How to choose an exterior home paint color you will love

Have you ever driven by a house that was painted in a hideous color? One that made you cringe? Many times, the owner just didn’t realize what the color would like when it was covering their whole house, and once they’d bought the paint they couldn’t afford to do it over again. These are not pretty sights, not the house and especially not the expressions on the homeowners’ faces. So here’s one humble contractor’s advice on how to choose and exterior home paint color you will love.

Drive Around and Ask About Paint Colors

exterior paint color

We picked the color of our house by driving around until we found something we liked.

Avoid poor color selections by getting professional advice or by my favorite method, finding a home that you like the colors on and knocking on the door. Most people are happy to share their color with you. It just confirms their selection – and who doesn’t like to know that others like their home.

When Shae and I were building a colonial style home in Vancouver, WA, we drove around the Grant High and Washington Park areas of Portland, OR. Not only was it fun looking at all the old classic homes, but we also found a lot of color options that we really liked. And yes we found our paint color as well – but I did it the hard way since no one was home…I stood on the front porch and took out my paint color fan deck and went through it as fast as I could to match the color. Luckily I escaped, color in hand, before the police arrived!

Double-check the Paint Color

Now – I will warn you. Don’t assume when someone tells you the color of their home that they are correct. Especially if they are a builder(me) or painter that has painted hundreds of homes! All those homes and all those colors get confusing after a while. I once had someone knock on our door and ask me the color of our house. I gave them the color name and they walked away happy to have the color they looked so hard to find. But as I basked in the glory and pride of knowing that at least one person liked the color I had selected, I realized I had given them the interior paint color of the home and not the exterior color. They were of course gone before I realized this. Let’s just hope they checked the color before they bought their paint. I can only imagine what they think of me now! Okay – I digress. But be sure to check that color before you buy it.

Test the Color

A few years back we were building a home for a client that was in Japan while the house was being built. They had picked a nice light blue color that they thought looked great on the color chip. I called in the order and my guys picked up the product. I then left to review other jobs for the day – only to come back six hours later to find the nicest “Smurf Blue” colored house we had ever painted. A couple of international phone calls and e-mails later and everyone agreed – the color had to change. So I started thinking – wait – we painted a home a few years back in a beautiful light blue. Off I went to a past clients home, took a few pictures and e-mailed them, and within one hour we had our new color – and a full size home to confirm it.

But be careful again – get the color wrong and you will hear about it. The following morning before we applied the new blue we had already received two notes complaining about the color and how we would cause all the home values in the area to fall. Come to think of it, it was 2007. Maybe we started the housing crisis with that “Smurf Blue”!

All of this could have been avoided if we tested the color on a wall of the home first. Lesson learned!

Sheen: Matt, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-gloss, or Gloss?

My advice regarding the sheen – on the outside of your home never use a flat finish! It will look dull. I prefer a satin or velvet on the body of the exterior and a semi-gloss on the trim.

Oil or Latex?

You should also consider a professionals advice on whether to use an oil or latex paint, since some of this will depend on what was used originally. Cut out a piece of the existing paint and bring it to the paint store. And if you are not sure, buy a quart of the new product and test how well it adheres to the existing paint.

If you are painting the exterior of your home, consult Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations or the painting professionals at our new company, Salmon Creek Painting, in Vancover WA, and we’ll be happy to make an appointment to assist you. We offer a five year warranty on all our exterior painting, which is easy to do with the correct application.

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