Can You Paint Vinyl Windows in Chicago?

Can you paint vinyl windows in Chicago, a city known for wild winds and brutal Midwestern winters? There’s some disagreement on this topic, as experts constantly argue about whether it's cost-effective to paint vinyl window frames in the Windy City. 

Whether you live along the Red Line or the Blue Line, this article will help you explore the pros and cons of painted vinyl windows in Chicago, and learn how to paint those vinyl window frames if you opt to go ahead. 

Common Painted Vinyl Windows Problems

Vinyl windows can be painted, but that does not mean they should be painted. Generally, home contractors on the North Side and South Side alike will tell you that painting vinyl window frames in Chicago is a viable option, while window manufacturers will contradict them. 

The major drawback is that paint does not adhere well to vinyl, particularly during northern Illinois winters. This results in paint flaking off, leaving you with windows that look worse than the Damen Silos. 

The color you choose can also be a factor. Darker paint colors attract solar heat, which puts additional heat stress on your window frames (particularly during the summer, when Chicago temperatures can exceed 90 degrees). If your current windows are older, the increased heat could cause warping.  

Another important consideration when thinking about painting your window frames is your window warranty. Altering the vinyl window frame may void your warranty. Without a valid warranty, most Chicagoland-area manufacturers won’t fix your windows.  

Some manufacturers in Illinois will only accept certain colors of vinyl paint - sometimes going so far as to ask you to send in the paint chip for verification! If your windows are under warranty, it's worth a phone call to find out what colors, if any, don’t void the warranty. 

Now you understand the risks if you choose to paint the frames. But we live in the age of Pinterest, where DIY is king. Chicagoans continue to paint vinyl window frames because it’s the cheapest and easiest way to change the color of their frames.  

The only other option is window replacement. When you choose to replace your windows, you should work with a company in the Chicagoland area that customizes the windows, including style, size, and color. Here at Window Nation, we offer several vinyl windows colors for you to choose from to suit your specific taste, the style of your home, and your favorite Chicago sports team (go Cubs!). Explore all the vinyl replacement window options available at Window Nation.  

How to Paint Vinyl Window Frames in Chicago

Supply List 

  • 220-grit sandpaper 
  • Primer specifically made to work on vinyl such as an alkyd- based primer 
  • Vinyl safe latex exterior paint 
  • Foam paint brushes of varying size  
  • Painters tape 
  • Drop cloth 
  • Warm water and sponge for ‘goofs’ 

Before you start painting vinyl window frames, clean the windows to remove any dirt. You never want to paint a dirty window, as that will trap all that Chicago dirt beneath the paint.  

You may want to sand the windows using 220-grit sandpaper lightly. Roughing up the frame encourages the primer to bond with the vinyl frames. 

Make sure you cover and tape off your window glass and position newspaper (if you still get the Chicago Tribune) or a drop cloth to help manage drips or paint application sprays.  

After you’ve completed all the prep work, apply a primer that’s formulated to work with vinyl. Primers can soften vinyl, which can decrease material integrity, so one that’s formulated for vinyl is critical. Using a primer is essential because it prepares the vinyl for paint, increasing the odds that your paint will stick to the windows.  

Let the primer dry thoroughly. We recommend exceeding the amount of time directed on the packaging. Once dry, apply a thin coat of paint using a foam paintbrush.  

Ideally, you want to apply several thin coats of paint and allow a long time for it to dry between applications. As with the primer, you should choose a paint formula that’s appropriate for vinyl (which will be noted on the label). 

While you’re saving up to buy replacement windows for your Chicago home, painting is a solid interim solution.  

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