Choosing Exterior Paint and Material Colors

Most people don't know where to start when choosing exterior colors and materials. After all, unless you are a seasoned remodeler, you've probably never done it before. Choosing the wrong materials can be an expensive mistake that could be avoided with a little guidance.

MATERIAL & COLOR TIPS

  1. If you have an historic home, check out the historic paint color lines of a major manufacturer like Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore.

  2. Don't choose roof shingles from small samples. Variations in the colors will get amplified when installed over a large area so it's important to see several square feet.

  3. Always choose colors and materials in the light they will be seen in. Exterior colors should be chosen outside and interior colors should be chosen inside.

  4. Interior colors will change depending on the light source in the room. Choose colors under the same light source as will be installed in the room.

  5. Many paint manufacturers sell small samples of their paints to test colors. This is an inexpensive way to find the right colors.

  6. If you can't find the exact color you want, mix your own from several different paint samples. Then paint a sample of the final color on a piece of white board or paper and take that into the paint store to have it matched.



 

Choosing exterior house colors can be quite challenging. It often takes years of experience to learn what colors and materials will look good together. The average person has never done this before and certainly doesn't have training or professional experience. And choosing the wrong color paint or material can be a very costly 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 usually 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.

And don't choose from 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 window that is cream or almond color. A bright white window on a very dark house color will generally have too much contrast. If you choose cream or almond windows, and paint the trim a matching color, it will work better with the darker paint scheme. There are a few manufacturers that produce a gray vinyl window which can work well with a more modern house or a house with metal siding, or even brick. Generally I don't like white vinyl on brick homes, unless the house is very traditional. Choosing a gray or almond will almost always look better. If you have the budget for wood or metal clad windows, then you'll have a lot more color choices, and the mid-tone to darker colors often look better with brick.

Choosing Accent Colors

This is a place where you can afford to take some risks because generally accent colors are limited to less area. I sometimes compare choosing accent colors to a woman putting on makeup . . . the accent color is like putting on the eyeliner and lipstick. But keep it classy! You know what too much makeup can do. The same goes for a house.

When to Consider Painting Brick


I hate to paint brick but sometimes it's the only way to refresh an exterior. Just because you have a brick house, don't automatically rule out painting brick. 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! But 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 very 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.