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Painting Aluminum Siding On Your Home – Can You? Should You?

 

 

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.

 

The Process

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 yourPainting Aluminum Siding 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 

 

About ImageWorks Painting

ImageWorks Painting, Inc. owner's have combined spent over 30 years in the paint and coatings industry, both as representatives of one of the country's premier paint manufacturers, as well as owners of one of Pittsburgh's largest and most reputable painting companies.

We proudly serve all of the Greater Pittsburgh & Western Pennsylvania areas.

 

Comments

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Posted @ Monday, April 29, 2013 2:47 AM by Kitchen Cabinets Doors
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Posted @ Thursday, November 28, 2013 11:56 PM by EPDM Rubber Roofing
Great post.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:07 AM by mitti
A previous owner painted the aluminum siding of our home with an oil based paint, and now nothing sticks to it. The house was last painted in March 2012 and it is already chipping off badly in several areas. Any tips? Should we sand the siding, or do you think the detergent would be sufficient to prep for painting again?
Posted @ Sunday, March 09, 2014 5:05 PM by Leigh
Hi Leigh, 
 
If the oil-based coating is already peeling badly then chances are good that the surface was not properly prepared prior to it being applied – which is critical when painting over chalky aluminum siding. It is very likely that the paint failure will become much more widespread over a short period of time. The safe play would be to do a complete removal of the oil-based coating down to the factory painted aluminum finish, although this will obviously involve a great deal of work to do so. 
 
If you want to take your chances and paint over the oil-based coating you can follow the steps below but remember, if the oil continues to release from the aluminum it will take any new coatings that you apply with it when it peels – no matter how well you prepare the surface before you apply them. 
 
To apply an acrylic paint over the oil, clean the surface thoroughly with your pre-paint cleaner, scrape any loose or peeling paint, then feather-sand your peeling edges. It’s always a good idea to scuff-sand an oil-based paint film prior to applying any new coatings, as it can be very difficult to get anything to stick to them. This will give the surface something for the new paint to bite onto. You can use an electric palm sander or orbital sander with a medium grit paper to speed up the process. Remove all of the dust from the surface with a second wash of the home. You can also try using a product made by Zinsser called Peel Stop on the edges that you feather-sanded, which will help to seal them down so they won’t want to start peeling again (although this will not stop new areas from peeling) 
 
The next thing to do would be to perform an adhesion test to see if the new coating will stick to the oil-based paint, or if additional surface prep is needed. Apply the new paint to a few small areas (12” x 12” or so) on different sides of the home using the same method of application that you intend to use to paint the entire home, then allow it to dry for a few days.  
 
Take a break-away razor knife or a utility knife with a sharp blade and score the surface of the newly-applied paint in a checkerboard pattern (like you’re playing tick-tack-toe), and also with some X’s so that the lines intersect at sharp angles. Make sure you use firm enough pressure that your scored lines penetrate the new coating and into the previous coating. Take some good quality clear packing tape and apply the tape over top of the scored areas. Use your hand to apply firm pressure to the tape to make sure it is well-adhered to the surface. Grab a corner of the tape and peel it off of the surface at a sharp angle. If you have only a very small amount of paint film on the tape then you should have good enough adhesion to paint, but if anything more than a very small amount of paint film comes off onto the tape then you do not. 
 
If the adhesion test fails then you will need to go with a full prime of the house prior to painting. I like Bulls Eye 1-2-3 made by Zinsser. Before you apply it to the entire house I would do some test patches with it, just like above, to check for adhesion. 
 
Best of luck to you! 
Posted @ Monday, March 10, 2014 2:08 PM by Jeremy Holderness
Thank you so much for such a thorough response! I think we are leaning towards removing the oil based coating down to the aluminum finish. Any tips on how this should be done? Are there any specific supplies that work best?
Posted @ Monday, March 10, 2014 7:03 PM by Leigh
A chemical paint stripping product would probably be your best bet. You’ll want to choose one that is effective enough to remove the oil based paint but not so harsh that it will potentially soften the aluminum – which some strippers will do. I’ve always been partial to Dumond Chemicals’ line of products. The one that would be a good fit for your project would be Smart Strip (http://www.dumondchemicals.com/home-peel-away-smart-strip.html)  
 
As you would with any chemical stripper, apply a test patch to a relatively small area to make certain it will remove all of the coating before applying it to the entire home. Always follow the instructions on the label, including the suggested protective safety equipment to be worn, as well as proper disposal and cleanup. 
 
