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?

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Erin @ The Impatient Gardener
Guest

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

Barbara Jacobs
Guest

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… Read more »

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

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
Guest
Cowboy

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

Jenny B.
Guest

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… Read more »

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

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… Read more »

Sheri
Guest

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
Guest
Katie

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
Guest
Kathy

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… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

Sw urban bronze and SW Black Fox are my favorites

Indoor and Outdoor Rugs at Sales
Guest

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
Guest
Charles Manson

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
Guest
Jay

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
Guest
Richard G LaFlamme

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

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

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
Guest
Lynn

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
Guest
Tammy

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
Guest
Michael

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!… Read more »

Angi
Guest
Angi

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
Guest
Christina WAgner

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
Guest
NT

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
Guest
Roger K Fogain

Can you please share some pictures.