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Can You Paint Vinyl And Metal Siding To Look Like Wood?

There are many available siding options to select from these days. From metal to vinyl, or even solid wood. Wood siding has increased in popularity over the years because of how adorable and cozy it looks. However, this material can come with a pretty lofty price tag. We've researched how to paint vinyl or metal siding for a similar visual effect to mimic wood. 

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A wonderful alternative to using actual wooden siding is to paint your vinyl or metal siding to look like wood! This will give you an amazing finish but without the cost that comes with wood material for siding. To paint siding, you'll need to follow these basic steps: 

  1. Clean the Surface
  2. Lightly Sand the Surface
  3. Apply Primer
  4. Apply Paint
  5. Brushstroke a Wood-like Texture Using Various Shades of Paint

With that being said, it is important to note that there are proper steps to make sure that the painting you do on your metal or vinyl siding is done correctly and will hold up the test of time. Please keep reading for an in-depth look at the painting process, as well as tips on types of paint and priming methods.

Wooden vinyl siding of a house, Can You Paint Vinyl And Metal Siding To Look Like Wood?

How to Paint Metal or Vinyl Siding 

Vinyl siding is classic, durable, and affordable. Not to mention, it is very easy to take care of, and it will even save energy since it adds an extra layer of insulation.

Metal siding is one of the strongest and most durable materials to use for siding. Since it is so strong, it also comes with a very hefty lifespan. Metal sidings are fire-resistant, eco-friendly, and very low maintenance.

We'll review how to paint each type of these siding materials to look like wood. Let's get started!

Step 1 - Clean the Surface

Be sure that your siding surface is cleaned well. For vinyl, scrub using some hot water and liquid dish soap. This will clean with ease and improve the appearance of the finished paint job. For metal, use a solvent designed for pre-painting prep work. 

Step 2 - Lightly Sand the Surface

Add abrasions to the siding surface as these materials are nonporous, and the paint will have trouble adhering to a sleek and flat surface without abrasions.

For vinyl, this can be done by gently sanding the surface with 220-grit sandpaper.  Be sure not to sand too hard because vinyl panels generally have only a thin layer of vinyl before hitting the composite board beneath. 

For metal, you'll want to use 320-grit sandpaper and a handheld sander tool. This will save your hand a bit as you'll need to sand a bit harder on metal surfaces than on vinyl. 

Step 3 - Apply Primer

Apply primer easily by using a paint sprayer. This will allow you to get even distribution across either type of surface. At first, the primer layer will be very thin. Applying a second coat once the first has completely dried will provide the best final result. Let the primer dry completely before proceeding to the next step. 

Step 4 - Apply Paint 

To make the surface appear to be wooden, you'll want to start with a dark brown exterior latex paint with urethane. For best results, apply this coat using a paintbrush. Vinyl siding is susceptible to warping. Selecting a paint that offers good LRV (Light Reflective Value) will be a vital component to making sure that your paint job lasts for a long time. You can still choose to paint it the color of wooden logs, but it is good to take some time when selecting the proper color. You can go with a lighter option that has a higher LRV and still achieves the desired look. 

For vinyl, the planks are a good guideline to use to simulate stacked logs. Use brush strokes going lengthwise to resemble wood grain. You might have to plan out for metal where you want the logs to stack a little more than with vinyl. It may be helpful to measure and mark off spots where you want to paint your wooden logs. You can even use masking tape and make a guideline for where you'd like the logs to be.

For both materials, it may take more than one coat to reach full coverage. Adding an additional coat can also enhance the paint's durability, increasing the lifespan of the paint job.

Step 5 - Brushstroke a Wood-like Texture Using Various Paint Shades

Once you've painted your logs, you'll want to add more detail. For this, use a darker shade of brown or a black latex exterior paint and add some wooden knots and other imperfections commonly found on logs with a thinner paintbrush. Use logs, trees, and other colors found in nature as inspiration for tying the correct colors into your details. You can go with a lighter color, brown to highlight certain spots, or you could even use a green to make the logs appear a little mossy. 

