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Why would you want to paint your aluminum window frames? And will they last?

First, why? Two main reasons: ugly and expensive. Aged aluminum window frames are ugly, and new windows are really expensive. So, paint ‘em up!

Here in sunny Denver, it doesn’t take long for aluminum window frames to oxidize, turn chalky and start looking lousy – even from the curb.

Plus, the colors they came in weren’t all that snazzy to begin with, then the elements take over and turn them into an earthen-mush tone – ick.

Can they be painted? Yes. Should they be? Depends. It depends on who, and how they’re painted.

Here’s a quick DIY guide on how to paint your aluminum window frames:

1. As usual the 1st rule always applies: clean, dry & dull. Clean being the tricky part with metal windows. This job is one of the type that you really want to do it right because correcting/fixing it will be a mess if it goes badly.

Often, in high-UV environments, the factory finish on the window exteriors begins to oxidize and turn chalky. This is a major adhesion inhibitor if not removed.

But first, it’s good idea to scuff the metal surfaces with steel wool. Before doing that, tape off the glass edges so the edges don’t become scratched by accident when rubbing with the steel wool.

Remember, some of your windows open, so if you want your new color to be visible when the windows are open, then you need to open them up and prep the insides too — and the edges of the moving sash.

After taping glass and rubbing with the steel wool, thoroughly wipe the surfaces with a non-soapy cleanser or prep solvent product from your Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams store.

I don’t recommend using de-gloss prep products as a way to skip the steel wool rubbing step. It’s a chemical shortcut to what should be a mechanical bond – a finely scratched surface that makes a good bonding substrate – and I just don’t trust it.

2. The 2nd rule of painting aluminum window frames is thin coats of material. Whether primer or paint, keep it thin. This is true of any window painting, but especially true with metal window trim.

Properly rubbed-out and cleaned, now it’s time to prime. Here’s a great and effective shortcut – aerosol primer! You’ll have to apply some 12” paper masking to protect the glass, siding, brick, etc. from the overspray.

The beauty of the aerosol primer is that it goes on very thin and even, which is the way paint performs best – thin coats allowed to dry properly. Choose the best quality primer here, not the $0.99 bargain primer. You’re asking the primer to do a big job here: be the transition layer between your metal window trim and your trim paint.

3. After your primer dries, check your windows for caulking opportunities. Most windows won’t need any caulking, but if so, it’s best after primer, because the caulk will bond better to primer than to bare metal.

4. Now it’s time to paint! Remember to keep it thin. Brushing is fine, spraying is better; again, aerosols are great if you can find the right color. If not, you can spray your trim paint using a cup gun or airless sprayer with a small tip.

Assuming you don’t have a sprayer, or don’t want to fuss with it, buy a good quality Purdy, Wooster or Corona-brand angle sash brush in about a 2½ inch width.

Another tip, start with the windows in the back of the house, just to get in the swing of things. Then by the time you get around to the front of the house, you’ll have it down pat.

The best part of painting aluminum window frames is you get to pick the color! Your house will look so much better, your neighbors will bring pie.

Many thanks, happy painting!

And remember, if you’re located in Denver, CO, you can get your aluminum window frames painted professionally. Contact the crew at Imhoff Fine Residential Painting today for an estimate. 

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