Painting Your House? You Better Understand LRV

Are you painting your house? You better understand LRV. Understanding a bit about LRV will help you in selecting the correct shade of any paint color — but especially white — for your environment.

Painting your house white sounds so simple! White is crisp, clean, and beautiful… it should be easy. But it’s not. White is tricky! It’s reflective, can have wild undertones, and comes across differently in a variety of environments. That paint chip you’ve been staring at may look completely different on your home’s exterior. So, if you’re painting your house white, you really better understand LRV.

Before and after of a traditional home with the brick painted white

At brick&batten we’ve studied all the different white paint colors for your home’s exterior. In doing so, we have discovered what works and what doesn’t work! If you are considering painting your house white, we would love to partner with you on a virtual exterior home design. Tell us what you’re looking for, in as much detail as you’d like, and our designers will use it to create a rendering of a beautiful home exterior for you. Save yourself hours fretting over the perfect white, or going further and making a costly mistake!


What does LRV stand for?

Let’s talk LRV… LRV stands for light reflectance value, though it may also be called light reflective value. Sounds simple, right? Ugh, no! LRV is anything but simple.

We’ve spent hours learning about LRV and the scientific method behind these crazy letters! To save your sanity, we’re giving you the condensed version of LRV and why it’s important if you’re painting your home’s exterior.

What is LRV?

LRV or light reflectance value refers to how light or how dark a paint color is and how much light a paint color reflects. The darker the paint color, the lower the LRV number. The lighter the paint color, the higher the LRV number.

How to understand the LRV scale

Light reflectance value is based on a scale from 0-100.

Understanding LRV graphic with different shades in a gray color family, from light to dark, pictured

 

What is a LOWER LRV?

We consider a low LRV in the 0–40 range. These are darker colors that aren’t as reflective. A dark blue exterior paint will appear lighter when hit with direct sunlight and will almost appear like a navy black when not in the sun. A lower LRV means that this paint color absorbs more light than what’s reflected back.

What is a MEDIUM LRV?

Next, paint colors 40–60 are considered a medium LRV. They will reflect an average amount of light and are very safe to use inside or outside.

Photo of a paint swatch family with medium LRV colors and low LRV colors called out

What is a HIGHER LRV?

Finally, paint colors in the 60–100 scale are considered a higher LRV. You find many beautiful whites in the 70–85 range that are perfectly wonderful for your home’s exterior. That said, it depends how much direct sunlight hits your home and what fixed elements are there to stay. Remember, a higher LRV means that this paint color will absorb less light and that light will be reflected back.

 

Why is a higher LRV tricky?

Colors with a higher LRV can be challenging. Whites have a high light reflective value, causing them to pick up colors around them. If your home gets direct natural light, it will appear lighter and be more reflective.

direct natural light white home

How does LRV change your outdoor lighting?

A home with a darker paint — essentially a lower — LRV may need more exterior lighting under a covered porch or entryway. Because the dark paint doesn’t reflect the light, using more and different types of lighting to enhance the area is the way to go!

Before and after of a home with Shou Sugi Ban James Hardie siding and exterioir lighting added

How do I find LRV on my paint chip?

Because light reflectance value is so important, you’d think it would be easy to find; however, it’s not always easy. The Benjamin Moore website does an excellent job of making the LRV clear, as it’s listed under each paint color. The fan deck is a tad more confusing. To find the LRV, you must search the color name in the Index. The second number listed is the LRV.

Benjamin Moore LRV for Acadia White on website
Benjamin Moore light reflective value / LRV system

 

Finding the LRV for Sherwin Williams paint colors, on the other hand, is a tad more confusing on the website. There is more information about the paint color by clicking Details, as seen below. If you’re purchasing the fan deck, Sherwin Williams does a nice job of putting the LRV on the back of each color.

Sherwin Williams LRV on website
Sherwin Williams LRV system on paint swatches

In conclusion, it’s important to understand LRV before jumping into painting your home’s exterior. Painting your home is one of the biggest exterior changes you make, creating a huge impact. It’s also one of the most overwhelming! You’d hate to end up with that pink house if what you really want is white! Do your research, find colors that work with your architectural style, make a list of the fixed elements around your house, list the colors in your fixed elements, choose several that you’re drawn toward, and test, test, test before committing.

OR, get a brick&batten virtual exterior design and take the worry out of your decision! Get started here.