Exterior Vinyl Windows – Can You Paint Them Dark?

As a residential paint color specialist, this is the busy season for exterior paint color consultations. Dark exterior windows are quite the rage for high-end builds right now, and I’ve been specifying them right and left. But can you paint vinyl windows dark, and if not, why?

can you paint your vinyl windows dark?

 

This week I consulted with a couple on colors for their new home currently being built. The windows are already in – they are paintable PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is a plastic polymer.

2016-03-29 09.05.15

 

My clients were excited about going dark on their windows, so I helped them choose Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal. This was the overall plan I presented them:

painting exterior pvc windows

 

When they shared the plan with their builder, he told them that if they painted the pvc or vinyl windows a paint color that had less than a LRV of 55, the warranty on the windows would be null and void. So they are paintable, but only light colors can be used???

Way to rain on our parade . . .

So here’s the scoop – dark colors with low LRV (that means light reflective value, in case you’re wondering) absorb heat much more than lighter colors with a higher LRV. This isn’t an issue if you are painting wood, because heat does not alter wood. You may have already heard that you can’t paint vinyl siding dark, because it can warp. Unlike their competitors, LP SmartSide siding and trim products are engineered wood products, so heat doesn’t warp it. However, heat CAN warp plastic products. So pvc and vinyl window manufacturers don’t want to take the chance that direct sunlight will damage the vinyl windows, which is why they make this caveat to their product warranty.

Here is the advice that Azek (a pvc trim board manufacturer) provides its customers:
• If you choose to paint, use a 100% acrylic latex paint
with colors having a Light Reflective Value (LRV) of
55 or higher.

• For darker colors (LRV of 54 or lower), choose paints
specifically designed for use on vinyl/pvc products
such as, but not limited to, Sherwin-Williams
VinylSafe™ coatings. These paints/coatings are
designed to reduce excessive heat gain.

 

AHA! Here’s more about the Sherwin-Williams product that might solve the problem:

Sherwin-Williams VinylSafe™ Color Technology provides a wide color selection and excellent performance on vinyl without buckling — even when using a dark color.

You can choose from their 100 color options in the VinylSafe™ palette, or have them do a custom color match. VinylSafe™ Color Technology promises a quality finish that resists blistering and peeling. And no, they are not paying me to tell you this (but they totally should)!

Does this mean that you can safely paint a dark color on your exterior pvc windows? Yes, probably. Since pvc does not absorb moisture, the paint on polyurethane trim will last much longer than on wood, so that’s a plus as well.

However, the window manufacturer may still render the warranty void just to avoid the potential of problems down the road. I’m still waiting to hear back from my client – we may have to alter our exterior paint palette.

Big, fat frowny face . . .

If you are building a house or replacing your windows, make sure you check out all the prefinished options before defaulting to white windows.

5-Ormond-Castle-Window

Dark windows are popular right now, but don’t be fearful about them going out of style. They are a classic – just check out centuries-old European castles, and you’ll see for yourself!

Do you like dark exterior windows? Would you take a chance on painting yours?

 

If paint color fascinates you like it does me, there is SO MUCH TO LEARN about how to use it in your home and the homes of your clients. Let me rock your world with color in my new ONLINE color course – and be sure to check out all the 5-star reviews!!!

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Erin @ The Impatient Gardener

This is a really interesting post! So here’s my question: Can you paint the interiors of vinyl windows dark?

Barbara Jacobs
6 years ago

HI Kristie, great topic.
A long time before discovering the “new” Sherwin Williams product for this purpose, we had to paint our 1881 house in MA. All the sashes on the windows were already black and because I liked the palette, when we changed the body and trim colors, we kept the black window trim. However, we had installed 3 or 4 ‘replacement windows’ and those were naturally white.

Nonetheless, using the right prep and primer to make sure the paint would adhere, I did specify a black for all the windows throughout the house…old and newer. The painters were unconvinced but they did as they were asked.

10 years later, still adhering. Most were on the East-facing side that got full sun until it went overhead to the other side of the house.

I’m not promising anything, but this is a personal story. If you want to see a picture of this house, try:
http://www.integralcolor.com/portfolio/exterior-and-interior-color/#
(It’s number 20 of 40)

Lynne
Lynne
5 years ago
Reply to  Barbara Jacobs

Can you tell me if the painters did any special prepping prior to painting? Did they use primer first? Lastly, did they brush paint or spray paint?

