How to Pick the Best Color for Your Home’s Exterior

How to Pick the Best Color for Your Home's ExteriorOften, your neighborhood homeowners association or the bylaws of the subdivision you live in will dictate what colors you can paint your home.

However if you’re fortunate enough to have carte blanche on choosing a color for your home’s exterior it can be daunting picking one that you’ll love and will be satisfied looking at for many years. 

Things to consider before picking up color swatches at your local hardware store include:

  • ⬥Your home’s age and style. (e.g. turn of the century Victorian vs 1950s Cape Cod)
  • ⬥The parts of your home’s exterior that you’re not changing (e.g. your roof, stonework pathways, etc).
  • ⬥Your home’s position both physically and regionally.

Age and style

Often, your home’s style and the era in which it was built can suggest the right colors. 

Many paint manufacturers can provide historically accurate color choices, which can be a good place to start looking for the perfect color for your home.

Otherwise you can have old paint chips analyzed to get an idea of the right color. Keep in mind, however, the paint you’re analyzing was likely faded from years of exposure to the elements.

Homes with few architectural details are generally recommended to limit the colors used. However a more elaborately styled home, such as a Queen Anne Victorian will typically use four to six colors. 

Change history

Unless your local historic commission forbids it you can sidestep historically accurate colors and use more modern choices to make details on your home stand out.

Before you do it though, consider your neighborhood. Would a brightly colored home fit in or would it stand out in an unpleasant way? For example, a bubblegum pink home that fits well in San Francisco would stand out like a sore thumb in a Midwestern, conservative neighborhood. 

This principle stands true whether your home is 1 or 100 years old…your neighborhood should be considered when choosing the right paint.

While you may not care what your neighbors think, you might regret a foolish paint choice when you decide to put your home up for sale.

Existing color scheme

Take a cue from existing colors in your home and its environment. Pathways, stonework, and unless you’re adding a new roof, your roof shingles or tiles will be part of your home’s appearance. So choose colors that will enhance these elements.

Look for undertones of these colors for hints in choosing the right color for your home’s exterior. (e.g. are they warm colors such as browns and beiges, or cool, like greys and blues?)

Location and position

Where you live in the country will have some impact on your color options.

Can you use whatever colors you want? Certainly…unless your homeowners’ association or historic commission say otherwise.

But aside from the conversation about property rights and home colors, consider the impact a radical color choice will have on your home’s market appeal.

If you want to sell your home at any point, you may find it harder if your home is less appealing than your neighbor who’s also trying to sell.

And speaking of neighbors…

If your neighbors have painted their home recently and you love what they’ve done, be a good neighbor and don’t paint yours exactly the same. You can use what they’ve done as a springboard for your own ideas, but it’s best for both you and your neighbor if your home stands apart from others in your area…but only in a good way!

How is your home positioned? Is it close to the street or does it sit back from the road underneath tall trees that partially obscure it from view?

What about other homes in the area? Are you amidst a sea of other tract homes like yours or do you live on a large lot surrounded by a wide variety of homes?

Choose lighter shades if you want your home to stand out or darker colors to help it recede into the background.

Other things to consider

Paint durability

Bright or deep colors will fade over time, even to the point of changing color entirely. This is true even for premium paints.

For example, as a deep slate gray ages it can turn more green or even blue. Generally speaking, the more intense the color, the more likelihood it will fade over time. 

Dark colors can be a problem when it comes to maintenance because they absorb more heat and subsequently are prone to more moisture problems than lighter colors. And when it comes to touching up paint, the color change will become painfully evident after the first brush stroke.

Even so, dark colors do offer benefits in that they don’t show dust and stains as well as lighter colors and can give your home a dramatic look which can be very appealing.

Paint sheen

House paint is available in several sheens such as flat or glossy.

Typically, the glossier the surface the more easy it is to clean.  However glossy paint also shows brushstrokes and imperfections more than other sheens.

Flat paint is commonly used for walls and semi-gloss or glossy paint used for details such as window sashes, columns and railings.


Once you’ve found color swatches you like, take them out into the sunlight. You may change your mind about your color choices because they can look very different under natural light.

Also, colors can seem lighter on large surfaces when compared to small samples, which means you may need a darker color than the one you’ve picked.

One way to make the choice easier is to buy a quart of the color(s) you think you want to paint your home and paint an inconspicuous area of your house as a test run.

Spend some time with your color choice(s), looking at them at different times of the day to see if it’s the look you’re after.