The Ultimate, Yet Simple Guide to Exterior Paint

No one said exterior paint was cheap. That’s why choosing the right paint and applying it correctly on the first go-around can make or break your exterior redesign budget. Luckily, we’re here to help you with the logistics. Think of this as the ultimate, yet simple guide to exterior paint. We’ll go over how to choose the right color and paint type for your home, and some tricks of the trade to help you achieve your dream curb appeal look.

Name an exterior design DIY project, and we can help with it. Partner with us at brick&batten, and our creative exterior designers will come up with an aesthetic redesign for your home. We’ll provide realistic renderings of the designs and arm you with an easy-to-read resource list. 

Choosing the Best Color for Your Home’s Exterior

Conduct a Paint Swatch Test

You may have experience with the good old swatch test method for painting interior rooms.  This method needs tweaking for your home’s exterior. Considering the scale of your home, you’ll need to paint a much larger swatch area. We suggest panting an area as wide as three feet and as tall as two feet for each color.

Keep in mind, you should be testing the colors on the surface you are actually painting. If you’re painting brick, don’t test your colors on wood. Different surfaces absorb paint differently and the color you’ve selected may not look the same.

Be sure to test colors on a white or very light surface.  This doesn’t include a poster board….  This is so you don’t end up visually comparing your new color with your current color. To do this, you may paint a white or light color border around the end of your paint.  Look at the photo below.  It’s the same shade of yellow painted on a white background and black background.  The color appears different because of the colors around it.

After you’ve swatched the area, let it dry and examine the colors during different times of the day and on days with varying cloud coverage. How do the colors look during the golden hour in the evening? Which ones look too bold in the afternoon’s sunlight? Which gray seems too dreary on a cloudy day? Asking questions like these can help your critique process. Make sure to take notes, as it can be tricky to keep similar colors straight.

We suggest using the swatch test method on at least two different parts of your home, preferably a north and an east section, or a south and a west section. This way, you can see how the colors look when the sun hits it from different angles. If you don’t mind having a patch of paint on the front of your home, this is the best section to conduct the swatch test on with your top contenders. It’s the section that will get the most attention from you and your neighbors, so you’ll want to get a good idea of what the paint will look like on this section in the sun.

Choose a Color You Love, but Consider Other Factors

Unless you’re planning on sprucing up your home’s exterior for the sole purpose of selling, we believe you should choose the color that you love the most. However, it’s a wise idea to consider how your home will look compared to the other homes in your neighborhood. It’s okay to let your home stand out a little, but there’s a fine line between painting your home a color that gets positive attention versus negative attention. If you live in a historic neighborhood or a community with a homeowner’s association, you’ll want to make sure your color aligns with any regulations.

And even if you’re planning on retiring in your home, you never know what curve balls life can throw your way. Should you need to sell your home in the near future, you’ll want a color that will withstand the test of time and appeal to buyers. So remember that pink isn’t for everyone, and when in doubt, a neutral color is usually a safe bet. Working with a professional exterior designer can also help you make the right call on a color.

Choosing the Right Color Combo

There’s a little bit of science that goes into your home’s color scheme. Just think back to your elementary school art days spent staring at the color wheel. Complementary colors are colors located directly across from one another on the color wheel. Generally speaking, these colors pair well together, especially if their saturation levels match. For example, muted orange usually looks great with a muted blue.

Another tool for finding great color combos understanding clean and dirty colors. A clean color is crisp and appears true to the shade. A dirty color is muted, more like a watercolor.

We suggest playing with color on your home’s door or trim, as it’s a much safer play than painting your entire house a bold color. Here are some color combos we’ve been loving lately:

  • White with white trim and a pale, dusty blue door
  • Slate with black trim and a pale wood door
  • Navy or Forest green with white trim and a dark wood door

Types of Exterior Paint

Aside from color, you’ll also need to make a decision on the type of paint. There are two main categories of exterior paint–Oil-based and latex-based paint. Generally, oil-based paints come with a hefty price tag, but for good reason. Oil-based based painted is extremely durable and very weather resistant. However, you’ll need to stir this paint type frequently during your project, since the oils can start to separate. If your home has already been painted with an oil-based paint, you should choose an oil-based paint for the redesign. If you paint latex over oil, it will most likely peel.

Romabio is a paint that our brick&batten designers highly recommend for masonry, including brick. It’s mineral based and made with high quality ingredients, making it extremely low maintenance.