Cowboy
Cowboy
5 years ago
Reply to  Lynne

I too am waiting for a reply to this post. What is the best process ie paint brush / spray /primer or other. I’m going from white to charcoal and am not worried about warranty. Please advise thx all

Dante
Dante
6 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Jacobs

Barbara Jacob’s. What black paint and paint mfr did you use please. I can’t find a branded “vinyl safe” paint in black. Help.

Hannah
Hannah
5 months ago
Reply to  Dante

I have been researching the internet about this, as I just bought a house with replacement windows.
Sherwin Williams makes a vinyl safe paint- but no blacks. There is a dark teal color that you can do 3 coats
And looks black!!! I also saw someone else mix maroon, teal and gold to
Make black. I am going to try the 3 coats of the dark teal.

Chuck
Chuck
3 months ago
Reply to  Hannah

And????? Does it look black?

Jenny B.
6 years ago

Great info! I am not a fan of dark exterior windows. I am always drawn to thick white window casings (or moldings, or whatever they’re called on the outside). 🙂 I do like a lot of the designs I’m seeing lately with dark windows on the inside, though. They really pop in the light and bright rooms that are so popular right now. I grew up in a house with black windows, though, and I never liked them. We replaced all the windows when I was in high school with almond colored ones, and it made such a huge difference — much lighter and brighter feeling. So, I still prefer white (or very light) for windows inside and out. 🙂

Kathy
Kathy
6 years ago

My field is historic preservation and I have been studying these issues for years, trying to find affordable alternatives for the average person. The choices are not easy, and even custom replacement windows can fall short.

Dark sashes with matching or contrasting jambs and casing has been the historical pattern until 1950 or so. Dark sashes are also the norm for many modern and contemporary style homes. If you can’t repair your wood windows, consider a fiberglass replacement window and go with full simulated divided lights if you can. Fiberglass has a low expansion/contraction ratio similar to wood and can be painted, or finished to look much like wood, and the muntins tend to be thicker and more like old wood windows. Metal windows may also work, especially for Prairie, Tudor Revival, and many modern to contemporary style homes, perhaps paired with an interior storm.

Vinyl windows are less expensive, but the flex in a vinyl window eventually causes the seals to break, the weatherstripping to get brittle, and if they are painted, for the paint to buckle or wear off, especially where the window slides in the jamb and along the edges of the sash. The fact that synthetic materials absorb less water is actually a problem because then water can get trapped under the paint layer and pop the paint. Acrylic paint is quite elastic, but it will fail eventually, and then it is a mess to get off to repaint, and you can use the same paint removal techniques as you can for wood.

It is a tricky business anyway to properly paint an operable window, and even more tricky for modern synthetic units. Casement, awning and picture windows may be less potentially problematic than double hung because they have concealed moving parts. The more extreme your climate, the more cautious I would be, even with expensive specialty paints or specially formulated vinyl. The material is just inherently less stable, gets brittle with cold and age, the color fades and it is not recyclable. Exterior vinyl anything has a lifespan of about 25 years or so at best, and then it all eventually has to be replaced and the materials get dumped in the landfill.

I’m glad Barbara has had a good experience, and she has done some lovely work, but I’m a cautious sort and I don’t think it is worth the potential mess painted vinyl windows can be. If you want dark sashes, a painted or dark storm might be an option, and they do improve thermal performance, even for insulated windows. Otherwise, I think sticking to white or a white sash with a low contrast color on the casing looks better on most houses than white windows and dark casing, unless the siding is white or a light color.

There are a lot of stylistic difficulties with modern windows too, especially on a historic house. Old House Guy has an extensive evaluation of major window brands and their limitations and gives specific recommendations. Basically, modern windows proportions are different than historic windows of the same size–the muntin profile, the sash width and the casing style and width are typically different, even if you order custom windows. Iif you go with a contrasting casing, the jamb will match the sash, not the casing, which makes the casing look thin and flat. His website and the book “Get Your House Right” are the best I’ve found on the pitfalls of typical current house design and remodeling and how to make a new traditional home look its best. Take a look–you will never look at a window, a porch railing, shutter or an eave return the same after.

Sheri
6 years ago

Love this Kristie. I too just wrote a blog about painting exteriors with Sherwin Williams VinylSafe Colors that has provided to be useful for my clients here in Calgary. I’m not sure who said this comment (and it quite possibly could have been you) but a color like black around a window is similar to eyeliner. Just a touch can make such a huge impact!

As always, such an informative blog, Thank you!

Katie
Katie
6 years ago

Very interesting! I’ve been seeing all your posts lately with the black windows and I wondered if you purchased them like that or painted. Now I know!

