A Brief History of Aluminum Siding
Aluminum siding was introduced in the United States in the 1940’s and quickly became a preferred low-maintenance alternative to the wood clapboard siding that had been prevalently used on homes up to that time. The benefits of aluminum siding were that it was lightweight, relatively easy to install, and since the paint finish was baked-on the maintenance costs associated with it were low.
It was a popular choice among homeowners until the 1970’s when the manufacturing costs had significantly increased and vinyl siding had proven itself to be the future of low-cost, low-maintenance options. So, for any of the folks who own a home built between the 40’s and the 70’s there is a very good chance that your house is clad with an aluminum exterior.
Although Aluminum Siding Is A Low-Maintenance Building Material, That Doesn’t Mean That It’s No-Maintenance.
The bad news is, as many people have found out, there are some problems that are inherent with this type of product. First of all, the coating that is baked on the surface to add color to the siding has the same issues that cheap latex paints have – it chalks and fades like crazy.
So what do you do when it’s time to freshen up the exterior of your home? What about painting aluminum siding? Can you paint it or do you have to replace it with new?
The good news is that, when properly prepared, paint sticks very well to aluminum siding. And painting your home is much cheaper than replacing your siding.
Now, there are some important things that must be done in preparation for applying the paint so don’t skimp on the prep work.
Clean - You first have to remove any chalking and/or mildew from the surface so that the new coating can properly adhere. You can check for a chalky surface by simply running your hand across the surface of the siding and taking a look at your palm. If your hand is chalky then you have to remove the chalk before you paint.
This can be done by using an aluminum siding cleaning product that can be purchased at many home improvement stores along with a scrub brush or abrasive sponge and some good old fashioned elbow grease. These cleaning products are specially made to remove the layer of chalk from the surface of the siding clapboards.
If you can’t find aluminum siding cleaner you can always purchase some TSP (trisodium phosphate) at any home center or hardware store. Mix a small amount of TSP – per the instructions on the box – with a gallon of water. Usually about a cup per gallon will do the trick. If you also have mildew on the surface of the siding add a cup of chlorine bleach with your TSP/water mixture to remove it at the same time you’re removing the chalk.
*Tip* You can dramatically speed up this cleaning process by renting a pressure washer from your local equipment rental store. Most pressure washers come with either a chemical injector siphon hose that you can dip into your cleaner bucket that will apply the cleaner while you wash the house, or a reservoir that you pour the cleaner into that will mix it with the water that is being used to wash the house.
After you’re done washing the siding with the cleaner, make sure you do a final rinse with water only to remove any chemical residue.
Check out this video link from This Old House that demonstrates the cleaning process.
Dry - Let the siding dry completely. You should not be able to feel any moisture when you run your hand across the surface. Nor should you see much, if any, chalk on your hand.
Scrape & Sand - If the paint on the siding is baked-on from the factory then you shouldn’t have to worry about any peeling paint. But if the coating you’re painting over is not the original coating make sure you scrape any loose or peeling areas, and feather your edges with some fine grit sandpaper. Clean the affected areas of any dust as described above and allow to dry.
Paint - Apply the finish coatings. Most high-quality paints will apply directly over aluminum siding without the need for a primer, but make sure you read the manufacturer’s recommendations on the can before you grab one off the shelf. Then apply two coats of a 100% Acrylic Latex Paint by whichever application method you prefer.
See our Color Help page for assistance in choosing your colors.
Stand back and admire the results of your work. And rest easy knowing that it will look good for many years to come!
Need some help painting your aluminum siding?
Photo courtesy of the Paint Quality Institute