Once the stripping process has been completed you should thoroughly rinse and/or neutralize the surface as per the manufacturer’s recommendations before applying any new coatings. 
Posted @ Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:18 AM by Jeremy Holderness
Your info really helped me. I bought a small older home and was washing the siding and a lot of it wound up being shiny metal after I was done. It is aluminum for sure..what would be the harm of leaving it paint free and having it look like an airstream RV I am sort of serious too..I hate painting!!! 
Thanks 
Bill 
Thanbks
Posted @ Wednesday, March 12, 2014 2:49 PM by Bill Thon
I have chipped patches throughout 2 elevations of my add on attached garage. The power washer is removing the chipped paint, but the paint continues to peel. Can I power wash and apply primer to these sections for paint? Should I hire a painter?
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 9:54 PM by Michael Smalley
Hello Michael, 
 
The coating on your garage that's continuing to peel, is it a field-applied paint that's peeling down to the factory finish on your siding?
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 7:54 AM by Jeremy Holderness
You can see the silvery tint of the siding.
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:40 AM by Michael Smalley
Your post is really nice and interesting to read. Nonetheless, it also offered me some quality information which i was looking for.
Posted @ Friday, April 18, 2014 2:55 AM by Home Siding
It sounds like the factory-applied finish is peeling down to bare aluminum. 
 
When you pressure wash, sometimes water can get under the edge of the coating even though it’s not apparent at first – causing it to peel again over the course of the next few days as it dries. Try pressure washing one more time. Then allow it to sit for about a week. Then take a hand scraper and scrape all of the loose edges you find, and feather-sand all of the transitions between the coating and the bare aluminum. Then apply a binding primer to those transitions, which will help to seal down those edges and keep them from peeling again. I like Zinsser’s Peel Stop for this (http://www.rustoleum.com/product-catalog/consumer-brands/zinsser/primer-sealers/peel-stop-clear-binding-primer/)  
 
If this works and stops the peeling so you can proceed to painting, it will save you a ton of time and money over the alternative, which is to chemically strip the remainder of the coating down to bare. If you decide to move forward with paint, you’ll need to do something to make sure that the new paint is going to stick to the bare aluminum areas – assuming you have some large areas that are bare. You have two options for this: 
 
1.) Mix some of your new paint with Flood’s E-B Emulsa-Bond additive (http://www.flood.com/paint-additive-solutions/index.do) per the manufacturer’s recommendations to make a ‘spot-primer solution’. This will help the paint stick to the slick surface. I would still apply a test sample, allow it to dry for a couple of days and perform an adhesion test as I’ve described in one of the comments above. If it works you can apply two coats of your new finish paint straight out of the can without the Emulsa-Bond additive, as the paint should ahere well to the factory finish. A word of caution though – Emulsa-Bond is a very good, cost-effective solution however using it will void the paint manufacturer’s warranty on your new topcoat, so there is some controversy about its use. If the spot primer fails the adhesion test, or you aren’t comfortable voiding the manufacturer’s warranty you can try the second option. 
 
2.) Go to your local Sherwin-Williams store and purchase an industrial primer called DTM Primer/Finish (http://www.paintdocs.com/docs/webPDF.jsp?SITEID=STORECAT&doctype=PDS&lang=E&prodno=B66W1) and use it in place of the Emula-Bond spot primer – performing an adhesion test with it as well once it’s dried. You won’t find this product on the shelf at the store so you’ll have to ask them to get it from the storage room. They might try to charge you an arm and a leg for it, as their list price on commercial and industrial products is astronomical. If so, just ask to speak with a manager to attempt to negotiate a better deal. 
 
 
If the paint doesn’t stop peeling when you feather your edges and apply the Peel Stop you’ll need to strip the factory finish – which is going to be a lot of work. I would use something safe for aluminum such as Dumond Chemicals’ Smart Strip (http://www.dumondchemicals.com/home-peel-away-smart-strip.html) 
 
Once the stripping process has been completed you should thoroughly rinse and/or neutralize the surface as per the manufacturer’s recommendations before applying any new coatings. The surface should also be cleaned with a good pre-paint cleaner such as TSP or Simple Green.  
 
