How to Paint Aluminum Siding

blue colored aluminum siding

Aluminum siding has adorned many homes since the mid-20th century, earning a reputation for being durable and easy to maintain. Yet, even the most robust siding will eventually show signs of aging as it falls prey to the elements. Knowing how to paint aluminum siding is not just a skill but a way to breathe new life into your home.

This stalwart material has shielded generations of homes from harsh weather and the relentless march of time. Despite this, the relentless elements take their toll, turning what was once a bright protective layer into something dull and tired. When you paint aluminum siding, you do more than repair, you make a declaration of care for your home.

Your Investment

Hours Required2 to 4 hours per 100 square feet of siding
Skill LevelModerate
Material Cost$1.50 to $3 per square foot
Pro Labor Cost$25 – $70 per hour

Can You Paint Aluminum Siding?

Absolutely! The key to a successful aluminum siding paint job lies in thorough cleaning and the use of the right paint. You’ll want to opt for 100% acrylic latex paint specifically recommended for metal siding. While it might come at a premium price, investing in good-quality paint is essential for a long-lasting finish.


Determine if You’re Dealing with Aluminum

Before you dive into painting, it’s important to confirm that you’re actually working with aluminum siding. Aluminum can sometimes be mistaken for vinyl or other metal materials. Here are some tips to help you identify aluminum siding:

  • Check for cracks or dings in the siding, as these are common.
  • Tap on the siding: aluminum typically sounds hollow and lightly metallic.
  • Use a magnet: aluminum is not magnetic, whereas steel will attract a magnet.

Strip Old Paint If Necessary

While you generally don’t need to remove the factory-finished paint on aluminum siding, any peeling or cracked paint applied later should be stripped off. You can use a scraper or appropriate paint stripping tools to address these areas.

Safety Considerations

Lead-based paint is a ghost of the past that can still haunt older homes. If your siding was painted before 1978, there’s a chance lead might be present.

In such cases, it’s wise to consult with a professional remediation company to handle the paint safely. You can also use a lead paint test kit to determine if lead-based paint is present.

What You’ll Need

Equipment and Tools:

  • Airless paint sprayer
  • Paint roller with an extension pole
  • Roller pads
  • Caulking gun
  • Putty knife
  • Safety gear (gloves, mask, goggles)
  • Ladder
  • Kitchen gloves
  • Nylon bristle brush
  • Abrasive scrub pad


  • High-quality exterior acrylic paint
  • Oil-based primer
  • Acrylic latex exterior filler
  • Exterior caulk
  • Cleaning agents (TSP or substitute, bleach)
  • Painter’s tape and masking film
  • Paint thinner or mineral spirits

Steps for Painting Aluminum Siding

gray colored aluminum siding
Photo Credit: webhamster / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Step 1: Repair or Replace Damaged Sections

Before you start painting, it’s important to address any damage or imperfections in your aluminum siding.

For small imperfections, use paintable exterior caulk or acrylic latex exterior filler. For larger or more severe damage, you may need to replace sections of the siding. Follow these steps:

  1. Identify and mark the perimeter of the damaged section by drawing a square around it.
  2. Carefully cut out the marked section with tin snips and a utility knife, leaving a neat square opening.
  3. Prepare a new aluminum patch, cutting it three inches larger than the removed section to ensure an adequate overlap.
  4. Trim off the nailing strip from the new patch using tin snips for a flush fit.
  5. Apply a generous amount of clear silicone caulk to the reverse side of the patch for secure adhesion.
  6. Position the patch firmly against the opening, sliding the top edge behind the existing siding above to interlock the pieces.
  7. Eliminate any excess caulk by smoothing it out with your finger, ensuring a seamless blend between the new patch and the existing siding.

Step 2: Clean the Aluminum Siding

Now that you’ve repaired any damage to your aluminum siding, it’s time to clean it before painting thoroughly. Dust, dirt, and oxidation can accumulate on the surface over time, so a deep cleaning is necessary for proper paint adhesion.

Option 1: Pressure Washing Siding

Using a power washer is the most efficient way to clean your siding. Follow these steps:

  1. Connect the pressure washer to an outside faucet and a GFCI outlet.
  2. Adjust the spray nozzle to a medium or angled spray setting to prevent damage to the soft aluminum material.
  3. Start from the top of the siding and work your way down, spraying in the direction rain would naturally hit your house.
  4. Be cautious not to spray water upward, as it could force water behind the siding and cause issues.

