Metal siding was used on mobile homes for over 60 years because it’s affordable, lightweight, and nearly indestructible. In this article, we are covering the advantages and disadvantages of metal siding on mobile homes and how to paint metal siding. We spoke to 4 owners that have painted their mobile home’s metal siding and got lots of tips for you.
Metal Siding Profiles
Metal siding is made of an aluminum sheeting that’s usually 8’x4′ and formed with different profiles, or design patterns. The wave design was a popular profile. The sheets are typically installed on the vertical, with seams going up and down. Using metal on a mobile home made perfect sense back in the day – if it was tough enough and lightweight enough for a car it could certainly work for a home. Metal was a definite improvement over the older leatherette and muslin siding that the first trailers had.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Metal Siding
Like anything, metal siding has a few disadvantages but the benefits far outweigh them. There’s a reason the material has been used so extensively on so many products.
The best advantage of metal siding is its longevity – it can last for decades. Metal siding doesn’t rot or rust and it can’t be damaged by bugs or critters. It’s also lightweight and easy to install.
The major disadvantages of metal siding are denting and fading. Some formulas of metal will oxidize and cause a chalk-like coating over it. We’ll explain how to fix that below.
While metal siding doesn’t rust, the screws going down the belt rails that hold the siding onto the home will rust. You’ll need to use a de-rusting agent and a hard bristle brush to remove the rust before you paint.
Metal Siding Lasts Forever
With regular cleaning and maintenance and an occasional paint job, you can make your metal siding last well over 40+ years. I know because my 1978 single wide has its original siding and it still looks good!
These 3 examples of how to paint metal siding on a mobile home all look amazing. One homeowner used brushes and rollers and Behr Paint, one used a Sprayer and Valspar, and one used Rust-Oleum spray paint. All had great results.
Painting Metal Siding on a Mobile Home with a Paint Brush
Our first example of painting metal siding on a mobile home is from Susie Miele. This painting project cost around $300 and took two people 5 days to complete.
Susie and her husband live on a small hobby farm in upstate New York. They received a small inheritance and purchased a second small farming property in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The little farm has a 1988 Clairmont single wide (14′ x 66′) with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths permanently installed with an addition on the back.
Susie admits that she had a negative opinion about mobile homes because she’d never been around one and only knew them by their stereotype and stigma.
However, this property was so affordable they could pay cash for it and then sell their farm in NY. This would allow Susie and her 79 years young husband to retire. Those advantages paired with online resources like My Heart’s Song helped Susie move past the stigma and see the true potential of a mobile home.
“I saw what can be done and thought wow that’s not so bad after all! The cost of living will be cut way down and hubby can retire and maybe we can start enjoying these old years.” – Susie
The couple’s first project was to paint the mobile home’s metal siding. Susie was kind enough to give us a complete step-by-step of their painting project along with a materials list and estimates on costs:
5-gallon pail of Behr paint, Home Depot, Dark Brown, $166
1-gallon of Behr Paint for the doors and shutters, Home Depot, Blue, $28,
They bought brushes in various sizes, $5 -15 each
Rollers and Pans
They used rollers with a long wooden handle, $7-$14 each
Rags, long-handled brush for car washing, and cleaner to wash the siding down before painting, Dollar General, $15 for all
How to Brush Paint Metal Mobile Home Siding
Step 1: Wash the Siding
The first thing they did was give the home a good wash. They used a professional cleaner from Dollar General (the Greased Lightning and the purple stuff work great) to wash the siding before they started painting.
Making sure your surface is as clean as possible helps the paint bond to the surface better. Proper preparation is the true secret to a successful painting project.
Choosing the Right Paint for your Mobile Home’s Metal
Buying the right kind of paint for your mobile home’s metal siding is vital. Luckily, there are a lot of good metal paints on the market available both for commercial and residential uses.
