Pick the right exterior house paint

Although exterior and interior painting share many characteristics, the paints themselves are formulated differently. The binders and additives in outdoor paint are formulated to resist the elements well, while indoor paint most likely will not.

The materials of the home’s facade should be considered before painting your home. When painting flat surfaces like siding or wood, you can opt for standard outdoor paint. When painting a textured surface like stucco or brick, “elastomeric” paint is a much better choice. This type of paint can stretch more than normal paint, which allows it to bridge over small gaps and crevices, painting smoothly over texture.

Climate is another factor to consider. Sunlight, wind, rain and salty weather can all wear out exterior paint. Oil-based paint is durable against wind, rain and temperature changes, but sunlight tends to degrade it. Alkyd paint chalks and sheds very thin layers when it begins to wear. Latex paint is the more durable option for very sun-drenched and relatively dry climate areas. Latex paint with high vinyl content should be avoided, however. Acrylic resin is by far the more durable binder for outdoor latex paint.

Areas that are subject to a lot of moisture, like the skirting around houses, may require mold-resistant paint, like outdoor paint with fungicide added. Another specialty paint to consider is a flame-resistant brand. Paint that resists fire rather than combusting could be a life saver for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas.

Though buying high-quality, specialty paint and hiring a professional house painter to apply it can be expensive, the investment will pay off with a high-quality, long-lasting paint job. Low-quality paint often lasts half as long as high-quality paint and even shorter if it's not applied properly.

a house that was recently painted

Picking the right paint is key when painting your home. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Wendy P., Raleigh, North Carolina.)

Exterior paint color choices

The color scheme that is chosen for the home creates the initial impression that an individual has of the premises as a whole.  Whether complimentary or unflattering colors are selected, the house will gain an identity of its own when the paint is applied.  There are many times that a homeowner misses opportunities to accentuate positive attributes that the home has to offer by failing to choose the best exterior paint colors. 

Picking exterior house paint colors is a lot different than picking a color for a shirt or a car.  It may help to drive around to observe colors that other homeowners have combined on homes that are of similar size and design as yours.  There are also online resources that provide homeowners with the ability to create virtual makeovers of their home by combining colors together through their software programs as well.

Take surrounding landscaping into consideration

If you have ornamental or colorful trees, shrubbery or floral selections around your home you should figure their colors into the color scheme selection that is made.  These landscaping attributes will have an effect on how appealing the property is as a whole throughout the year.  Homes that have a great deal of trees can make the property darker and cast shadows onto the home.  Individuals will want to avoid darker colors for these situations.

Accentuate the home's attractive details

Every home has details that can be accentuated for amazing looking visual appeal and first impressions.  The key is to not make the wrong details stand out.  Entryways, windows, shutters and other details on the home can be painted to make their design noticeable.  However features such as gutters, downspouts, external air conditioning systems, unevenly proportioned windows and protruding garage doors should not be completed to draw attention to them as this will provide a negative results.

Consider colors of the home that cannot be changed

There are permanent features of the home that have their own colors which cannot be changed when painting the exterior of the home but can have a dramatic satisfaction level that is experienced when the painting is completed.  Roofing shingles, paving blocks, concrete surfaces, stones and other such features are prime examples of the colors that should be considered when selecting your exterior color scheme for the home.  Homeowners can work off of these colors to make a home that looks uniform and luxurious when the exterior painting is complete.

MORE: 6 steps to choose the right exterior paint color for your home

Using color to mitigate flaws

When selecting a color scheme for the home’s exterior homeowners can choose color options that will correct flaws that they may feel exist with their home and property.  Some examples include utilizing two shades of a single color to make a home appear appropriately sized when the home may be too large or too tall.  To accomplish this effect individuals will want to place the darker tone on the upper level of the home’s exterior.  Smaller windows can appear more proportionately sized by trimming them in a lighter tone of paint.  Darker colors make a space or feature appear smaller.  The same effect can be obtained for homes positioned further away from a curb.  By using lighter tones the home will not feel camouflaged.

a house with a new coat of paint

A new coat of paint is an inexpensive way to give your home a fresh new look.(Photo courtesy of Adam Rice)

House painting preparation

Homeowners often do their own painting because it's a more accessible skill than, say, roofing or electrical repair.  But one of the most common mistakes amateur exterior house painters make is failing to properly prepare the surface to be painted.

If there is any peeling — and there usually is somewhere — it's essential to scrape off any loose paint. This doesn't just mean the parts that are already separated from the wood and ready to fall off on their own. Each spot where paint has peeled loose needs to be scraped thoroughly until you can no longer get the sharp corner of a putty knife under any of the surrounding edges of paint. Then, the bare spot needs to be sanded until the paint edges are smooth.

Listen to the Angie's List Podcast: What to know before painting the exterior of your home

If you're not willing to put in this type of effort, hire an exterior house painter. Otherwise you will invest time and money into a paint job that won't last.

After scraping all loose paint, use a high pressure washer to remove dirt, debris and mold that are common on all homes. Any area on the home’s exterior that shows signs of rot or damage should be replaced before painting begins. Any bare wood from peeling or repairs should be primed before it is painted.

In addition to preparing the painting surface, you also need to protect the surrounding area from paint splatter or other damage from the work.

Protect your home by following these tips:

1. Cover air conditioning units, landscaping and other surfaces close to the work area with drop cloths, old sheets or blankets.

2. Tape windows and doors.

3. Remove accessories such as light fixtures, doorbells, shutters, mailboxes and other detailed features. You can put them back on after the job is done.

4. If bushes or other plants are close to the surface area to be painted, trim them back or tie them with twine to allow space to work and to keep them from touching the paint while it's wet.

Hiring an exterior house painter

Even if you think you'll probably do the job yourself, it's good preparation to seek estimates from professional home painters, whether your painting the exterior or interior of your home. Then you'll have a financial point of comparison and you may benefit from what a home painting contractor has to say about the condition of your home, color choices and types of paint available. Let the painter make his pitch for a professional job before you decide what to do. You can still opt to do it yourself while having learned something worthwhile.

If you have a one-story house with minimal peeling and you have plenty of time, you can probably do the job yourself and save money. If the house is taller and/or needs significant preparation it may be wiser tohire exterior painters to do it for you. Consider these points:

Do you have the equipment? Painting a house is not a one-ladder job. You'll need a minimum of two extension ladders and scaffolding. These can be rented, but that's another cost to factor in.

Do you want to take the risk? Working on scaffolding is dangerous. Home painting contractors have experience and know what safety precautions to take. Painting is monotonous work and after a few hours up on a scaffold it's easy to lose track of just how narrow that board is.

Will you do the preparation? It takes a disciplined approach to properly scrape away all of those little peeling paint spots. If you're not going to do this correctly, don't do it yourself. There's no point in putting in all of this work if the paint is just going to start peeling again a few years later.

If you decide to hire a professional house painter, make sure you get three on-site estimates from reputable painters who have been in business at least five-to-10 years. After all, even a bad paint job can look good for a few years, so you want to hire a home painting service with jobs that have been proven to stand up over time.

If you are an Angie's List member, you can search for house painters in your community and look up the reviews and ratings of past customers going back several years.

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