Have you ever found yourself standing in the paint section of your local home improvement store for what seems like hours, completely overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of paint swatches in the racks? I know I have spent months collecting notebooks full of those things, and still felt completely inadequate at choosing paint colors for my home. While it might seem simple, choosing exterior paint colors can be one of the most difficult and time consuming phases of your entire home remodeling project. Well chosen paint colors can enhance your home’s curb appeal and even add value to your home.
Find your Inspiration
One of the easiest ways to get ideas is to drive around neighborhoods to see what appeals to you. This is not only a great way to figure out what you like, but it is also a tremendous help for anyone who has difficulty visualizing what their house will look like from a color swatch or wheel. If you see a home color that you love, don’t be afraid to ask the homeowner for the manufacturer and color they used. You will be surprised how flattered most people are that you liked their colors and they will probably be only too glad to share all their paint information, down to the last detail. Most paint stores will have brochures that suggest color combinations. Some paint manufacturer websites even have color selection software to help you visualize what the final project will look like.
When choosing your paint colors, make sure you choose a color that will last, meaning they will maintain their freshness and intensity for a long period of time. Darker colors will fade faster because they absorb more heat and are prone to damage from UV rays. If you prefer darker colors, adding gloss or sheen will help prevent damage from UV rays and reduce fading.
Lighter colors tend to make a house look larger and dark colors will do the opposite. Currently, lighter colors are the popular trend, but this alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor. This is just a consideration to help narrow down the endless possibilities of colors.
Once you have an idea what color family you like, go pick out several shades of the colors you like, along with complementary colors to be used on the trim areas of your home. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use a ratio of color such as 60:30:10 as follows:
Body/Field Area – The largest area of your home is considered the field area or the body. 60% of the color should be used for this area. Most people choose a more neutral color for the field area and may take more risk with their trim colors.
Roof/Trim – 30% of the color should be utilized for the roof and trim. The color of the roof doesn’t have to match the trim paint color, but it should harmonize. The trim color is used on areas of your home such as the fascia boards, gutters, window trim, and entry doors. When choosing your trim colors, keep in mind that this color should complement the field area. The trim color defines the architectural details of your house. If you feel the need to be more creative, your exterior accent colors are perfect for showing your boldness and, when used sparingly, can draw the right amount of attention to your front door, pediments, and/or shutters.
Architectural Details – 10% of a different color can be given to details such as shutters, decorative molding, doors, brackets, columns and porch decks and ceilings. This is a fun area of color to play with to show dramatic emphasis or just a little for your accents depending on how dark the shade of color you choose.
Not only do you need to pick the actual colors of your home, but you need to decide to choose the finish of paint to get in each of those colors. Typically, for the body of the home a flat or satin paint is used. A flat (matte) finish will add to the natural architecture of your home and is a great choice for hiding imperfections that are sometimes present in wood. A satin paint has a soft sheen with excellent performance, providing a longer lasting protection from UV rays and the elements than flat. It can be used on the body, trim, shutters and fascia. A semi-gloss is ideal for trim, doors, shutters, and architectural trim and has maximum durability. A gloss finish has excellent adhesion and is also ideal for trim, doors, shutters, and architectural details.
Try it Before you Buy It
Because actual color and finish cannot be grasped as easily with a paint swatch or on a computer screen, it is ALWAYS a good idea to pick up samples from your local paint store and paint the sample colors onto your home. Choosing a side of your house that is least visible to passersby, but that has adequate light. Paint sample areas large enough to obtain a good idea of what the color will look like, and be sure to let the paint sit for a couple of days to be sure the color does not change as it cures.
Once you have completed painting sample areas, “live” with the colors for a few days, viewing them in the lighting during different times of day. You might discover that a color that you thought was your final selection during the morning looked entirely different and unattractive in the waning afternoon light. This is also a good time to invite a few friends or neighbors with good “design sense” to view your samples and share their advice. If your neighborhood requires approval by an architectural control committee, submit your swatches, or arrange for their visit so they can see your samples.
Then, all that is left is to hire a licensed and insured painting crew, and watch your home’s new look come to life.
Good luck and happy painting.