For metal siding, BEHR PREMIUM® Direct to Metal Semi-Gloss Paint is a great choice and that’s exactly what Susie and her husband used. Yes, it is expensive but you only need one or two coats to cover the siding.
The image below shows how well the paint covers the metal siding with just one coat!
Painting metal siding on a mobile with brushes and rollers is slow and tedious but the results will be worth it!
It took 5 days to paint the entire mobile home but Susie jokes that they took lots of coffee breaks. The total cost to give their home a completely new and improved look was less than $300.
How to Spray Paint Metal Siding on a Mobile Home
This second metal siding project uses spray paint it. Yes, spray paint! The total cost was around $100 and it took two adults and a pre-teen a single weekend to complete.
At the very least, spray painting mobile home siding will instantly add curb appeal and could even add value to the home.
You may recognize this mobile home. This is our 1978 Homette single wide we bought in 2011. It’s the birthplace of Mobile Home Living and the place that completely changed my life for the better! I love this place!
1978 Mobile Home Before it was Spray Painted
This was our home when we first bought it in August 2011. We built the patio that month to give us a little more living and dining space.
We decided to spray paint the siding because it was faded and had a chalky oxidation all over it. Well, to be completely honest, I had some maroon spray paint and wanted to paint the trim around the front door.
After three days and 60 trips to stores, our house had been completely spray painted.
Proper prep work is required before applying any paint at all. You need the paint to create a strong bond to the surface and the only way to do that is to make sure nothing can act as a barrier between the paint and the siding (grease, dirt, oxidation, etc).
Supplies to Spray Paint your Mobile Home’s Siding
Basic cleaning supplies:
Find one of those long-handled car wash brush with a pivoting head and a bucket it will fit into
Dawn Dish Detergent and TSP work as well as any industrial cleaner we’ve been around
A little bit of Clorox never hurt anything (do not mix it with any other product).
Rust-Oleum Spray Paint
We used Rust-Oleum 276271 Stops Rust Enamel Spray, 12 Oz, Aerosol Can
Comfort Trigger for Paint Cans
We found a brand at Lowe’s but this Rust-Oleum brand looks a lot better than the ones we used. You do want to splurge a bit on this, trust me!
I like the 3M products far better than any other I’ve tried (I’m not a fan of the frog tape).
Face Mask, Gloves, Old Clothes or Coveralls
You will want to wear face masks of some sort. Old clothes and gloves help make cleanup easier.
How to Spray Paint your Mobile Home’s Siding
Step 1: Clean
You must clean the white powdery stuff that old metal siding gets (oxidation is the scientific term). There are special products that will remove it but I was broke so we used Dawn and a bit of TSP with a long-handled brush for car washing. Just spray and hose off and allow to dry.
Step 2: Buy All the Paint at Once
You need to buy all the paint you will need at one time. Learn from my lesson and just trust me on this!
Most stores won’t have 30 cans of one color so pre-order it. This removes the possibility of the color being discontinued or the store not carrying the color again and you having 4 more feet to go before you’re finished.
The Rustoleum paint (especially for metal and prevents rust) can run anywhere from $2.10 (sale at Kmart) to $5.50 (Lowe’s), it took 15 cans to paint the front and one side of our mobile home. So 30 cans total, with a total cost of approximately $70.00. Our home is 12′ x 58′.
Step 3: Find Your Groove Using the Paint Can Trigger
Shake your paint can very well and attach the quality paint can trigger (not the cheap ones at Dollar General). On a piece of old plywood find your groove. You’ll need the can to be 15-25″ from the surface and long smooth left to right strokes that barely overlap each other.
This was such an easy project we had our 8-year-old daughter helping! You will have to get a flow going to get the proper coverage and keep the paint from running, but you’ll figure it out.
Environmental Concerns of Spray Paint
I researched the potential dangers of spray paint to the environment. With the environmental regulations and the new technology and chemical formulas of spray paint, it’s not that bad. The really nasty stuff that used to be associated with spray products isn’t used anymore.
