Choosing the Right Paint for Your Home's Exterior

A man painting a house.

It sounds like a simple enough task, at first - painting the house. Of course, then you get to the hardware store and discover that there isn't just one can labeled "house paint," but rather a plethora of cans, sporting titles that claim they are latex or alkyd, and more color names than one of those huge boxes of crayons we coveted as children. Just what is bisque, anyhow, and is that the shade you want? Read on, as we take a look at the different kinds of exterior house paint and offer you a no-nonsense guide to painting your home.

To begin with, you have to understand that paint is designed to provide you with beautiful color and gloss retention, and that it is formulated to provide mildew resistance and the flexibility to withstand both expansion and retraction due to the weather outside.

Exterior paints also fall under one of two categories: latex (water-based) or alkyd (oil), each having separate, unique characteristics. The type of paint that you will want to use will be dependent on the kind of surface that you wish to paint and the finish that you want for your home.

Types of Paint

Latex - Extremely durable. With latex paints, you get the finish that will last the longest and retains the best color. Usually easy to work with, latex paints are very durable and dry quickly, as well as finishing with a porous surface. The porous surface allows moisture to escape and helps to prevent your paint from peeling. Another bonus is that the cleanup with latex is much easier, with soap and water doing the trick nicely.

Oil (Alkyd) - For excellent durability and stain resistance, you may wish to go with an oil, or otherwise known as an alkyd-based paint. Featuring good adhesion, these paints are an excellent choice when trying to cover problematic or glossy surfaces. Alkyd paints also dry slower, giving roller marks a chance to fade away and drying to a much cleaner surface.

There are some downfalls to alkyd paints, however; a little more complex on the cleanup, oil paint requires that you use mineral spirits on your brushes in order to get them clean. In addition to this, some states will not allow this kind of paint, due to air-quality regulations. Always be sure to check into these things prior to actually purchasing your paints.

How to Choose Colors

After you've decided what type of paint that you need, it's equally important to consider the colors. While we may say we want a blue house, there are not only a vast variety of blues to choose from, but there are other matters that you will wish to give serious consideration. While we can often cover up harmless little mistakes, you should give careful thought about having to clean up what might be considered a public eyesore.

Neighborhood - It's important to take your neighborhood into consideration. If you have a home in a rather conservative part of town, you may not wish to paint your house sunshine yellow or magenta with blue trim.

Almost everyone has had their heads turned by that one garish house that seems so out of place. Keep in mind the color and styles of your neighbors; while individuality is good, you can easily go overboard.

Existing Colors - The existing colors of a home are often overlooked until it is too late. When you go to choose colors for your home, remember that you have to match it up with your existing roof and any mortar or siding that is not going to be painted. While you don't have to match colors up exactly, you will want something that will harmonize nicely with the other colors and textures.

Your Interior - While it may seem strange at first, you want your house's outside to match and harmonize with the inside. By doing this, you give your home a more welcoming, warming feeling.

Your interior paint and the color of your furnishings should always play a rule in the decision-making regarding the exterior of your home, just as your exterior should have a degree of influence over the inside.

Accents and Trim

Remember that when choosing your paint, your home should not be one flat color. You should also have at least one other color for accents, such as your trim. Depending on how intricate your home is, you may have anywhere from two to six or more different colors to try to harmonize.

Have fun with it, but be sure that your colors complement one another and that they are not too busy or distracting. When in doubt, consult some of the handy little paint color strips that can be found in most local hardware stores.

Dark vs Light

When choosing colors, it's important to understand that shades will also affect the appearance of your home. Light colors will make your house seem larger, whereas darker tones will make your home seem smaller.

Dark shades on trim, however, provide a pleasant contrast and draw attention to detail. Also note that the darker the color, the more likely it is to fade. Vivid red shades and deep blues will lighten substantially, and the darker shades also seem to suffer more maintenance problems, due to the fact that they draw both heat and moisture.

To Gloss or Not to Gloss

Paints also come in three different sheens - gloss, semi-gloss, and flat. The more gloss your paint contains, the more bright and new it tends to look, but it also has a bad habit of showing up any imperfections in the wood beneath it and brush strokes. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep very glossy areas to a minimum.

Painting your house may be on your "honey-do" list, this year, but it doesn't have to be such a chore. Take some time to consider your options and plan it out, then dive in with both hands. If you follow these easy tips, the job should go much faster and with far fewer headaches!

Read on to learn how to Plan your Exterior Painting Project.