When it’s dry use either the Emulsa-Bond or the DTM Primer Finish to prime the entire surface before applying your topcoat. 
 
I hope it turns out well for you! 
Posted @ Friday, April 18, 2014 9:05 AM by Jeremy Holderness
I am planning to repaint the aluminum siding on my house. My question is if I need to prime first or can I directly paint after cleaning the surface? The paint is discolored and chalking some, but overall is in good condition with no peeling. Can I just clean and then go right to painting if the siding is already painted and not peeling? Also, if I need to prime, do I use and oil based or acrylic primer? Thank you.
Posted @ Tuesday, May 27, 2014 5:03 PM by Rachel
Hi Rachel, 
 
As long as the paint is in good shape, all you'll need to do is to clean the surface to remove the chalk, dirt, etc. Any good-quality 100% acrylic paint should adhere well without the need for a primer. If you're concerned about adhesion just apply some test patches and perform the adhesion tests as I described above in the comments above. 
Posted @ Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:15 PM by Jeremy Holderness
what paint finish do you recommend for painting aluminum siding? flat? satin?
Posted @ Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:09 AM by mary
Hi Mary, 
 
Paint sheen is really a matter of personal preference. Flat paints will hide the most defects in the surface, but tend to collect more dirt and not wash as well. Glossier paints give you much better washability but a lot of people are turned-off by the idea of having a shiny house.  
 
From an aesthetic standpoint, the most common paint sheen applied would certainly have to be satin or egg-shell. It seems to strike the right balance for most folks since it gives you the best of both worlds. 
 
The only area where paint sheen would affect the durability of the coating would be where it's applied to horizontal surfaces such as window sills. Glossy coatings are less permeable to water making them ideal for areas where standing water or snow can collect and lay on the surface. 
 
Hope that helps!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 25, 2014 2:46 PM by Jeremy Holderness
thank you!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:49 PM by mary
If I decide to have the aluminum 
painted, I get a GURANTEE that it will not chip or fade. How long of 
a period of time will the finish 
last
Posted @ Thursday, July 10, 2014 2:16 PM by Armand Castelli
Hello Armand, 
 
It's hard to say for certain how long any finish will last, as there are so many factors that can have an impact on longevity (i.e. quality of surface prep performed, quality of paint used, environmental conditions of where you live, etc.) Sherwin-Williams' data suggests that the average homeowner repaints their house every 7 years, but I'm sure some of those numbers are made up of people choosing to update their colors periodically -- not always re-painting out of necessity. 
 
As far as the guarantee that you were referring to, it depends on which guarantee you're speaking of. Most paint manufacturers will put a material warranty on their label of 20-years, 25-years, or even "lifetime". But most of that is just a marketing gimmick. If you hire a painting contractor to do the work, the industry standard labor warranty you will find is usually 1 year. ImageWorks Painting offers a 3-year labor warranty, but if you live outside of the Western Pennsylvania area I'm sure you can find other reputable contractors out there who offer similar terms. Just bear in mind that neither material nor labor warranties are all-encompassing. Most warranties exclude areas like horizontal surfaces where water and snow can collect causing premature wear on even the best coatings. So be sure to request a copy of both your manufacturer's and service provider's program for specific details. For reference you can view a copy of ours at http://www.imageworkspainting.com/warranty/ . 
 
So to answer your question in as much of an unbiased manner as I can I will quote an article from the Angie's List website which states, "The length of time that your exterior paint job will last depends on the region where you live. In most climates, the paint should last five to seven years. The wood trim on the house or siding is a different story. It will start to fade and show its age within 3 years. This is due to the sun exposure. The darker the color, the more sun and heat it will absorb forcing you to repaint sooner. Select a lighter color and the paint will last longer." -- How Long Will Your Paint Job Last? (Sept. 25, 2013) 
 
I would say that's a safe answer as I have seen homes where paint was applied under ideal circumstances that has held up well for 10 years. But as with anything, your mileage may vary. 
 
Hopefully that helps you!
Posted @ Friday, July 11, 2014 9:32 AM by Jeremy Holderness
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