Color Schemes & Vinyl Windows

Should your paint yours?

If you have new vinyl windows and are all set to paint your home, you may be wondering if you can paint over the vinyl. The short answer is that it depends on who you talk to. If you go to a paint store or certain painting contractors, they may assure you that you can. However, the word from most manufacturers is "Don't".

Chances are you are probably pretty happy with your multi-pane vinyl windows, but if you are planning a paint job, pick a color scheme that works with the white or almond vinyl windows you have instead of attempting to paint them.

What happens when you paint?

Vinyl windows are durable, attractive, and energy efficient. To prepare them for painting, some paint pros say you need to clean them well, apply a primer that allows the new paint to bond to the vinyl, then paint. Sounds all very well and good—until you consider the chemical effects of the primer on the vinyl. The primer may soften the vinyl which reduces the structural integrity of the window. Also, when you paint a white window, no matter the color, it's going to be darker than white. If the window gets any sun, and most do, it may cause the frame to heat up which can lead to a warped frame and broken glass. Obviously, under those circumstances any warranty you have would be void. Before you paint, check with your window manufacturer to find out what they suggest.

Cool white and warm beige

The conundrum is what color scheme can you choose that is going to look good. If you have your heart set on anything other than the original white or almond, you can replace your windows or paint them anyway. That's not usually a practical option. The following tips may help you decide what palette will work best for your home.

If your home has white windows, the best colors will be those that work well with a cool palette. A black roof, brick masonry, and white windows look great with a white or gray body. Depending on its age and architectural character, you could pick an accent of navy, green, eggplant, or brick red for shutters or other small decorative trim. Just remember that the contrast between a dark body and the white windows will cause them to "pop". That may not be the effect you want, so keep that in mind.

Green hody, coral door
A green body, crisp white trim,
accented by a coral door.

With white vinyl windows, stick with clear colors. They don't necessarily need to be bright, but pure color is going to look better with white. The result will be cleaner with a crisper edge. Pastels are tints, which is the color with white added, and they generally work well, especially on small Victorian homes or cottage styles. One combination that is very striking is a pale green body with a coral door. With brass hardware and a couple well placed plants, it's both simple and very attractive.

If your windows are almond color or off white, you can veer toward the more muted and warmer colors. Earth tones of terra cotta, bisque, browns, or greens with a yellow undertone are all handsome, especially with natural stone. A color scheme of adobe, ivory, and turquoise are classic in the Southwest.

Play with it

In addition to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of your house, you also need to take into consideration the neighboring houses, the climate, architectural style, and quality of light. It's wise both from the standpoint of being on good terms with the neighbors and resale value that you paint your home a color that contributes to the appeal of your neighborhood. You may love chartreuse, but it's the rare home it looks good on, and your neighbors might actually hate you for it.

As you are already well aware, there's a lot to consider. When you have architectural features that you can't change, it can really throw a wrench into the works. Some of us get wrapped around the axel and then nothing happens. That's when it's time to take out the scissors and glue.If you're the craftsy sort, or even if your not, you might enjoy a little exercise that can help break down the color selection trauma and make it manageable.

Walk down your street and note the colors of the adjacent homes and all the details like roof, stonework, driveways, landscape plantings, and so on. When you get home, create a street of colors. You can use clippings from magazines to create a collage, colored pencils, markers, crayons. Detail isn't important; just the colors. If you can force yourself to have fun, all the better.

Cut some basic shapes with the colors of your house: rectangles for chimneys and doors, a white grid to mimic your windows, and a triangle for the roof. Change body colors until you find a combination that pleases you and works well with the other homes on your street.

Don't worry about whether you'll be able to come up with the "right" combination. The real danger will be coming up with several and then narrowing it down.

Committing to your color scheme

Before committing to your color scheme, check your with local paint retailers and find out if you can rent quarts or purchase samples, then paint an area that gets different light so you can see what the colors will really look like on your house. Light plays a big role, so color that plays well in Peoria may look awful in Portland or Pascagoula. Do your color adjustment before you have gallons of paint to contend with.

Paint a large enough area to get a true idea of what it will look like. Color is always affected by whatever color surrounds it, so a perfectly good color could get tossed if the sample area is too small. A corner with an adjacent window would be ideal.

If you can relax and enjoy the process, selecting color for your home can be a creative way to make a house reflect your personality and character. Color, used well, can make some neighborhoods the coolest places in town.


For more information about color, the following sites might be helpful.

The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute —Whether you want to do it yourself of hire a pro, they have lots of interesting and useful information that can make the color selection process a little easier.


Exterior Style: Inspiring Color Ideas and Expert Painting Advice by Benjamin Moore & Co.—This Benjamin Moore book has tons of great info on exterior color selection, architectural style. It has wonderful photos of a huge range of homes and plenty of ideas to choose from.

To hire a local, qualified pro, ContractorNexus can help.

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