Painting Your Home’s Exterior? What You Need to Know Before Picking Up the Brush

Painting Your Home’s Exterior? What You Need to Know Before Picking Up the Brush

Are you painting your home’s exterior? This is what you need to know before picking up the brush. I am asked everyday what to know before you start painting. People, just like you, want to know what paint color to choose for their home’s exterior. I wish it was a simple answer or there was a formula and boom the color will appear.  Unfortunately, finding the perfect exterior paint color is no easy process because there are so many factors involved. I was recently asked by a magazine editor to break it down… what are the most important things people need to know before they paint their home’s exterior. 

Of course, our brick&batten designers sleep and breathe paint colors. That said, take the worry away and let our designers help you make informed choices.


Are you painting your home’s exterior? What you need to know before picking up the brush.


→ What are your goals?

Obviously your goal is to love your house but dig deep…Paint isn’t going to change your traditional colonial into a trendy mid-century modern home.  It’s just not possible. Are you going to be selling your house? So your goal is to find colors that work with your architecture but also appeal to the masses. Is this your forever home and you’re looking for colors that you like and pair well with your interior?  Or, you bought a house with a new roof that happens to be red. Your goal is to find colors that work with the red roof but don’t draw attention to it. 

→ Next, educate yourself.

Historic or HOA Rules

There are so many ways to do this. First, do you live in a historic neighborhood where only certain colors are allowed? Or a community with an HOA where everything has to be run through a board. To get your heart set on paint colors before you know what’s possible is defeating and a huge waste of time.

Know Your Budget

Also, create a budget and discover how much it’s going to cost to paint in your area. You can use resources like Home Advisor and Ownerly to research costs even before you get quotes from professionals — it may not be as expensive as you think! Educate yourself before you start any color searching.  


→ Then, get organized.

Before buying samples or grabbing a paint brush, work on organization. What would you like to stay (your fixed elements) and what do you plan on replacing or painting? Make an organized list so you have a plan to follow. Outdoor paint is directly influenced by the environment it’s around, so if you know what’s around your paint you can better select colors. 

Get Organized

→ Now, using your organized list, find the colors in those elements. 

Really diagnose your house and list the colors you see. For example, your brick has several colors, so you may list: red, orange, white, gray, charcoal, and black. Don’t just say red.  

Exterior paint can be tricky! 

We always recommend sampling and testing paint colors before committing. Factors such as natural lighting, undertones, and your property’s fixed elements will have a significant impact on how a color will appear on your exterior. Our friends at Samplize offer extra-large 9 x 14.75 inch peel-and-stick paint samples of the colors we love for exteriors. Order your ‘Real Paint, No Mess’ samples from Samplize here.

There are 5 RULES you need to know before we get to the last step.


#1. Fixed Elements- 

Fixed elements stay put…things you’re not changing or painting. For example: driveway, windows, soffits, gutters, neighbors’ homes, walkway, landscape, etc.  If these things aren’t changing, then they become your fixed elements. They are the BOSS and dictate your color palette. 

#2. Undertones- 

It’s a dreaded word in the design world! Undertones shine through the surface of the paint. We’ve had clients that wanted to paint their house gray and ended up with a purple tone in some lighting and ones that wanted to go black and ended up with a blue undertone.  Isolating the color is a good way to help find undertones.  You do this by painting the color onto a white background and many times the undertone will appear.

#3. LRV-

This stands for light reflectance value. Lighter colors have a higher LRV, which means they reflect more light. Because of this, the beautiful white paint chip picks up the colors around it in your fixed elements. Lighting takes control, and all of a sudden the undertones in paint shine through and your paint begins to reflect more light. 

#4. Know the Difference Between Dirty and Clean Colors- 
Dirty Colors

It sounds like a load of laundry but turns out clean and dirty refers to paint colors as well.  Dirty colors are those that appear muted. It’s not the 8 pack Crayola Crayons. It’s the watercolors. Dirty colors are ones on the old Victorian house with the muddy or toned down shades. If you’re going with a dirty color palette, then hold true to the muted tones.

Clean Colors

Clean colors, on the other hand, are more vibrant and crisp. They can be dark or light but they tend to stand out. That said, when painting your home’s exterior or interior, you DO NOT MIX clean and dirty colors.  Mixing the two only creates chaos, clean colors stick out like a sore thumb, and even the clean tend to look dirty when paired with them!

clean v dirty colors
#5. Keep it Simple-

That’s it. Keep it simple.  Your house has a lot going on already with brick colors, stone colors and shapes, siding, multi-dimensional roof styles, etc. it’s really important to keep it simple.  Find 2-3 colors and don’t overload yourself. There’s no reason for it. Less is more! Think… a field color, a trim color, and an accent color. Done.

→ Now, finally, using everything you’ve learned, it’s time to choose a color palette.

You have a detailed list of everything that’s not changing (fixed elements). Next, you have really diagnosed every color and detail. You know the 5 rules with: fixed elements, undertones, LRV, clean v. dirty colors, and keep it simple. It’s time to create the color palette for your home’s exterior! The colors you have listed above are the ones you need to use! Don’t stray and add different shades. You don’t need to recreate the wheel! 


Overall, not only is painting your home an expense but it’s also a time suck and headache in the making! That said, educate yourself before starting.  The extra work up front will ensure you choose the best color for your home’s exterior. After all, your home is your largest investment, so do it right the first time.  It’s just as easy to paint your house the wrong color as the right color! So, read the paint tips and find out what you need to know before picking up the brush.

If you need help with paint selections that work best on your home’s exterior, our brick&batten designers are trained to identify colors that work and those that don’t.  Let us take the headache and doubt away with a virtual exterior design by our pros!

before & after
Amherst Gray
painted brick
metal roof

Check out these before and after home exterior makeovers to get inspired. Contact us or learn more on how to get your design started today.