What kind of paint will stick to vinyl siding?

It is widely known that paint notoriously does not stick well to vinyl. This can be very frustrating. This leads to the common practice of simply not painting your vinyl siding. Good news, though much has changed over the years, some manufacturers make paint that is specifically good for painting vinyl siding. 

Since you won't want to be using leftover interior paint, some options are marked as safe for vinyl. These acrylic paints will offer protection against warping, which is an important factor to consider. 

Another important factor to consider is the amount of Light Reflective Value in the paint. For outdoor vinyl siding, you'll want to make sure that the LRV (Light Reflective Value) in the paint is greater than 55%. This measurement is important because it indicates how much light will be absorbed by the paint. 

The more light that is absorbed by the paint, the faster the paint will fade and appear dull or even a slightly different shade of color. The more light that is reflected by the paint, the longer lifespan you will get from the color vibrancy. 

Do I need to prime vinyl before painting?

The best way to ensure that the finished paint will adhere nicely to the vinyl siding is to prep properly. Part of this prep work involves making sure that you select the correct primer. You'll want to select a bonding primer to use for priming vinyl surfaces. This kind of primer is designed to stick to nonporous surfaces. Once the primer is applied and dried, you can begin painting. 

Is it a bad idea to paint vinyl siding?

Painting vinyl siding isn't a bad idea when it is done correctly. Be sure that you are selecting the proper vinyl safe paint and prepping the surface correctly before you begin. Skipping any of the steps in the process of painting vinyl siding will result in ruined siding panels. This can look bad aesthetically, but it can also cause structural damage to the siding panels. 

What kind of paint do you use on metal siding?

The final decision on which paint to use when painting metal siding depends greatly on how prepared the material is to receive paint. Some metal siding surfaces may have blemishes such as leftover paint, rust spots, or chalking built up. If this is the case, you will need to prime the surface before applying the paint. 

For metal siding, you'll want to use a solvent-based primer that is made for metal. These types of primers are specifically formulated to help prevent rust. This is especially important when painting siding that always is bombarded with outdoor elements such as direct sunlight, wind, and rain. 

Once the metal is primed properly, or the surface is prepared to be painted, you just need to pick a paint made for exterior fixtures and water-proof. You'll find that there are paint formulas that are made for outdoor walls and roofs. These formulas are the best bet when painting metal siding. 

Do I need to prime aluminum before painting?

Aluminum will need to be primed before it can be successfully painted. Like vinyl, paint has difficulty sticking to a plain aluminum surface. At first, it could appear that the paint is sticking, but over time it will begin to bubble, peel, and chip. Select an epoxy primer and apply it directly to the bare metal surface. Multi-use and other primer forms will not adhere correctly and will eventually lead to flaking or peeling. 

How long does paint last on aluminum siding?

Once a paint job is completed on aluminum siding, you can expect it to last between 15 and 20 years.  However, some factors can shorten that lifespan. 

In order to be sure you get the longest life out of the paint job on aluminum siding, be sure to: 

  • Pressure wash the siding before beginning. Remove as much chalky paint as possible. 
  • Use a mild pre-painting solvent to be sure that the surface is cleaned thoroughly.
  • Gently sand the surface to create some abrasions, giving the paint a stronger grip. 
  • Clean the surface again, and make sure that all dust particles are removed. 
  • Use a good quality epoxy primer, not a multi-purpose primer. 
  • Select good quality paint that is water-proof and made for outdoor use. 

Keep in mind that the quality of the products you select and the care in which you follow the correct process will have a dramatic impact on how long the paint will last on your aluminum siding. Also, be sure to check out our "How Long Should An Exterior Paint Job Last."

In closing

It is possible to enjoy the benefits of vinyl or metal siding but also make your home look like it has wooden siding. All it takes is a little prep work and painting. If you're not sure that painting vinyl is right for you, check out our article "How Much Does Log Siding Cost (Inc. Faux Log Siding)."