Choosing a House Paint

The proper house paint makes your home look its best.

When choosing a house paint, consider the architectural design of your home. Just as a certain hairstyle and color enhance a person's face, the right exterior paint, trim, and accent colors can best accentuate the lines of your home.

Tips for House Paint Selection

Before you buy any paint, take some time to gain a general understanding of color design and how it applies to decorating. Different home styles accept distinctive paint schemes better than others. For example, compare the "painted lady" effect of a fine Victorian to the sleek, more monochrome appearance of a 1960s ranch house. Learning about what type of paint best applies to your home will take the guesswork out of the process.

Depending on the architecture, most homes will require three different colors of exterior paint.

  • One primary color for the walls
  • A contrasting color to use on door frames, window frames, and other line features
  • An accent color that draws attention to other details such as the front door, shutters, railings, and decks or porches

A house with more elaborate details, such as a Victorian, may use up to seven colors. Craftsman bungalows often use four or five colors, as do seaside cottages. While much of this is dictated by personal preference, the majority of the "rules" of exterior painting have more to do with the details of the home. There is nothing wrong with painting the carved newel posts of a staircase all one color, but adding an accent color defines the intricacies of the carving.

The home's exterior surface plays an important part in choosing paint as well.

  • Use a flat paint for the walls to resist moisture.
  • Apply a gloss or semi-gloss paint to trim work to improve durability.
  • Use a primer first if the surface is porous, the wood is fresh, or the new paint is a different variety than the existing paint.

Latex paints are the most widely-used exterior paints. They dry quickly, allow the moisture in wood to evaporate, thus reducing peeling, and are water-based for easy cleanup. Choose an all-acrylic resin version for the best application and color wear.

Another exterior paint version is an alkyd paint. Only certain states allow the use of alkyd paints as a wall exterior, because of air-quality regulations. But since it continues to harden long after application, it creates a strong moisture barrier, making it an excellent choice for lake- and ocean-side homes. Residents of other states find alkyd sold in quart containers only, and use it for trim work, especially windowsills.

Some homeowners also use stains on wood trim. You'll find solid finish stains, which completely stain the wood, as well as semitransparent or transparent finishes.

Hiding is a term used to describe the coverage. Look for a high level of titanium dioxide in the ingredients-the higher the level, the more likely the paint will provide exceptional coverage in one coat.

Before You Pick A Color

Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind as you choose a house paint.

  • Review the covenant. Newer subdivisions often have a strict covenant regarding exterior color choices. On one hand, this guarantees that your neighbors won't paint their houses fuchsia with teal trim. On the other hand, it's somewhat stifling to creative expression. If your neighborhood's bylaws restrict your paint options to a hue of off-white, pale yellow, or tan, find the prettiest ecru that you can and save the wild colors for the interior.
  • Respect the neighborhood. Likewise, certain neighborhoods complement a particular color scheme. If you live in a beach community, fuchsia with teal trim probably fits right in, whereas a navy and gray home looks drab by comparison. Again, don't feel you're limited in painting, but remember, you want your home to stand out with style, not be garish.
  • Pick harmonious colors. With your new education in color design, this should be easy. Sometimes a contrasting color is a different hue of the primary wall choice, or the contrast may be a direct opposite selection on the color wheel. Try a painting simulator to explore more paint options.

Simulators for Choosing a House Paint

Paint manufacturers really want you to enjoy the painting process, and provide tips, suggestions, and visual ideas to help you every step of the way. Numerous premium paint companies provide consultations in home improvement stores and hardware stores, as well as online simulators that let you "paint" your home's style with a variety of colors before ever lifting a brush. Check out the following sites to learn about choosing a house paint. The more you change the color scheme in a simulator, the better an understanding you'll develop of how the experts mix and match color to highlight a home's best features.

The Sherwin Williams Color Visualizer is a fun, handy tool. To get the best idea of how the simulator works, choose the Victorian home to paint. The guide features historical paint choices, trendy colors, and other brand-specific collections. Choose a color category, then a primary color. Click "apply to scene" and the house photo comes to life with the walls, trim, and accents pre-selected.

Another famous manufacturer, Benjamin Moore, offers the Personal Color Viewer program. The site features numerous color categories, house styles, and coordinating trim and accent paints from which to choose. You can also print off your favorite combinations.

Home improvement guru Bob Vila's website also has a painting program called Paint Designer. Use the click-and-apply approach to view exterior paint options, and plug some measurements into the site's estimator to help you determine how much paint and primer are needed for proper surface coverage.

Homeowners with historic houses may enjoy playing with the American Tradition Virtual Painter. This site features many exterior color schemes that enhance the preservation of older homes, including color palettes approved by the National Trust.

These sites are incredibly helpful for choosing interior paint as well.

It's Only Paint

Remember, choosing a house paint takes time, but if you don't like your selection, you can always just paint over it. It is by far one of the easiest and least expensive remodeling fixes you'll ever make. Gather numerous color swatches, talk with experts, and run through the simulators to help you make a selection that not only suits your home, but also expresses your personality.

Choosing a House Paint