Many newer homes had vinyl shutters, as shown in Figure 1, installed as decorative assemblies next to windows. Over time the vinyl becomes faded and looses its curb appeal. While some homeowners may decide to replace the shutters with new ones, it is possible to paint the shutters and bring the appearance back to new.
Figure 1 - Exterior Vinyl Shutter
The complexity of painting vinyl shutters is primarily caused by the thermal qualities of vinyl material. Vinyl expands and contracts substantially more than wood or metal when exposed to changes in temperature and in an outdoor environment, temperatures can change more than 40°F in a single day.
Regular paint does not have the flexibility and holding grip necessary to paint the vinyl and to expand and contract in the same manner as the vinyl.
However, new paints have been formulated to meet the expansion and contraction characteristics of vinyl material. These new paints can even be used on vinyl fabric. As well, the new formulations are designed to grip the vinyl surface without peeling off.
One of the best places to purchase vinyl paint is in an automotive retail store, make sure the paint is identified as "exterior". The automotive industry is using more and more vinyl both inside and outside of cars and trucks.
If you are painting other portions of your exterior and want a paint match, you can also find vinyl paints at specialty paint retailers (this is not the time to use a big box home improvement retailer).
If your shutters have louvers or a louver design, the easiest painting method is to use a spray can or airless paint sprayer. Paint brushes tend to leave stroke marks on the vinyl and the louvers tend to leave paint drops in corners and edges.
Additional information on paint sprayers.
Always follow the manufacturers instructions for surface preparation. However, in all cases the vinyl shutters must be 100% clean and this is best accomplished using a high quality vinyl cleaner, as shown on the right, and a scrub brush. Vinyl paints, even more so than most paints, will not adhere to dirt and grime. After washing, make sure that the cleaner is completely rinsed off and that it has not left any film on the vinyl shutters.
Note: Some vinyl paints require a specially formulated primer or undercoat.
Note: In general, using a pressure washer from the ground will not remove all of the dirt and grime from the shutters.
Note: It is generally easier to remove the shutters and paint them on a flat surface then to paint them while they are hanging. If however, you are going to paint them where they are currently installed and are using a paint can or paint sprayer, make sure you tape off adjacent areas! Do not re-install the shutters until they are completely dry.
Follow the manufacturers instructions as to the outdoor temperature for painting. Do not paint in direct sunlight.
Choose a color that is similar to the current color of the shutters. Placing a light color paint on a dark colored vinyl could increase the temperature of the vinyl and cause the shutter to twist and warp.
When re-installing the shutters make sure that the fasteners are still in perfect shape. Many fasteners, especially lead anchors, do not hold as well as they originally did, once the screw is removed and reinserted. Consideration should be given to replacing the anchors.
Additional information on masonry anchors
It should be noted that these vinyl paints can also be used on outdoor vinyl furniture.