Choosing exterior house colors can be quite challenging. It often takes years training and experience to learn what colors and materials will look good together, but the average person has never done anything similar before. And choosing the wrong color paint or material can be a mistake that you’ll likely have to live with for many years (or spend a lot of money to fix). Here are some tips to help you get started.
Choose the right paint colors
The most common mistake I see in choosing exterior house color is that the color is too light. The sun will wash out colors outside, so choosing a light subtle color will end up looking like white. When choosing colors, keep in mind that they usually need to be more gray or brown than you think. For example, a gray with a tint of green in it will read more ‘green than you think when painted on an entire house. If you choose a color and can say ‘now that’s green’, you’ve likely chosen too ‘green’ of a green.
The primary exception to this rule would be in more tropical locations such as Miami or other areas where a lighter more reflective color is desired to keep a house cool. Here, pastel and brighter colors can work well.
If you are having trouble choosing trim and siding colors, keep them related to each other, like a cream trim and a darker beige on the same paint chip strip. Then add in an accent color like a deep eggplant color.
Don’t choose your house colors from just a little paint chip! Even professionals with experience have large sample boards painted (or paint directly on the house). Buy a quart of a few colors of paint and look at your samples in several different lights of the day and on different sides of your house. This takes time, but it’s the only way to really know if you are going to get to it right.
Choosing the right window colors
Many homes have vinyl windows which will usually be white. Don’t paint the vinyl windows unless you have no other option. If you do, consult your window manufacturer and paint company to find compatible products. Painting white vinyl with a dark paint can be disastrous because of the expansion of the vinyl in sunlight. The dark color will cause the vinyl to expand even more than normal, leading to paint and possibly window failure. If you have trim around a white vinyl window, it often works best to paint the trim white too. This will tend to make the vinyl windows blend into the window, and look more like a traditional wood window.
If you are choosing new windows and you want to paint your house a dark color, consider choosing a darker window color, as well. Whereas in years past you may have had to choose between a “white” and “almond” exterior color for new windows, most of the windows we specify now are available in black or dark bronze on the outside (even if white is all you get inside). If you have the budget for wood or metal clad windows, then you’ll have many color choices, but even composite windows are now available with darker colors which can work well with a more modern house or a house with metal siding, or even brick.
A bright white window on a dark or medium-toned house will often have too much contrast, and we typically stay away from that, unless the house is very traditional or you are seeking to make the windows stand out.
Choosing accent colors
This is a place where you can afford to take some risks because generally accent colors are limited to less area. We sometimes compare choosing accent colors to putting on makeup: the accent color is like putting on eyeliner and lipstick. Keep it classy! You know what too much makeup can do- the same goes for a house.
When to consider painting brick
Painting brick should generally be avoided, but sometimes it’s the only way to refresh an exterior. Just because you have a brick house, don’t automatically rule out painting it. You will still have the texture of the brick, but you won’t be stuck to the color, which can date many, many homes. Of course, if you have a Frank Lloyd Wright mission style brick home, don’t paint it! Unfortunately, most of our homes are not so inspired. Painting the brick can really lighten up a dark and dreary house. Consult a good paint store when painting brick to be sure to get compatible products.
Choosing the right roof color
When the roof of a house is visible, it can be a very prominent element. Choosing the wrong color roof is a costly mistake so it’s important to understand some general rules first. When choosing the roof color, consider what color the house is going to be painted (or if is brick or stone, consider the general tone of the material). If the house is being painted warmer colors, then a brown roof may be the right choice. If the house will be cooler colors (like grays, blues or greens), then a dark gray roof will likely be the best choice. If you have to decide on a roof color first, one of the most common and versatile is a dark slate gray color. Keep in mind, though, that a lighter roof color generally reflects more light, which can help keep the interior of the home cooler. While white is most reflective, newer cool color technology allows roofs with a variety of pigments to have good solar reflectance and thermal emittance.
If your house used to have wood shake shingles and you are replacing it with a composition shingle, most manufacturer’s make a dark brown color (often called ‘Driftwood,’ or something similar) that is similar to shake colors. If you are installing a metal roof, consider colors other than the traditional green, which works well on buildings with log siding but not much else. Again, choose a color that will allow some flexibility in your house paint color choices.