Kathy
Kathy
6 years ago

I agree that dark window sashes and casings look great, but I’m not sure that painted vinyl is the way to go
Painted vinyl siding has its issues too. This painting website gives some guidance: http://www.imageworkspainting.com/blog/bid/349645/Painting-Vinyl-Siding-On-Your-Home-Can-You-Should-You

I have done a little research on painted vinyl windows (another word for PVC ) and there is a small American window manufacturer who has a lot to say on the topic that is worth looking at. Its blog explains the chemistry and their manufacturing process and why they are believers in painted vinyl. http://www.mgmindustries.com/painted-vinyl.php

But even with a specialty company that has put a lot of effort into the manufacturing process, I see some issues. This company has been painting custom vinyl windows for quite some time now, but even they offer only a 10-yer guarantee on the paint surface, and only for manufacturing defects, not defects from installation. Their windows come with bottles of touch-up paint for damage to the paint surface during installation.

Obviously, it is better if the paint is applied during manufacturer, or the color is integral to the product. To paint afterwards requires careful preparation. This website recommends cleaning with TS{ substitute and wiping with acetone to remove the factory glaze. You need a porous surface for the paint to stick. I would check the manufacturer recommendations of these windows and make sure the builder follows them rigourously.

Even with a professional paint job, I would be concerned that there will be seasonal cracks due to the expansion and contraction of the vinyl, and that regular touch up would be required. Paint on any exterior surface only lasts 10-15 years at best, and less for additional coats. The paint will eventually chalk and fade and chip around the edges. unless it is completely stripped, which wouldn’t be possible on vinyl. You can’t use heat or chemicals on vinyl to strip paint, so it would have to be mechanically and very carefully scraped and repainted. The lifespan of a typical house that is occupied and cared for is around 50 years, often longer.

I’m sure your clients are in love with the idea and the color scheme, but they need to know the additional maintenance likely required. . Maybe you can prepare several color boards for your client to choose from, one with painted windows and one without and one with just painted casings and shutters.

Julia
Julia
1 year ago

Good advice! They now make a black window paint made especially for vinyl windows, interior or exterior. I follow a female contractor on YouTube who has been painting windows and recommends it. I’m planning on doing my kitchen windows soon!

Murray Schneider
Murray Schneider
1 year ago
Reply to  Julia

Which product and company is this? I’m interested on using for black exterior vinyl windows.

Dante
Dante
6 months ago

There is no black Sherwin Williams vinyl paint. Or am I missing something?

Dante
Dante
6 months ago

Yes what is the black colour and company please.

Dante
Dante
6 months ago
Reply to  Julia

Julia who makes the black vinyl paint you referred to and what is the YouTube link of the painter who uses it.

Hannah
Hannah
5 months ago
Reply to  Julia

Can you send me in her direction? I am looking to paint my exterior vinyl windows black

Pam
Pam
6 years ago

Sw urban bronze and SW Black Fox are my favorites

Indoor and Outdoor Rugs at Sales

There is always something helpful in your blog posts. Your ideas, trends, dedication to a certain task makes me feel loved with you.

Charles Manson
Charles Manson
6 years ago

I love how this bimbo only replies to the positive comments. Anyone who dares to say that painting vinyl is a bad idea gets ignored. Booooooooooo!

Jay
Jay
6 years ago
Reply to  Charles Manson

Go troll somewhere else idiot. She’s replied to everyone. She said she was having her clients consult the contractors and they haven’t even decided yet! Also- why would you call this lady such a name? I guess you’ve met her to make such a claim, or is that the word you use for every beautiful woman? Booooo on you. I’m so tired of you internet idiots.

Richard G LaFlamme
Richard G LaFlamme
6 years ago

I have used Sherman Williams Exterior Super paint on multimillion dollar homes exterior vinal windows and azek for years with minimal problems.

Sunshine
Sunshine
1 year ago

Hi 🙂 have you used super dark colors? Im building a tiny home right now and planned to paint the exterior the darkest I can in vinyl safe.. they made the interior blavk but not exterior and i want exterior black as well. Found a blog where SW made an almost black color using maroon, blue and gold in the vinyl safe. Whats the darkest youve done? Thanks in advance..

Amanda
Amanda
5 years ago

Hi Kristie,

I know this is an older post but I’m just reading it. The only thorn in my side is I REALLY want to get the additional bars in the inside of the window frames (like cottage style lines) but all the vinyl options I’ve researched have that part of the window inside of the glass where you wouldn’t be able to paint it. So I’d only be able to paint the outside edges of the frames and then have to leave the decorative lines white. Any thoughts on if that would look good/bad??

