaning the windows thoroughly and applying a bonding primer – acrylic spray paint on windows, will last five years or more. Ray Brosnan, painting expert, does strongly recommend hiring a professional: 'inexperienced hands can do more damage than good.'

Can you paint vinyl windows black?

You can paint vinyl windows black, and this can frame the view beyond and create a graphic effect. As mentioned, darker tones will absorb more heat, potentially causing the vinyl to warp, so it depends on how much direct sunlight the window is exposed to and the climate of the area where you live. As a temporary measure, it will improve the aesthetic and smarten up the frames, but this makeover may not stand the test of time.

Be patient and give paint plenty of time to dry between coats, and keep hold of the paint you use so you can give the frames a touch-up every now and then to keep them looking their best.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.