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How to Paint PVC [Tips & Tricks]

Are you wondering how to paint PVC? In this guide, we'll go over all the tips, tricks, and techniques for painting PVC pipe and trim!

How to paint PVC pipe

Painting PVC starts with good preparation. First, you'll need to sand the surface to remove the sheen and give the surface some texture. Then, many people use acetone to further clean and prepare the PVC for paint that is formulated for plastic.

Sounds simple, right? Keep reading to learn all my tips and tricks for a PVC paint finish that lasts!

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Is it Possible to Paint PVC? 

There have been rumors that painting PVC isn't possible (or that it's a futile effort). However, these claims only exist because many people have used the wrong approach. It's absolutely possible to paint PVC, and I'll show you how!

When to Paint PVC 

Polyvinyl chloride is a common plastic-like material used in multiple building applications. You're probably most familiar with it in the form of large white pipes used for plumbing and draining. Indeed, this is probably the most common use for PVC.

using PVC pipe for plumbing

With that said, PVC has caught on for use in other building projects. In many of these cases, you'll want to hide that bright white pipe under a coat of paint. Here are just a few PVC materials that are frequently painted.

PVC Pipes 

You can use PVC pipe for various DIY projects as well as for plumbing. You might wonder: why would I want to paint it?

Sometimes, whether in a basement, open ceiling, or outdoors, a section of PVC pipe is exposed. Using some paint can make the PVC pipe look less out of place and help it blend into the environment (or turn it into a feature!)

bright blue painted PVC pipe on underside of outdoor concrete structure

If you're using the pipe for a DIY project, such as this Nerf blaster rack, you may want to make it less obvious that it uses plumbing materials. A quick coat of paint in a fun color can totally change the look!

nerf blaster storage rack

PVC Trim 

PVC has become a common choice for indoor and outdoor trim. One of the biggest advantages of PVC trim over wood or MDF is that PVC doesn't rot, warp, or get soggy. It's frequently used for window frames, which are molded to hold the glass securely.

PVC window frames

Factories can form PVC into a wide variety of shapes and decorative profiles, and it has some flex to it, helping it fit into small or awkward areas. Many people choose to paint it so it blends in with the rest of the house.

You can even find fencing and deck railing materials made of PVC! If you dread painting or staining your deck every few years, this is a great option!

PVC Sheets

PVC also comes in boards or sheets, which can be used for projects that require water resistance. Others use these PVC boards while building around windows or under the eaves of a roof to prevent rot.

You can also find decorative panels made of PVC. They come in a variety of different styles and patterns, and can look really cool when painted! I used four PVC panels to create this modern planter box, and painted it all bright yellow for a fun pop of color.

yellow fall mums in yellow modern planter

How to Paint PVC: Materials Needed 

Having the right materials can make or break any project. The same is true when you paint PVC pipe or trim. If you don't have the right supplies, it probably won't turn out as you anticipated!

You probably already have many of the supplies you'll need to get started on hand, so you'll only have to make a quick trip to the store.

Tips for Painting PVC

This section will outline the steps to paint PVC pipe, PVC fittings, PVC panels, and trim. As you'll see, it's not much different from painting anything else. But a few nuances are the key to achieving a strong finish. 

Staying Safe When Painting PVC 

Safety is always the number one priority during any project. There are a few things to be careful of when painting PVC. 

First, wear a mask when painting or sanding. You don't want to inhale PVC particles from sanding, or spray paint fumes.

Second, acetone is pretty strong stuff, and can irritate the skin and the eyes. Wear chemical resistant gloves that are made to protect from acetone. Regular latex gloves can dissolve when exposed to acetone!

Sand the PVC Surface 

You can sand PVC several ways. First, use 220 grit sandpaper to clean the ragged cut edges and rough up the surface.

sanding ends of PVC pipe with 80 grit sandpaper

Next, use 80 grit sandpaper (after the 220 grit). This will give the PVC deeper grooves and may help the paint adhere better. Some people also use this method to make the PVC surface look like wood grain!

If you skip sanding, you'll find the paint beads and rolls off the surface, or easily scrapes off.

Use Acetone to Clean PVC 

Before you start painting, it's crucial that you clean the surface with acetone. What does this stuff do?

First, it cleans off all residue - including labels and logos. Second, the acetone actually etches into the PVC, causing it to swell and open up the pores. This swelling diminishes the smoothness of the surface, making it more receptive to paint. 

acetone next to PVC pipes to be cleaned

Some people skip the sanding and go straight to this step. Douse a rag with acetone, wipe it onto the surface, and allow it to dry. Make sure to wear chemical resistant gloves!

Apply Paint to PVC 

Check the label on your paint to make sure that it's formulated for plastic. This will ensure that it bonds correctly to the surface. You may want to test on a scrap piece to make sure the paint will stick.

spray paint can label with circle around "most plastics"

If you're spray painting a stationary object (like a pipe coming from the wall), it's wise to place some type of drop cloth to catch any drips, and mask off the rest of the area with paper and tape.

Keep the spray can moving and give the entire surface a thin coat of paint. Don't spray on too much, or you'll get unsightly drips. Check out my guide on how to spray paint like a pro for more tips!

If you're brush painting, build up multiple thin layers. Try to prevent overlapping brush strokes, and don't fuss with the paint once it's been applied.

painting the inside of PVC pipe pieces bright pink with flat artist brush

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need to Prime PVC before Painting?

If you sanded well and used acetone, you don't typically need any primer. Unlike wood or MDF, PVC is a stable and less absorbent surface, so primer won't have the same benefits. However, primer might provide additional protection in some situations.

What's the Best Paint for PVC? 

The best paint for PVC is made specifically for plastic surfaces. Many people like using Krylon fusion paints for plastic. These types of paint will leave the best finish and are the least likely to chip and peel.

What DIY Projects Can I Make with PVC?

Are you searching for some cool PVC projects? When you put on your creative cap, you can find a lot of interesting uses for this durable product! 

For instance, check out my tutorial on how to create a PVC pipe heart. You can use this same method to create almost any shape, and the end result looks really cool!

PVC pipe heart decoration

Many people use PVC to make children's forts, marshmallow launchers, and much more. Once you know how to paint this versatile material, you'll see the world through a new (PVC) lens!

Check out these other painting tutorials!

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Marlene Steger

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Do you have any suggestions for putting mosaic tiles on PVC ? Not sure what kind of adhesive to use to adhere the tiles!

Vineta Jackson

Monday 23rd of May 2022

You might want to try a PVC adhesive like this. I would test it with a few tiles before starting a big project.