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Dear James: I live in an older house which has mostly wood siding, but also a little vinyl siding. I want it all to match when I repaint it. Can vinyl siding be painted and how do I go about doing it myself? -- Lisa S.

Dear Lisa: When they installed your vinyl siding years ago, the contractor probably told you it would never need any maintenance. This is true, but the appearance of it can certainly degrade over time. The newer types of vinyl are much better in this regard, so don't necessarily avoid using it in the future.

Nothing looks worse than painted areas of the house where the color does not quite match. As with newer vinyl siding materials, paint formulas have also improved so you can paint your vinyl siding to get an exact match with the rest of your wood siding.

Painting vinyl siding is not a lot different procedure than any other exterior paint job with a few exceptions. The keys to any successful paint job is preparing the surface properly and selecting the proper paint for the specific job.

Vinyl siding is a bit unique because it expands and contracts with temperature changes much more than other exterior house materials. Even if the outdoor temperature does not change much, the sun shining on the siding will make it grow significantly. This is why vinyl siding is nailed loosely to the walls so it can expand and contract without buckling.

Clean the vinyl siding with soap and water and scrub brush. Cleaners such as TSP (trisodium phosphate) are very effective. You must remove all the dirt and grime. You might try using a pressure washer, but you must be careful with the direction of the spray. Since the vinyl siding is hung loosely, the water may be forced up under the siding and inside the walls.

The surface of older vinyl siding will naturally chalk over time. After you have it cleaned and dry, rub your finger over the surface. If you find chalk on your finger, clean it again. No paint will adhere well to a chalky surface. Washing it off with a 25-percent solution of household bleach will help and it will kill mold and mildew. Avoid getting it on your landscaping.

Select a paint color that is not darker than the original color of the vinyl siding. This is because dark colors absorb more of the sun's heat, so the siding will get hotter and expand more. This heat and expansion may cause the paint to fail prematurely or, even worse, permanent buckling damage to the siding. You can change the color completely, but just make sure it is not a significantly darker shade.

The best type of paint to use for vinyl siding is 100 percent acrylic latex. This formula will easily handle the expansion and contraction of the vinyl siding as long as it is not too dark. It can be brushed or sprayed on just as you would paint the rest of the wood siding on your house.

Applying two coats is recommended and carefully follow the paint manufacturer's instructions as to how much time to wait between applying the two coats. As with any painting task, avoid painting in the sun and select a cooler day. This allows the paint the dry slowly and bond properly.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

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