Lynn
Lynn
5 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Amanda,

WeatherBarr vinyl windows give you the option to have the bars on both sides of the glass or an option to keep it inside the glass making it easier to clean. I love the look of aluminum clad windows, but have found that the WeatherBarr vinyl can give you the same look for less. You can choose from a variety of colors and even choose a different color for the interior.

Tammy
Tammy
4 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Hi Amanda! I have the same decision to make, did you end up painting the casing? We have a house close to ours that did this and I think it looks fine. If you did this, would you mind posting a picture? I would love to see the result and how the paint is holding up.

Michael
Michael
4 years ago

Fantastic article!

House will be built this summer, I changed the colour scheme of my exterior and for it to have complete synergy I need the windows to be black!!

It is new construction so PVC windows and how they are telling me it’s to late to change the windows (even though they just broke ground 3 weeks ago…)

I will paint the windows this summer with the above products you suggested and let you know!!

Do you recommend spraying them when they are newly installed and no stucco or siding is installed yet, or after completion with brush?

Thanks! And again great work!

Angi
Angi
4 years ago

Hey, i love the look of crisp black windows. Our vinyl windows now ate brown so would doing them black be warping on them? Since they are a dark shade already

Christina WAgner
Christina WAgner
4 years ago

We have an old barn, Dark brown stained barn boards with White Trim doors and windows. WE just stained it dark green with Deep red stall doors. The problem is the upper barn still has bright white windows. I just want to paint the casing of the windows the deep red. The actual window that opens and closes can remain white. Will this sherwin williams product be appropriate? Also, what type of primer do you recommend for the vinyl?

NT
NT
4 years ago

Thank you so much for this post. I really want to paint my vinyl windows a darker color. The white replacement windows really jump out and I don’t like it. I feel like I have been looking for info on this for months now. You are the first person that has acknowledged that other people do this. Everyone else just thinks I’m crazy!

Roger K Fogain
Roger K Fogain
3 years ago
Reply to  NT

Can you please share some pictures.

ivana
ivana
1 year ago
Reply to  Roger K Fogain

This color palette post with tips is very helpful to us Painters North Sydney guys in choosing the new colors. I’ve been looking at some of your other posts about decorating and am inspired by the work you have done. Thank you so much!

Cathy Debes
1 year ago

Painted vinyl windows by the actual manufacture is still ok, but laminating the extrusions before made is the best way. With films that have 20 year warranties and by the ocean as well, its the most cost affective way to get color in to your world that won’t fade, chalk, peel, bubble or delaminate. Haida Industries is a third party laminator that works with the manufacturers and their extruders.

Stephanie Hampton
Stephanie Hampton
1 year ago

My home is western facing and a Dominion home built in early 2000s with vinyl windows. I want to paint the window frames black but concerned about the warping. Should the SW paint be ok for that. I live in Columbus Ohio for climate reference.

geoff
geoff
1 year ago

There is a paint specifically made for painting vinyl or PVC windows. There are several different color options including black. Check out Aqua-diy.com and aquasurtech-oem.com

Vic
Vic
1 year ago

I painted my shutters with glossy black spray paint and 5 years later, beautiful as the day I painted them. Spray painted my from door and screen too! Our house gets full sun.

IMG_20200729_184523__01.jpg
Gina
Gina
1 year ago

I’m in the process of renovating an old house and the upstairs already has white vinyl replacement windows that I’m not replacing. They have a lifetime warranty but I want to make them black. I learned that you can use some kind of sturdy black electrical tape on them and that will not void the warranty! I’m going to try it. I believe angelarosehome on Instagram did it on her windows. I’m pretty sure if I paint them -even using the SWVS paint -it will void my warranty.

Gina
Gina
11 months ago

Yes I’m also not sure how that would hold up. Especially with my house being south facing. After re-reading her blog the DIYer I mentioned did it on the interior not the exterior. I may have to leave them white. My house is a small colonial with a Tudor peak feature and the moldings. Right now it’s white with brown trim. I’m planning on painting it and was leaning towards a taupe and black exterior. I think the white will be ok -it’s on the upstairs windows only.

Justin Pix
8 months ago

interesting post, i agree with painting the exterior windows dark as it contrasts and gives the home depth, using the same color all over kind of whitewashes the home and makes it feel bland.
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