However, latex-based paint is very user-friendly, making it a great choice for a DIYer. This paint type can dry seamlessly even if the temperature falls below 50 degrees. And paint manufacturers have made advancements in the durability of these paint types. Be sure to consult with your contractor on what paint is best for your climate and needs. For more on how to find the best contractor for the job, click here.

Romabio paint deck

Types of Exterior Paint Finishes

Hopefully, you don’t have decision fatigue yet, because now it’s time to choose your paint finish. Your paint finish plays a huge role in your home’s appearance. Plus, certain finishes pair better with brick than they do with certain wood materials. Here’s a quick overview of the common types of exterior paint finishes:

  • Semi-gloss:  Although this paint type fares a bit too shiny for a home’s entire exterior, it holds up well on trim. And as a bonus, this paint type is super easy to clean.
  • Eggshell or satin: Designers use these terms interchangeably. An eggshell finish has a velvety appearance that isn’t quite as shiny as semi-gloss. This paint type looks great on wood, brick, or trim. Just keep in mind that it can reduce the texture’s appearance, and it makes most colors appear more saturated.
  • Matte: Matte has much less sheen than eggshell or satin. This paint applies well on wood, Hardie plank or vinyl, but it will reduce much of the texture. Matte paint makes colors appear slightly more muted.
  • Flat: This paint type is the least shiny, which also means it is the hardest to wipe down. So if you go with flat paint, make sure to purchase high-quality paint that won’t easily absorb dirt.
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.

A Quick Overview of the Exterior Painting Process

Once you’ve selected the right paint, it’s time to pick up the brush and get to work. Here’s a quick guide to exterior painting. For a more in-depth guide on painting tricky surfaces like brick, we recommend reading our brick painting guide.

  • Gather your materials: Aside from your paint, you’ll need a paint sprayer or multiple paintbrushes with extenders, drop cloths to protect shrubs, a power washer, painters tape, and a ladder. If your home’s exterior needs repairs, you might need caulk or epoxy filler.
  • Prep your area: To enhance your paint project’s life span, you need to clean your home’s exterior with a power washer. Let it dry. Then, seal any holes and replace sections of siding if needed, and seal the surface with a primer. Cover trim with painters tape.
  • Paint from the top down: Once you actually get started, we suggest starting from the top and working your way down. Apply thin layers, knowing you can always apply a topcoat. Never paint alone for safety reasons, and paint on a week with no rain in the forecast.
  • Accessorize: Painting your home’s exterior is just one element of a successful redesign. After you’re finished painting, have fun with adding new plants to your front lawn, a porch swing, and hang a wreath on your door. Let your home be a reflection of you!

Frequently Asked Questions About Exterior Paint

It wouldn’t be an ultimate guide to exterior paint if we didn’t address some of the most common questions we get asked. So here we go!

How do I strip paint?

If your home’s paint is significantly peeling, you’ll need to strip it. Paint doesn’t adhere well to old, chipping paint. Rather than stripping your entire home’s paint surface, we suggest just sanding the paint off on the damaged sections. However, if the majority of the paint is peeling, you can remove all of the paint mechanically by hand-scraping with a putty knife. Or you can hire a professional to burn it off with heat or chemicals. The prep work in painting can be the most tedious part of the job and consulting an expert is your best bet.

How long does exterior paint take to dry?

It usually takes exterior paint four hours to dry, but this exact number depends on the heat and humidity index. Your home’s exterior will need at least two coats of paint, and you can apply the second coat after the first is fully dry. Your home’s exterior paint can take up to 30 days to cure, which is why we suggest painting in early fall when it isn’t too hot or rainy.

What paint brand should I choose?

We’re loyal to Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, and Romabio so we often suggest these brands to our clients. However, you can always do the research yourself and skim reviews if you fall in love with a color from a different brand.

Does quality matter?

Yes! Quality absolutely matters. Painting your home’s exterior takes a lot of time and money, so we say get it right the first time. Good paint can last you a decade longer than cheap paint, but keep in mind that a higher price point doesn’t always mean higher quality. We suggest going with a trusted brand with good reviews.

Do I need to tape the trim?

By all means, those few minutes it takes to tape the trim with painters tape is time well spent. Unless you plan on repainting the trim as well, we say yes, tape the trim!

What goes into a paint can?

We threw this question in for all you curious people. Each paint type has four components: A base (latex or oil), pigments, pigment binders, solvents that allow the paint to flow, and additives to prevent issues like mold and mildew.

Before and after of a painted brick home

We hope this guide to exterior paint helps you feel a little more prepared for your project! Need help finding the right paint color and type? We’ve got you. Learn more about the brick&batten virtual exterior design process, or dive right in.

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