Option 2: Hand Cleaning

If you don’t have access to a pressure washer or prefer more control when cleaning, you can also clean aluminum siding by hand using these steps:

  1. Mix a cleaning solution by combining one cup of household bleach (unscented), one cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate), and one gallon of warm water in a clean bucket.
  2. Put on kitchen gloves and use a nylon bristle brush or abrasive scrub pad to scrub the aluminum siding by hand, starting at the top.
  3. Scrub sections that are approximately 3 feet wide before rinsing off each section thoroughly.
  4. For stubborn stains, try using a biodegradable laundry detergent mixed with water (approximately ¼ cup detergent per 4 gallons of water).
  5. Check for chalking by running your hand along the dried siding surface. If powdery residue comes off, it’s normal chalking that helps self-clean the siding but can interfere with paint adhesion.
  6. To remove chalking, choose a detergent containing TSP and rinse well afterward.
  7. Use a scraper to remove any peeling paint from the aluminum siding.

Note: Always work in small sections when cleaning by hand, ensuring thorough rinsing between each section.

Tip: After washing your aluminum siding by hand or with a pressure washer, check for chalking: powdery residue that comes off when touched. This is normal and helps to keep the siding clean. If chalking is present, use a detergent containing TSP (trisodium phosphate) to remove it.

Step 3: Sand Down the Aluminum Siding

After cleaning the aluminum siding, the next step is to sand it down to create a smooth surface that allows the primer and paint to adhere better. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose the right grit sandpaper. For aluminum siding, fine to medium-grit sandpaper (between 120 and 200 grit) is usually sufficient.
  2. Using a sanding block or an orbital sander (for larger areas), sand the siding gently to avoid damaging it. Aluminum is a soft metal, so be careful not to apply too much pressure.
  3. Work in sections, and make sure to sand evenly across the entire surface. The goal is to de-gloss the siding, not to sand it down to bare metal.
  4. After sanding, rinse the siding again to remove any dust or debris. This ensures that the primer and paint will have a clean surface to adhere to.
  5. Allow the siding to dry completely before moving on to the next step. It’s crucial that the siding is free of moisture to prevent any issues with the paint adhering or drying.

Step 4: Mask Off Areas

Before you start priming and painting, it’s important to protect areas that should not be painted. This includes windows, doors, outlets, lights, light switches, meters, air conditioners, and mailboxes.

Use painter’s tape for small areas and masking film for larger sections. Lay down a drop cloth over pavement and foliage to catch any drips or spills.

Step 5: Prime the Aluminum Siding

white gray aluminum siding
Photo Credit: David Hagerman / Canva Pro / License

Priming is an essential step when painting aluminum siding because it provides a foundation for the topcoat of paint to adhere to and helps ensure a long-lasting finish.

Choose an oil-based primer that is specifically designed for metal surfaces. This type of primer will offer the best protection against corrosion and provide a suitable surface for the paint.

  1. Start by stirring the primer thoroughly to make sure all the ingredients are well-mixed.
  2. Using your airless paint sprayer or paint roller, apply the primer to the siding. If you use a roller, dip the roller pad into the primer and roll it back and forth on the tray to ensure it’s evenly coated.
  3. Apply the primer in smooth, even strokes. If you’re using a sprayer, hold it at a consistent distance from the siding and move it in a steady, back-and-forth motion.
  4. Be sure to overlap each stroke slightly to ensure full coverage without leaving any gaps.
  5. For the best results, apply a thin, even coat of primer. This will help avoid drips and ensure that the primer dries evenly and quickly.
  6. Allow the primer to dry completely, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This step is vital because painting over wet primer can lead to peeling and flaking.
  7. Inspect the primed siding for any drips, runs, or missed spots. Use your roller or brush for touch-ups if necessary.
  8. Once the primer is dry to the touch and has had adequate time to cure, you’re ready for the final step – painting.

Tip: Always ensure good ventilation when working with oil-based primers, and wear the appropriate safety gear to protect your skin and lungs.

Step 6: Paint

Once the primer is fully dry, you can paint your aluminum siding. Choose a high-quality exterior acrylic paint that is specifically formulated for metal surfaces. Acrylic paint provides excellent durability and weather resistance.

There are several methods you can use to apply the paint: brush, roller, or airless sprayer. Each has its advantages and considerations:

  • Brush: The most traditional method of applying paint is by using a brush. This option is cost-effective but takes more time and effort than other methods.
  • Roller: A roller offers faster coverage while still providing control over application. Use synthetic fiber brushes or lambswool rollers for an optimal finish on aluminum siding.
  • Airless Sprayer: If efficiency is your priority, consider using an airless spray machine for large areas of siding. This method requires more skill and equipment but provides quick and even coverage.

