How To Pick Paint Colors For Your Home

by Darwin Hall

exterior house painting ideas

A good coat of paint will protect your home from weather and wear.

Of course, you cannot expect it to disguise existing problems.

Defects should be corrected before painting to prevent future damage.

Well-chosen, well-applied color has a positive, uplifting effect; a poor choice will haunt you.

For this reason you should select a color scheme carefully.

Avoid hasty choices, and devote time to the other important choices, and devote time to the other important steps: preparing the surface, selecting an appropriate type of paint, and using sound application techniques.

Prices for a gallon of exterior house paint begin about where interior wall paints leave off.  Why?

First, they contain more resin so they are more durable and highly moisture-resistant.  Second, most also have more pigment, the ingredient that gives paint its color.

See also:  Choosing The Right Paint Finishes For A Room

Like interior paints, exterior paints come in two basic varieties:  water-thinned (latex) or solvent-thinned (oil- or alkyd-based) paint.  Those with oil- or alkyd-bases dry slowly, making them susceptible during application to insects and sudden rain storms.

Once they set up, however, they are exceptionally durable.  Latex paints are easier to work with, dry quickly, and have a porous, “breathing” quality that minimizes moisture problems.

They do have a tendency to peel, however, if applied over an improperly oil- or alkyd-based finish, especially if it’s a “chalking-type” latex paint.  Chalking refers to a self-cleaning quality formulated into many of today’s exterior paints.

They shed dirt by gradually eroding with each rainfall.  Usually, you can see the chalk on foundation walls, shrubbery, and your coat sleeve, if you brush against a painted surface.

Once wood has been covered with a water- or solvent-thinned product, it’s best not to change types when you apply subsequent coats.  It can be done, of course, but you may run into problems.  If you’re not sure what type of paint was used before, you’ll probably be safest to use an alkyd-based paint.

In addition to deciding what type of paint you want, you must also specify the luster — flat, semigloss, or gloss (the word, “enamel” often is used instead of semigloss and gloss).

Most people prefer a flat finish for large expanses, and reserve semigloss and gloss for areas subject to hard use or for trim.

What about one-coat house paints?

If you plan to match or approximate the present color, any paint will cover in one coat.  However, products sold with a one-coat guarantee are thicker, with more resins and pigments.  Most guarantees specify that the paint must be applied over sound existing surfaces or primed new wood.

You will pay more for a one-coat paint, but the extra money spent might pay off handsomely, especially in terms of time saved.

Choosing colors

Exterior. Nothing effects the overall appearance of a home as much as color.  Choose colors that harmonize with the character of your home and neighborhood.

To get ideas, tour the area, obtain color swatches from a dealer, and look through magazines and books.  Be sure to choose colors that are compatible with permanent features that won’t change, such as brickwork, roofing, or natural siding.  The design of your home often dictates how color should be used.

If the architecture is strong enough,walls can become canvasses for an imaginative, abstract statement.  For the majority of homes, three colors are usually sufficient.

Light colors are the safest choice, but they tend to be dull and profit from a contrasting trim color.  If the foundation is distinct from the primary structure, paint it a darker tone.  Avoid bright, pure colors as well as combinations of two colors with equal intensities unless you want to make a strong statement.

Muted earthtones work well for exteriors because they blend into the landscape.  They also tend to last longer than pure hues.

purple roomInterior.  The color of the room effects size, mood, and even temperature.

Generally, light colors seem to enlarge a room, and dark colors shrink it, although this generality does not always hold true.

Some color schemes seem to effectively enlarge a room by combining a light color with a dark contrast.

To play it safe, use no more than two colors of paint, unless the colors are different intensities of the same hue.

If one of the colors is off-white, choose a shade with a hint of color that matches the other colors in the room.  High-gloss paints are back in style.

Experiment with them for up-to-the-minute fashion statements.  If two rooms are connected with a wide doorway, use compatible colors.

Choosing colors by exposure

The amount and quality of natural light in as room should effect your color choice.  If a sunny room with windows facing west and southwest tends to feel hot and stuffy, use cool colors such as blue or gray.

Rooms with windows facing north tend to be colder than other rooms; they will benefit from warm colors such as red, orange and some browns.  Rooms that face east can be painted in warm or cool colors depending on whether the morning sun needs a cheery boost or a cooling contrast.

Exposure is an important factor in choosing colors, but not the only one.

The use of the room should also be considered — bright yellow may not be the best color for a living room, even if it faces north.  Also remember that the color should harmonize with permanent features, such as a hardwood floor.

sun exposure chart

You should also devote a fair amount of time to researching proper prepping techniques for exterior painting.  There are many different ways of removing paint; you’ll probably need to use a combination of some of them.

Watch the VideoIf you have a two-story home, sometimes it’s best to rent scaffolding.  Putting a scaffold together is not that difficult, it’s similar to putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  If you are using ladders only, make sure to have stabilizer bars connected at the top of the rungs if you have a very tall home.

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