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Your Place: Some tactics to spiff up faded aluminum siding

Question: My daughter moved into a house that has aluminum siding. The siding is in good condition, but it is ugly - it's white and chalky-looking and faded, if white can look faded.


My daughter moved into a house that has aluminum siding. The siding is in good condition, but it is ugly - it's white and chalky-looking and faded, if white can look faded.

A handyman/painter has told her it could be painted. My son says it can be painted, but would not be a very successful project - after a short period of time the paint would flake and the siding would look worse than it does now. He says power washing is not the way to go, either.

Can this siding be painted and, if so, what is the proper way to ensure a good job?

Answer: I've seen it done successfully, and recently, but it's still aluminum. There is no time to get into my opinion of siding of any sort, so let me address the possible solution to the problem.

For that, I turn to the experts at the Paint Quality Institute in Spring House.

To prepare the surface for painting, remove as much of that chalky-looking stuff as you can. This "chalk" is a powdery pigment on the siding surface that comes off when you rub it with the palm of your hand.

Removal can be accomplished by power washing or by scrubbing and rinsing. That said, some, like your son, don't hold with power washing because few people really know how to use a power washer, and water can get behind the siding and soak the surface to which the material is attached.

Is a primer necessary?

Well, PQI says one situation in which a primer is needed is if any bare aluminum was exposed. Then you would use a latex corrosion-inhibitive primer.

Another would be if there were still a lot of chalk remaining on the surface. Then you would apply a quality exterior alkyd - oil-based - primer recommended for aluminum siding by the manufacturer.

Ask about latex corrosion-inhibitive primer at a paint store. You may find it just as easy to prime all of the siding; if you do, you will get a more uniform appearance from the paint.

As a top coat, use a high-grade, 100 percent acrylic latex house paint in a flat finish. Use a flat finish if the siding is at all uneven and/or dented (while the satin finish will provide a rich, fresh appearance, it will accentuate the dents).

I've seen suggestions to use mineral spirits before priming, but PQI says you do that only if there are oily stains like tar on the surface.

Q: I am the condo president for a six-unit townhouse on Spruce Street between 16th and 17th Streets. The association has decided to paint the building, and we are having a difficult time deciding the color palette.

We want to keep with the feel of the street, but it is dominated by poorly kept brick-face or an off-white color. We want to choose a color reflective of Colonial times, such as a blue or a yellow, but fear it will look disruptive relative to the street. Do you have any suggestions as how to decide/proceed?

A: Your neighborhood is definitely post-Colonial, so it would have been part of an early- or mid-19th-century streetscape.

I'd suggest visiting or contacting the Athenaeum, or taking a peek at the Victorian Society in America Web site for ideas.

A consultant might help. I'd suggest John Crosby Freeman, "The Color Doctor," in Norristown. He appears at many preservation events in the area and is a contributor to Old-House Journal and other publications.

My opinion? I'd have the colors selected for me and just do the painting. I've worn white socks with a tuxedo.

A couple of weeks back, there was a letter in this space from a Philadelphia apartment dweller complaining that varnish fumes from floor renovation were filling her building.

She wrote again to tell me that there is a specific rule in the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code that says when "injurious, toxic, irritating or noxious fumes, gases, dusts or mists are generated, a local exhaust ventilation system shall be provided to remove the contaminating agent at the source. Air shall be exhausted to the exterior in accordance with [the code] and not be recirculated to any space."