Options for painting vinyl windows

Q: Is it possible to paint the outside of my vinyl windows? What preparation is needed? What’s the best paint?

A: Yes, you can paint vinyl windows. One option is to use a paint that sticks well to plastics. Krylon is a spray paint that I know works well on vinyl. Since the surface area of windows is small, spray cans are an affordable option. Some professional painters use high-end latex paints made especially for vinyl siding with good results. I expect these would be fine as vinyl siding paint on windows, but you should ask.

One crucial issue is colour. Vinyl expands a lot when it gets warm, so dark colours can cause vinyl windows to buckle and fail as they heat up.

This is much more of an issue on the sides of a house that get direct sunlight, but I know from experience that the expansion of vinyl windows can be a big problem when colours are dark. I’ve seen entire vinyl window sills cup and crack open when installed in east, south and west orientations.

Preserving a New Fence

Leaving a new wood fence bare or minimally finished is a wise option because maintaining any kind of paint or outdoor varnish is a lot of work. Finishing outdoor wood doesn’t increase working life, it only changes the appearance. (Steve Maxwell)

Q: What’s the best way to preserve a pressure treated fence we just had installed around our pool? We’re thinking of painting or staining it.

A: Some outdoor wood finishes prevent surface cracking of the wood as it ages, but surface cracks are only a cosmetic issue. Since your fence is pressure treated, it’ll resist going grey and cracking for a longer period of time than untreated wood. Today’s pressure treated lumber is surprisingly good at remaining attractive when left bare. This is especially true with the brown-coloured pressure treated lumber.

One thing I really must warn you about is a mistake I see a lot of people make. They go to the store, buy a fence or deck finishing product because the label looks good, then invest a whole lot of time applying the product. A few years later, the surface is peeling or fading and looks much worse than the bare lumber ever would. The big danger is outdoor finishes that form a surface film. These can look great, and the best last four or five years if the surface has been prepped properly, but eventually all surface films need to be stripped off and sanded before refinishing. And you’d probably like to be enjoying your pool rather than running a sander in the hot sun next to it, right?

If you’d really like to coat your fence in something to make it look more formal, go with an exterior oil that forms no film. This way you can simply recoat in a few years with very minimal surface prep or nothing at all. Australian Timber Oil is one product that I’m impressed with.

Board and batten replacement

Q: Are there maintenance-free options for replacing 20-year-old cedar board and batten siding on my house? It’s three-quarters of an inch thick and cupping pretty badly.

A: I was just looking at maintenance-free board and batten for refurbishing a little old building on my own property. I found a few choices, but most synthetics are hollow vinyl that won’t withstand the kids playing ball against them. I could also go with boards made from composite deck materials, but instead I’ve decided to go with some good, old-fashioned seven-eighths-inch-thick pine boards. I’ll use one-and-a-half-inch-thick pressure treated lumber for the bottom, corners and window trim, with the seven-eighths-inch stuff on the main body of the walls. I won’t paint the boards, so there’s no time spent keeping them finished.