Whichever method you choose, ensure that you have enough paint mixed properly in your chosen tool before starting. Follow these steps when applying paint:

  1. Begin at one end of the siding and work your way across in steady strokes to maintain consistency in color and texture.
  2. Apply thin coats rather than thick layers; multiple thin coats will provide better adhesion.
  3. Paint from top to bottom (if horizontal) or from bottom to top (if vertical) in long, even strokes.
  4. Take breaks after completing sections or panels—avoid partially painted areas drying unevenly.
  5. Make sure the edges are wet with fresh paint each time you start a new stroke to prevent visible lines from forming.
  6. Back roll the freshly applied paint immediately afterward using a roller pad; this technique helps achieve consistent coverage and improves adhesion.
  7. Allow the first coat to dry completely before deciding if a second coat is necessary. The paint should feel dry and not tacky to the touch.

Tip: It’s essential to consider weather conditions when painting aluminum siding. Avoid painting in temperatures below 50°F (10°C) or on rainy days, as moisture can hinder proper drying and bonding of the paint. Additionally, avoid painting in direct sunlight, which can cause premature drying and result in cracks or bubbles forming in the paint.

Step 7: Apply a Second Coat

Once the first coat of paint is completely dry, you can assess whether a second coat is needed. Applying a second coat can enhance the durability and appearance of your aluminum siding.

Before proceeding with the second coat, inspect the surface for any imperfections or areas that may require touch-ups. Lightly sand any bumps or drips from the first coat using fine-grit sandpaper. Be gentle to avoid damaging the paint layer.

Apply the second coat just as you did with the first coat. Remember to work in thin layers and maintain even coverage. 

Allow the second coat to dry completely before assessing the final result. Keep in mind that different paint products have varying drying times, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.

Step 8: Final Touches

Once both coats of paint are dry and cured, it’s time to remove any masking tape or film from windows, doors, and other protected areas. Be cautious when removing tape to avoid accidentally peeling off any newly painted surfaces.

Inspect the overall finish of your aluminum siding for any touch-ups or areas that may require further attention. If necessary, use a brush or roller to address these areas with precision.

FAQ About Painting Aluminum Siding

When is the best time to paint aluminum siding?

When it comes to painting aluminum siding, the season matters. Dry, warm weather is ideal, allowing the paint to set just right. Aim for a day with humidity sitting comfortably between 40 and 50 percent, avoiding the rain or heavy moisture that can spoil your hard work.

How long will painting aluminum siding last?

Painting aluminum siding can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, depending on various factors such as the quality of the paint used, the preparatory work, the environment, and the maintenance afterward.

Using high-quality exterior paint and applying it over a properly cleaned, repaired, and primed surface typically ensures the longest lifespan for your paint job.

Is aluminum siding hard to paint?

Aluminum siding isn’t particularly difficult to paint, but it does require thorough preparation to ensure the best results. Cleaning, repairing any damage, and applying the right type of primer are crucial steps.

Because aluminum is non-porous, it doesn’t absorb paint as well as wood, making it crucial to sand and prime the surface to create an adhesive layer for the paint.

Can you paint aluminum siding to look like wood?

Yes, you can paint aluminum siding to mimic the appearance of wood. This process, known as faux bois (French for “false wood”), involves using specialized painting techniques to create the grain and color variations typical of wood. It requires a base coat in the desired color, followed by one or more overglaze layers with graining tools to simulate wood grain.

Will aluminum siding rust?

Aluminum siding does not rust in the same way that steel does because aluminum does not contain iron, which is the metal that reacts with oxygen to form rust. However, aluminum can corrode if it’s not properly maintained, especially when exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

The corrosion usually appears as a white, chalky residue rather than the reddish-brown color typically associated with rust. Regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent this form of corrosion and prolong the life of the siding.

DIY or Hire a Pro

Painting aluminum siding is a smart home improvement project that not only enhances your home’s appearance but also boosts its value. Many homeowners opt for this DIY task to inject new life into their property’s facade.

If you’re considering this upgrade but prefer professional quality, we can connect you with an experienced painting contractor to ensure a vibrant and lasting finish.

Main Image Credit: skodonnell / Canva Pro / License

Adrian Nita

Adrian Nita, a former marine navigation officer, has transitioned his precision and attention to detail into the world of painting and color. With over four years of writing experience, he brings a unique perspective, specializing in painting techniques and innovative color trends. When not exploring the latest hues and painting techniques, Adrian enjoys annoying his wife with new painting projects in their home.