How to Choose the Right Paint for your Home's Exterior

Updated July 14, 2011
Green two-story house
Consider several factors before deciding what to use to paint the outside of your house. (Angie's List)

Picking the right paint for your home is an essential part of any painting project. Learn why the 60 - 30 - 10 rule is important.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Submitted by Bitsy Lee of EXOVATIONS

It might seem simple, but choosing exterior paint colors can be one of the most difficult and time consuming phases of your home remodeling project. Well-chosen paint colors can enhance curb appeal and add value to your home. Start by picking a color scheme or several colors in a pattern. A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of color, such as 60 – 30 – 10 rule.

Body or field area: The largest area of your home is considered the body or field area. Sixty percent of the color should be used for this area. Most people choose a more neutral color for the field area and take more risk with their trim colors.

Roof and trim: Thirty percent 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 fascia boards, gutters, window trim and entry doors. When choosing your trim colors, keep in mind 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. When used sparingly, they can draw the right amount of attention to your front door, pediments and shutters.

Architectural details: Ten percent 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.

One of the easiest ways to find a color scheme idea 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. They will probably be 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 have color selection software to help you visualize what the final project will look like.

When choosing your paint, make sure you choose a color that will last and maintain its 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. Dark colors do the opposite. 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.

Not only do you need to pick the actual colors of your home, but you also need to choose the finish of paint. Typically, a flat or satin paint is used for the body. 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, which provides a longer-lasting protection from UV rays and the elements. It can be used on the body, trim, shutters and fascia. A semi-gloss is ideal for trim, doors, shutters and architectural trim. It has maximum durability. A gloss finish has excellent adhesion and is also ideal for trim, doors, shutters and architectural details.

Because actual color and finish cannot be grasped as easily with a paint swatch or on a computer screen, it is a good idea to pick up samples from your local paint store and paint the sample colors onto your home. Choose a side of your house that is least visible and has adequate light. Paint sample areas large enough to obtain a good idea of what the color will look like. 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. View them in different lighting throughout the day. You might discover 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, this is definitely the time to arrange for their visit.

EXOVATIONS serves all of Metro Atlanta and middle Georgia. Lee is the chief financial officer and one of the founding partners of the EXOVATIONS companies and Total Exterior Franchise Systems.

As of July 13, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check AngiesList.com for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.