How to Choose an Exterior Paint Color
A fresh coat of paint for your home’s exterior is about more than just enhancing its curb appeal. It also protects it from rot and damage from constant exposure to weather, dirt and pests.
While shielding your home from the elements seems like a no-brainer, choosing an exterior paint color might be anything but. You could start the thought process by visiting the paint store and perusing some brochures or paint samples.
Perhaps you’ll drive or walk around your neighborhood for some inspiration. You could also look to social media for chatter about various picks for “colors of the year.” Case in point: Online landscape design company Yardzen named Benjamin Moore’s Slate Blue – a soothing blue-green shade with a hint of gray – as its top exterior paint color of 2023.
Popular Paint Colors
But if you’re painting your home with the intention of selling in the near future, you’ll want to know what buyers are gravitating toward. A Harris Poll survey commissioned by Alside, an exterior building products company, surveyed more than 1,400 respondents to find out what the most popular siding colors were for 2023. Here are the results:
- Off-white/cream (20%).
- White (14%).
- Light gray (12%).
- Light brown (11%).
- Medium blue (9%).
While the majority of respondents appear to prefer classic neutral palettes for their homes, it bears noting that a combined 5% of respondents prefer dark browns, blues, and grays – evidence of the growing trend of dramatic, dusky colors for exteriors.
Of course, you could also strike up a conversation with a friendly neighborhood paint professional.
“Choosing colors can be subjective, but it is our favorite part of the process,” says Anthony Kulikowski, owner of Five Star Painting of South Bend, Indiana, a Neighborly company. The first step is to get a sense of the personal style and taste of each customer. “Once we have that, we try to choose colors that will complement their personality and be appropriate for the house,” he says.
For example, if the house i is an older Victorian, he’ll encourage homeowners to stay as true as possible to the era’s style while infusing their personal tastes.
What colors are a hit with Kulikowski’s customers?
”One of the biggest trends lately in exterior paint colors has been a modern farmhouse look,” he says, which he describes as white exteriors with black and metal accents. But moodier shades are also on the rise. “We are starting to see a trend of darker colors such as black or very dark grays as a new age of modern design,” he adds.
For some homeowners, the thrill of the hunt is in looking at paint samples and computerized renderings of what their homes will look like in certain colors. But even with the seemingly countless color choices, homeowners may want to consider further customization.
“We're starting to see a shift from solely picking a color from brands like Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore to picking a color and then adding or subtracting a hint of red or green to achieve the perfect exterior hue,” says Erin Stetzer, owner, president and project Executive of Stetzer Builders located in Houston.
Stetzer suggests looking to smaller paint manufacturers that might offer more customization options. Her firm has worked with Segreto Finishes, also in Houston, whose line of paints coordinates with interior plaster finishes. “It's a fantastic way to seamlessly blend the exterior with the interior,” she says.
Exterior Paint Colors and HOAs
Of course, if you own a home that’s part of a homeowners association, you might not have much choice over your exterior paint color. HOAs are notorious for strict guidelines regarding what homeowners can – but mainly can’t – do to their exteriors and landscapes.
“Many (buyers) are drawn to HOAs because they like the uniformity and the fact that there are rules dictating the way owners maintain their homes,” says Kristen Conti, broker-owner of Peacock Premier Properties in Englewood, Florida. “They believe this increases pride of ownership and keeps property values up.”
Still, even those on board with the rules might be surprised to find out the stringent rules for fences, plants and flowers, and – you guessed it – exterior paint colors.
Conti says most HOAs will have a committee to review and approve paint color requests, noting that each one is different. Some might want the same color for everything, which does mitigate decision paralysis for homeowners. Others offer a small selection of color choices – and the caveat that you can’t choose the same color as your next-door neighbor. Still others want to review the color choice to ensure it won’t clash or stick out like a sore thumb.
Even if you happen to be part of an HOA that’s not as conservative with curb appeal, you should still ask before buying a single can of paint, says Nicole Beauchamp, senior global real estate advisor/licensed associate real estate broker at Engel & Völkers based in New York City.
“It may seem like a minor detail until your vision either clashes or is diametrically opposed to that of your HOA,” says Beauchamp. She explains it’s better to ask than get slapped with fines and the cost to repaint it an approved color, adding that if you’re part of a historic district, restrictions will likely also apply.
In the Sunshine State, Conti says she encourages buyers toward light, neutral-colored tones that reflect rather than absorb the heat. She tells them to keep resale in mind if they decide to repaint.
“The appeal of the exterior color to buyers later on will be very important,” Conti says. “I suggest they let their creative juices flow with landscaping and whatever they choose to do on the inside but keep the outside aesthetically pleasing.”
How Long Does an Exterior Paint Job Last?
Painting the exterior of your home is a daunting task, whether you’re juggling estimates from various pro painters or taking on the work yourself. And let’s not forget the mental energy needed to choose between seemingly identical shades of white, like Antique Lace Tablecloth, Vintage Handkerchief and Walking on Eggshells; those names are made up, though if you’ve ever looked at paint samples, you’ll get the idea.
At any rate, you might be pleasantly surprised to know that your house’s fresh coat of paint is good for a while – anywhere between five and 10 years, according to Kulikowski. But you do have to keep certain things in mind if you want to see the higher end of that spectrum.
“When choosing an exterior color, remember that the darker the color, the more heat the home absorbs, so be sure to consider your climate,” Stetzer says.
Aside from heat absorption, the sun’s rays can also fade exterior paint more rapidly, though Kulikowski says there are paints designed to withstand extreme cold or hot temperatures.
You’ll also want to take measures to preserve the look of lighter paints. “If you are using a color in a white tone, use a water-based paint to drastically reduce the yellowing process that oil-based paints are sure to produce,” says Stetzer. Regardless of the color, she also recommends a mildewcide additive to the paint to reduce the growth of fungi and mildew.
If you live in a climate that’s rough on your home exterior, Kulikowski offers a tip that keeps your curb appeal and some money in your wallet: “Some of our clients have had us do one side of their home every year to help keep their home looking great and to help keep the cost to do their project more affordable,” he says.