Do you have white replacement windows? An old house that has replacement windows is considered a damaged house to those of us in the historic preservation field.
Maybe the evil previous homeowner committed this crime and you are left to deal with it. Don’t worry though, there are options to save the curb appeal of your house at least a little.
Replacement windows are bad for many reasons. The sales people are super trained and have all the stats to show that their windows are what you need and it is virtually impossible to say no – trust me.
Replacement windows are bad for the environment and a foolish investment. Their design is very bad -they look cheap, especially when they are white. Go here for more information on wood windows versus replacement windows .
The good news is that these replacement windows will only last 20 years! You can replace them with a wood window that can be painted to coordinate with your house colors.
Using White Paint on Your House
Be careful when using white on your house! An all white house is good or a house that is half white (for instance white trim and a colored body) is also good. White paint is fine when you have a balance of white to another color. If your house is painted green and your trim is painted white, that’s a good balance because they are the most dominant colors on the house.
If your house is one color and the trim is another color, having white just on the window sash in such a small dose will stand out like a sore thumb and look out of place on the house. The small amount of white paint will attract your attention first and prevent you from experiencing how the other colors work together.
So if you want an all white house – that works. If you want a colored body and white trim, that works too, although other trim colors will look better. Avoid small doses of white on your windows or gutters at all costs!
Window Sash Colors
If you have a Victorian house, you should never have a white window sash. Your window sash should be a dark color such as black, dark green, dark red, or brown. The windows are the eyes of the house. When this most important feature is painted a dark color, it helps them recede and harmonize with the rest of the house. It’s like putting eyeliner on eyes. The window sash can make or break your house. See some before and after photos of how the window sashes can improve curb appeal .
The image above is a painted replacement window. The window sash for a replacement window also contains an extra trim making the replacement unit wider. When painted, the window appears bigger and heavier. Painting the sash only appears too thin. Just another problem all replacement windows have that you will need to accept. Read more information about how to paint a window sash on a wood and replacement window . Lots of people get this wrong.
If you have a Colonial Revival house or a newer 20th century house, your house should have a light window sash that matches the trim.
I rarely recommend white windows or white trim for a house unless it is all white or the body is a very pale color. White trim on a colored body looks like a vinyl-sided split-level home. White trim is what you see on just about every house and it looks cheap these days since it is associated with vinyl sided homes.
If Your House Has White Replacement Windows
If your house has white replacement windows vinyl or aluminum clad, they should be able to be painted. Any paint will void the manufacturers warranty. However, even if you do nothing you will find there will be some excuse to void the manufacturer’s warranty. A gutter company will also tell you not to paint your gutters (gutter color MUST match the trim color). How in the world can painting gutters void the warranty and what warranty would you need for aluminum gutters except for leaking? It seems that soon washing your underwear will void the warranty.
If you are painting your vinyl replacement window a dark color, you must use a paint designed for vinyl. A white replacement window is not designed for the heat absorbed as a black replacement window is therefore it is prone to warping. There is a special paint available through Sherwin Williams and has reflective properties in it to prevent warping. Here is a listing of paint colors made for vinyl . The colors are still not as dark as they should be. If you are painting your white replacement window a light color like tan, you can use regular house paint. Just make sure the LVR (Light Reflectance Value) is higher than 55.
It seems that paint manufacturers are now less likely to endorse the painting of both Vinyl and Aluminum Clad windows for they are afraid of getting sued. This is because anything you do to any product – not only windows, will void the warranty. Based on reader comments, it seems that even looking at the product the wrong way will void the warranty. The warranty is a key selling feature although it almost always turns out to be useless if something goes wrong. See comments from readers on my blogs about Anderson, Marvin, Pella etc. (window manufacturers – scroll to bottom of page )
So what to do? A dark window sash is important for the best appearance if your house is from about 1860-1920 (except Colonial Revivals). You can ignore the possibly useless warranty and paint the windows anyway or the best option is to replace your windows. If you paint your vinyl or clad windows and they have a relatively new surface I recommend using steel wool to buff down the surface first before painting.
Understand that I advise on design and do not know anything about the composition of the material or the coating on the vinyl or clad aluminum used by each manufacturer. I just know what worked for me and what would normally work in an “old school” sort of way. You can contact the paint manufacturer but it seems that what was advised in 2019 and earlier is now different and more cautious.
This is an extremely important judgement call for you. Depending on your house having a dark window sash can almost be a requirement. Speaking to the paint manufacturer technicians and hearing their warnings can be frightening. Is this just a scare tactic to avoid a law suite? Their story used to be different. Either way there is a sacrifice or risk. Do you protect your replacement windows or have a good looking house?
If your replacement window has those tacky fake grills that are supposed to fool the simple minded into thinking the grills are muntins , and they are installed in between the glass, there is nothing you can do. You are stuck with these ugly white replacement windows until it’s time to replace them in about 15 years. Don’t even think of painting the window and leaving the grill white.
Since you are now stuck with a white window sash, the color of the trim on your house must be white to match. The trim on a house is everything that is not siding. The trim is the window casing/frame, the soffit, the porch railing, etc. This all must be white otherwise the white replacement window will jump out and just shout “cheap plastic”.
As I said before, I try to discourage the use of white trim and white windows on a historic house. White windows and trim may be my last choice but it works and will look good. Just not as good as it should look. Substituting a white trim for a cream colored trim with a white replacement window will NOT look any better than a darker trim. It will still look very bad. You will still see the unfortunate difference as in the example below.
So if you have white replacement windows that you cannot paint you must paint all your trim white to match for the best appearance. Do not do what you see in the above photo.
What Color to Use With White Replacement Windows
Both Anderson and Marvin windows sell white replacement windows. The color of their white windows is not bright white but more of a gray although it still reads white. The replacement window color is Sherwin Williams Frosty White 6196. The trim on your house should be painted this color. First you must verify this with a 6196 swatch from the paint store.
Since this is basically an unappealing white, I have modified this color to look slightly better than, but not be noticeably different from the white replacement window from 10 feet away. Your eyes should see the two colors and your mind should interpret them as one. If this doesn’t work, let me know.
With replacement windows, the trim is noticed more since it covers a larger area. We want the trim to be a real nice white with depth while looking the same as the replacement window.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Paint Color Replacements
I recommend the following trim colors be tested in the order listed. There are many factors that can alter a paint color so I suggest you try each. #1 is the closest to the vinyl window color. #3 is the most creamy. Try them out and once the difference is noticed go back to the previous white.
- Sherwin Williams Incredible White 7028
This is a nice, slightly warmer white compared to the cooler white replacement window.
- SW Nacre 6154
Warmer than the above and more saturated yet neutral.
- Benjamin Moore Navajo White 947 or OC-95
A timeless shade of creamy white. Inherently sophisticated and endlessly versatile. The SW equivalent is Steamed Mild 7554 with just a bit more yellow in it.
In case you were wondering, I’m not including an image here because most monitors cannot show such a small difference in the colors.
Try these paint colors out and let me know what you think. Remember you do NOT want to see a difference between the window and trim colors from about 10 or so feet away.
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