How to Paint Roof Shingles (And When Not To)

If you have an asphalt shingle roof that you don’t love the color of, you may have asked yourself, “Can you paint shingles?” The answer to that question (perhaps to your surprise) is YES!

Painting shingles is a relatively easy process and can be much more budget-friendly than redoing the roof. We just finished a backyard makeover for our outdoor pavilion and I really hated the multicolored brown shingles that topped the roof.

The color scheme really added to the feeling of being a structure in a public park (rather than a more modern backyard oasis). When I found out that it was possible to paint asphalt shingles, I jumped at the chance.

before and after painted shingle pavilion roof
painted shingle pavilion roof

It is a good idea to have a roof inspection done first so that you can spot any repairs that need to be done before painting.

SAFETY NOTICE: Whenever roofs and ladders are involved, be sure to take all safety precautions and work with a partner or proper fall protection equipment if you attempt this project.

If you don’t feel completely comfortable being able to do this safely, hire professional roof cleaners and painters to do the job for you!

Do you need a special paint to paint roof shingles?

Yes! You will use an acrylic latex paint that is recommended for exterior use on roof items such as shingles (Behr Multi-Surface Roof Paint or Sherwin Williams Resilience paint are good examples) to make sure to extend the life of your painting work.

The water-based paint will allow moisture to escape the shingles, so algae and mold are not encouraged to grow.

Do you need to prime roof shingles before painting them?

Priming the shingles before you paint them will help your final top coat of paint adhere as well as possible for the overall best bond.

Use one that is for all materials and can be used outdoors (like this one Multi-Surface Exterior Primer), so that it adheres properly to the shingles.

Can you paint a roof that is in poor condition?

While you can technically paint a roof with shingles that aren’t in good shape (although any roof repair should really be done before painting), it may not be worth the money to paint the roof (if what you really need is a complete new roof ).

Painting a roof won’t fix any leaking problems or areas where shingles can lift, so it may generally be better to replace the roof and choose a new shingle color you like during a replacement rather than trying to paint it.

Are there any disadvantages to painting a shingle roof?

It is a good idea to have the painted shingles inspected once a year for signs of peeling or chipping. Extreme weather climates will accelerate paint wear faster than moderate climates will.

shingle roof with moss and algae growing on it

Step one: Clean the roof

Like most painting projects, you’ll want to clean the area you’re painting before you actually start painting. Roofs are no exception, and you’ll especially want to clean spots that get less sun and have moss or algae growing on them.

Using a power washer is the most efficient way to clean a roof, which you can either do yourself if it’s a smaller substructure like our pavilion and you have the power washer and ladder, or you can hire someone to wash it for you .

You can damage shingles by blowing water on them too hard (especially in an upward direction), so keep that in mind and have a professional do it if you don’t feel comfortable.

If the roof has a lot of algae, you may want to spray and apply a solution of 50% water and 50% bleach to kill the algae to prevent it from coming back any further. Water all plants below the roof drip line well (if they are already wet, this will prevent the bleach from penetrating them).

Then rinse the plants again when you’re done applying your mixture to the roof. Allow the roof to dry completely before you paint so you don’t encourage the growth of mold or wood rot during the paint.

primer painted on shingle pavilion roof

Step 2: Prime the roof

While some paints may have a primer built in, it may be a good idea to use a bonding primer so that the paint will adhere to your shingles in the strongest bond. Something Multi-Surface Exterior Primer or this Extreme Bond Primer will do the trick.

Place any drip cloths where necessary to protect other areas or plants from overspray. Apply the primer an even coat with a spray gun (you can also rent paint guns too), and let the primer dry completely.

before and after painted shingle pavilion roof

Step 3: Paint the roof

Once your primer is dry, apply your roof paint in thin, even coats with a sprayer, allowing sufficient drying time between coats until all shingles are evenly coated.

This will most likely take at least 1-2 coats, but may need more depending on how thin you spray it and what color you’re trying to achieve (the primer is white, so dark finish colors may take several coats to fully cover).

painted shingle pavilion roof
painted shingle pavilion roof
painted shingle pavilion roof

While painting a roof is a temporary improvement (multiple coats of paint can extend the life of a roof by protecting it from wear and UV damage, which is a plus), it can be worth the effort, especially in cases like mine with a smaller structure where the total costs were quite low.

I’m really glad we decided to paint our shingles. The paint helped modernize the look of the structure, protect the shingles a bit more over the next few years, and we didn’t have to replace the entire roof to achieve a similar look.

While painting may not be the best option in every situation, I’m glad we decided to go for it on our pavilion makeover! xo. Laura

Do you want to see more before and after of outdoor spaces? Check out:

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