How to Paint an Exterior Aluminum Storm Window and Give it a Fresh New Look

Back in the 1970s, the original owner of our home had aluminum storm windows installed over the existing single pane sash windows. This visually clunky window treatment was quite common in older neighborhoods where owners were wanting to save historic old windows while making them more energy efficient. Unfortunately, these aluminum storm windows really looked ugly and in many cases, detracted from the eye appeal of an older home.

For homeowners with aluminum storm windows, painting the exterior sash components is one low cost solution for giving those ugly old storms a brand new look. While this technique can also be used for painting the interior of the storms as well, worth noting is that over time the rising and lowering of the interior storm window will eventually rub away the paint at the points of contact.

Here’s how we painted our exterior aluminum windows which still look fabulous after 15 years:

Supplies needed

Hot soapy water
Package of 0000 steel wool
Masking tape or painter’s tape
Lots of newspaper
Direct to metal prime paint
Cans of spray paint

We had our local Paint & Hardware store decant a custom color of oil-based paint into spray cans for a brush-free application. This method allowed us to choose a custom color that complimented the existing paint colors instead of limiting ourselves to the colors available on the shelf. If all you want is a stock color, however, be sure to pick a spray paint that is rated for use on metal.

The prep work

Aluminum windows can be a little tricky to paint. The smooth surface does not take paint well, and will take some prep work to ensure that the paint adheres. The prep work begins with removing the windows, and then following these easy steps:

Step 1. Washing the aluminum sash with hot, soapy water to remove dirt and debris.

Step 2. Next, lightly rub the aluminum sashes with the steel wool. This helps to scuff up the surface so the paint has something to grip.

Step 3. Wipe down the sashes after sanding with vinegar. This slightly etches the aluminum.

Step 4. The last step is to wipe down the sashes with a damp cloth, and let dry thoroughly.

Step 5. Once the windows are dry, the glass should be taped over to prevent over spray. We used newspaper to cover the glass and painter’s tape to create a clean edge where the glass met the aluminum sash.

Painting the aluminum storm windows

After completing the prep work, the windows can then be painted. We set our aluminum storm windows on sawhorses in the yard and spray painted them on a day when there wasn’t a breeze to stir up dust. Painting in a garage or shed will also work, as long as the doors and windows are left open to allow for ventilation.

Step 6. The first layer of paint should be the direct to metal prime coat. The spray paint should be applied in a careful back and forth motion, about 12 inches away from the surface being painted. Allow the prime coat to dry before continuing.

Step 7: After the prime coat has dried, the top coat can be applied, once again applying the spray paint in a careful back and forth motion. Let paint dry over night before applying a second coat.

Step 8: Let paint set 24 hours before removing tape and reinstalling the windows in their proper location.

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