No matter what size your house is, painting the exterior of it is a big decision. Though we have been told you can’t judge a book by its cover, the exterior paint color of your house does present the first impression to the rest of the neighborhood. Here are ten tips to help you find the perfect exterior paint color.
1. Find inspiration
When you don’t have the slightest idea on where to start with choosing your home’s exterior paint color, start with other people’s houses. You don’t need to take weeks or months doing this. Give yourself a deadline and focus—a couple of days should be enough.
Walk or drive around the neighborhood. Whether you live in a planned community, a historic district, or on a farm, chances are some of your neighbors are going to have a similar house size, shape, and era to your home. At first, don’t pay attention to the actual color. This first step is to help you find a feeling, a vibe, or a theme. When a house pops out and grabs your attention or has a good feeling to you, snap a picture. If you don’t want to feel too much like a stalker or a private investigator, take note of the address and look it up online when you get home. Google street maps or a realtor site such as Zillow are easy places to look.
Hop on the internet and do some searches for exterior paint color on websites such a Houzz, Pinterest, and HGTV. If you know the style of your house (bungalow, cape, ranch etc.) enter that into your search. If you have no idea what style your house is, then use search words like “small, single story, or split level” that apply to your house.
2. Collect all of your ideas in one place
Collect all of the inspiration for your exterior house color in one place. You can print them out and put them in a folder. You can digitally save them all on a Pinterest board, a notebook in Evernote, or a Google photo album. It doesn’t really matter how you collect them, just get them all in one place.
3. Narrow down and eliminate
Once you have all of your inspiration in front of you, study and see what pops out as a similar theme (dark with light trim, light with dark trim etc.) or color scheme? Do you see a pattern of theme or color? Great! This is an excellent start in narrowing down your exterior house color. Eliminate the random pictures that don’t fit into the theme or color scheme.
What if you just don’t see a repeated pattern of what you like? Don’t panic–you either need to collect more inspiration or you need to enlist a friend. I suggest you ask someone you trust and has a little bit of natural decorating talent to take a look at your inspiration collection. Have them see if they can find a theme or color scheme. If you are still having trouble, then skip to tip number nine.
4. Roof color and landscaping
When narrowing down the decision of what color to paint the exterior of your house, take into consideration the color of the roof and your landscaping. You need to make sure the color you end up with, is going to look good with these two things.
If you know you are going to be replacing your roof soon, then be sure your house color is going to look good with the new roof, not the existing one. Your roof is going to last you 30 years and a good paint job should last you seven to ten years so plan ahead.
A similar rule would apply if you have a lot of man-made landscaping features, called hardscaping. This would include things like retaining walls, stained concrete, brick walkways and the like. If your retaining wall is brown stack stone or your walkway is red brick, be sure to keep this in mind when you envision your final house color.
5. The neighbors
This tip applies to you if you live in a city or suburban neighborhood more than if you live on a big piece of land. If you want to maximize your curb appeal with the exterior color of your house, make sure you take into consideration the house color on either side of your house and the color of the house directly across the street.
If the neighbor next door has a bright yellow house, your house isn’t going to stand out or have much curb appeal if your house is bright yellow too.
I find this tip to be especially important if you live in a suburban neighborhood that mandates specific color schemes for your development because your choices are restricted. If your neighbor to the right has a light tan house and your neighbor to the left has a light gray house, you’ll want to do something different even if it isn’t your first choice.
6. Agree on a color
If you are the only one making the decision on what color to paint the exterior of your house, then skip ahead. However, if you are living with a partner, you both want to have good vibes when you pull in the driveway after work and are welcomed by the sanctuary you call home.
Keep working on the elimination process but this time as a team. Rule out any colors that neither of you likes. If you get stuck, know there is going to need to be some compromise.
When we painted our little urban cottage, I would have loved for it to be dark gray. John doesn’t like gray houses but he likes dark houses. So, this helped us narrow down our search for the perfect color and we looked at dark colors we both like.
7. Don’t be boring
I’m not saying to paint your house purple—unless you live in a Victorian surrounded by other pastel ladies or on a Caribbean island. One of the biggest disappointments after you paint your entire house can be that it is not bold enough. If you really want to add curb appeal, push yourself a little. Go a couple steps darker or a couple steps lighter.
Add a pop of color with your front door. This is the easiest place to have fun and be whimsical. If you get bored with the color of your front door, or you just hate it, you can easily change it.
8. Get rid of distractions
Just because your house has a giant round vent at the top peak of your roof, doesn’t mean you should trim it out. Unless this is the first thing you want people to see.
What I mean is, you should not paint every vent, dryer outlet or bathroom fan flap your trim color. This is going to draw your eye straight to all those little things and clutter up the overall feel of your house. This also applies to corner trim if your house has that. Some of the things you are going to want to paint on your house the main body color are attic vents, electrical boxes, gutter downspouts, corner trim, exterior conduit or plumbing, and basement windows.
9. Don’t be afraid to hire an expert
You also shouldn’t be afraid to hire a professional. Choosing the color for the exterior of your house is a big deal. Paying an interior designer or a painting contractor for a consultation will cost you upfront. However, in the long run, it could save you thousands by not having to repaint an entire house and ensuring it is a house color you are going to love.
10. Paint test patches
You don’t want to skip this tip. Once you have chosen your exterior paint color, the final step is to test it out on your house. All the major paint stores will sell you small cans of paint for around eight dollars. I suggest you get at least three choices in different shades of your chosen color as well as one or two choices of trim color.
Pick up a bag of inexpensive foam brushes and paint generous test patches of each color next to a window. Paint the different trim choices on the window frame so you can see all of the choices together. Paint your test patches on different sides of your house. Do your test patches a day or two before you paint the entire exterior of your house. You’ll want to go out and look at the sample colors different times of the day and in different lighting.
Make your final decision and go for it. Painting the exterior of your house is one of the best things you can do to up its curb appeal. More importantly, you want your house to be your home and to invite you with a good feeling every time you pull into the driveway.