How to Choose Exterior House Paint Color

The color of your home is the most public design decision you’ll ever make.

Assessment

Exterior colors are as important as the colors used inside your home.Exterior colors are as important as the colors used inside your home.
Given the size of the structure and the fact that it is forever on display, exterior paint color plays a crucial role in how everyone -- including yourself -- will perceive your house. Paint manufacturers offer thousands of potential exterior colors; sifting through all those options is a matter of balancing practical considerations with finding the color that fits in perfectly with the architecture, the neighborhood, and your own tastes.

Step 1

Consult local regulations. Homeowner associations and smaller municipalities often set rules dictating what colors can be used on homes in the community. Local ordinances may narrow the choices you have to consider.

Step 2

Survey your neighborhood to see what others have done. If your home is located in any but a rural location, it will likely be part of a larger cluster of homes. Look for homes like yours that feature especially handsome colors, and take pictures of them.

Step 3

Collect noteworthy examples of homes pictured in magazines and ads. Computerized color matching-technology means it’s likely that you can match any colors you find in a magazine for exterior paint for your house.

Step 4

Check on the pros. Real estate brokers put the best looking listings in their advertisements. Check out real estate brochures and newspaper inserts to learn what colors are selling.

Step 5

Study the colors you can’t change. A slate roof, a brick foundation, or a stone façade all present colors that must complement or at least work well with any exterior paint you pick.

Step 6

Take cues from history. Period-style homes in particular are often tied to specific colors. If the architecture of your home is associated with a particular movement or time period, research to find the colors associated with that style.

Step 7

Consider the landscaping, especially if you have abundant flowering bushes and trees. You can emphasize the beauty of a lush landscape or garden by providing a suitably colored backdrop for plantings.

Step 8

Analyze size and shape. White or light colors can make a home seem larger and the property seem smaller in relation. Darker colors often have the opposite effect.

Step 9

Account for climate. Light colors, beiges and whites are often in temperate areas, because the colors reflect more sun to keep the house cooler in hot weather. Darker colors absorb and hold more heat, accounting for their popularity in more frigid areas of the country.

Testing

Step 1

Paint chips are excellent tools for color selection.

Gather paint chips in colors that might work for your home and tastes. Cast a wide net, collecting not only colors you like, but lighter tints and darker shades of those colors. Whenever possible, collect large-format paint chips.

Step 2

Tape paint chips up on the house and review the chips in varied lighting conditions, including at night. Narrow your choices until you have two to four finalists.

Step 3

Buy quarts or sample jars of the colors. Paint large test patches on multiple sides of your house. Review these patches in different lighting, and on cloudy and sunny days. Live with the samples for at least a week, but longer if possible.

Step 4

Order the winning color in the highest quality exterior paint you can afford.

Things You Will Need

  • Magazine pictures
  • Real estate flyers and advertisements
  • Paint chips
  • Paint quarts or sample jars
  • Brush

Tip

  • Underlying surfaces can radically affect the look of exterior paint color. Because of the prolonged exposure to the elements, preparing the surface is crucial to the appearance of exterior paint colors. Take your time, remove all loose paint, and thoroughly prime the surface.

Warning

  • Older homes that haven’t been painted in many years may be covered in paint that contains lead. Use a simple lead test kit to check your exterior paint before prepping the surface. If the test is positive, don’t sand or scrape any of your exterior surfaces. Remove loose paint with a bonding stripper, or hire lead abatement professionals to prep exterior surfaces for you.