In the end, finding the right place to recycle the empty cans was the most important concern. Make sure you take the empty cans to the proper place for disposal. You will need to call your local landfills or recycling center as some won’t take them at all.
Our mobile home after we spray painted it:
Total Cost of Spray Painting a Mobile Home’s Metal Siding
In total, $70.00 and about 18 hours of labor gave our 1978 mobile home a whole new look.
Granted, this is not the best way to handle painting your mobile siding but it is the easiest for someone that doesn’t have the proper equipment like air compressors and paint guns which are what the professionals use.
It’s just a quick, easy and cheap way to breath new life into an old mobile home.
4 Years Later…
It’s been over 4 years since we spray painted our mobile home’s siding and it has held up pretty well though it could use another coat. The maroon trim around the door and on the shutters faded quite a bit but that was the Big Lot’s paint. I have re-sprayed with a similar color in Rust-Oleum and it’s held the color fine.
Spray Painting Metal Siding with a Sprayer
Geneva and her husband shared their mobile home metal siding project on her blog, My Heart’s Song.
Geneva chose a Satin/Semi-Gloss Exterior Paint from Valspar. At first, they started hand brushing the home at first but soon turned to an electric sprayer. In the end, it was much faster and they used a lot less paint.
The results are fantastic!
Choosing the Right Paint for your Mobile Home’s Metal
There’s a lot of different paints on the market. Water-based or latex, oil-based or alkyd. Then for each kind of paint you have different sheens: flat, satin, gloss, and semi-gloss. So which is the right one for your mobile home’s metal siding?
Oil Based or Alkyd Paint
Oil is a favorite of many pro painters but there are some drawbacks with it. It has a long drying time which makes second coats and touchups difficult. Jenna, a pro furniture refinisher, recommends taking large projects in sections and letting it cure (which can take days) before attempting a second coat. Oil and latex don’t mix well, to paint oil over latex paint you need a water-based primer. It’s confusing, I know.
A high-quality roller and brush make working with oil-based paint a little easier. Of course, you need paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean up oil-based paint.
Home Dept advises the following for painting metal:
“The ideal paint for metal is oil based paint. Rust-Oleum, Glidden and Behr all have oil based paints available. The Rust-Oleum oil- based paint come pre-tinted. Glidden’s “Trim and Door” paint is an extra high gloss, gel paint and also comes pre-tinted. Behr’s oil-based paint comes in a semi-gloss finish and can be tinted to any Behr color. Since you are having a really hard time getting anything to stick to your door, I would recommend highly that you use an exterior grade, oil-based primer.
If painting your metal door with oil-based paint doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can use an exterior latex based paint. However, you will have to use an oil based, exterior primer before you paint. Since you mentioned that you are in direct sun most of the day, I would highly recommend using paint that is fade resistant. The Behr Ultra and the Behr Marquee both have superior fade-resistant qualities. Both of these products are a paint and primer in one. Marquee is the upgraded version of Ultra if you will. Marquee does everything that Ultra does, but better.”
Choosing the Right Sheen for Metal Siding
Sheen is created with a higher ratio of resins and binders to pigment levels in the paint. These binders and resins also add durability.
Satin or eggshell is recommended for exterior siding because the slight reflection helps hide dents in the metal. Choosing a light color also helps.
Other Painted Siding Examples
We’ve shared many homes with metal siding that has been painted. This colorful Malibu mobile home is a stunner:
This home painted her metal siding with blues and maroon trim:
Read about this 1955 Ventoura mobile home.
Do What You Can With What You Have Where You Are
Teddy Roosevelt was a smart man. He once said to make do with what you have where you are. We believe and urge you to do the same.
Whether you prefer rollers and brushes or spray paint, you can paint your mobile home’s metal siding without spending a ton of money. Every little improvement helps!
If you’ve painted your mobile home’s metal siding please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear your suggestions and tips!
Thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!
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