Home Improvement | How to Paint Anything | My Current Lake House | Outdoor & Exterior

How I Chose the Color to Paint the Exterior of My House

Tips to help you to make the right exterior house paint color choice.

Today is a very exciting day. After moving and living in the lake house for 3 years and 4 months – the exterior wood and trim on the house that is currently a dark teal green is going to be painted!

The teal color of the paint was one thing I didn’t like about the 1970’s era exterior from the day we first looked at the house with the real estate agent, especially on the front of the house.

House photos before makeover

I didn’t like the dark color on the downspouts, outlining the windows and doors. I didn’t mind it as much on the lake side of the house since the facade has a more rustic appeal, but the front has a modern brick ranch house vibe and the color never felt right to me.

Wall display of Glidden PPG paint colors at Home Depot

It has taken me time… I didn’t rush into the updating decisions and considered all options and hoped maybe I would win the lottery and could transform the exterior of the house the way they do on HGTV shows that go for the WOW factor.

Of course that didn’t happen. Instead, we are doing a real-life, one step at a time exterior house makeover on a budget. The house needs a new roof so the cost of replacing that had to be considered in our budget.

I have previously shared a few posts about my ideas and thoughts about what I would like to do to the outside of the house. They ranged from covering the brick with plank siding to painting the brick navy, tan and even white.

While I have been considering all options, we were making small updates from removing a mass of 10 foot high holly bushes along the front of the house, adding shutters to the lake side second floor sliding glass doors to painting all the exterior painted doors to look like wood stain.

Readers have also given me a lot of great ideas to think about and consider.

What Did We Decide to Do?

For our budget – paint was the affordable option. The next thing we had to figure out was what color to use and do we paint the whole house including the brick, wood siding and trim or just paint the wood siding and trim?

One reason not to paint a home's exterior brick

After talking to three professional painters, we decided not to paint the brick. Each of the painters said pretty much the same thing… “If the brick was smooth, go ahead and paint it, even if there were a few rough bricks, OK to paint, but every brick on the house has a very textured surface and the paint will not look even, it will look splotchy and that I would not like the look.”

Traditional brick-versus-textured-brick-on-my-house
Photo of my brick front porch floor and steps.

Here is a close-up photo of a traditional brick surface and the textured brick on my house. Both are porous, but you can see how different the textures are.

I know there are mixed feelings about painting brick. I am all for painting brick, but I didn’t need to be told not to paint this brick since I had firsthand experience from painting the same brick in my bedroom. It took a huge amount of paint and I didn’t achieve the even coverage I thought I would achieve. I can’t even imagine what it would take to do an entire house.

So budget and texture helped to make our decision not to paint the brick.

What Exterior House Paint Color Did We Choose?

After sampling 15 colors of paint, I narrowed it down to Glidden Khaki Bronze in a Satin finish.

khaki-bronze-glidden-premium-paint-color

It was the best neutral selection to go with the color of the brick and not have the house look too peachy. (Note the color on your phone or monitor may not be the true color.)

The colors I tested and thought were going to be “the perfect color” ended up looking too peach, yellow or grey.

  • Test every color of paint on the actual house as the sun, shade and colors from the trees can change the way the color looks throughout the day as well as on different sides of the house.

I chose to use a neutral paint color for a few reasons:

    • Keeping the paint color neutral with the bricks will allow us to play up the modern features we plan to add to the front exterior of the house over the next few months.
    • I am naturally drawn to neutrally painted homes with lots of colorful flowers planted around them.
    • All of the homes on my cul-de-sac are neutral in color scheme. They blend in with the natural elements and look cohesive. I like seeing this.
    • The monotone neutral scheme is peaceful and tranquil.

Home Depot exterior house paint colors from Glidden PPG

When choosing what colors to try, I started with shades of lighter tan but kept going back to Home Depot to get darker shades to sample. I would have never chosen the color I did simply by looking at the paint color swatches. The color seemed way too dark in the store and even when I brought it home.

It wasn’t until I actually made up a board with the color that I saw it was the right color for my total exterior makeover plan. We will complete that plan one step at a time after the house is painted to play up the modern facade on the front of the house.

I will show you my mockup of this plan soon.

Tips on How to Choose an Exterior Paint Color for Your House

Painting the exterior of a house is a big project and you don’t want to get it wrong. To help relieve the stress of choosing a color, take your time to choose the right color or colors of paint if you are going to have a main color and an accent color.

Things To Consider When Choosing an Exterior Paint Color

  • Head to the paint or home improvement store and pick up every paint brand’s exterior color combination idea pamphlets. These take the guesswork out of choosing a color scheme on your own.
  • Do you have a color in mind?  Pick up a few paint chips in shades of the color at the paint store from light to dark. Check how each one looks on the house and then get sample pots made up of each color to test each color on the house or sample board.
  • Does the color look nice with neighboring homes?
  • Test the color on all sides of the house. The direction the house faces can change the way the color looks.
  • Consider trends in colors, but don’t feel you have to follow them.
  • Take photos of house exteriors you like. Ask the homeowner for the color name so you can see what it will look like on your home.
  • Still not sure what color to use?  Consider historic home colors, colors popular in your area, and HOA regulation colors – where you can only use certain colors on the exterior of your home. If you live in a neighborhood with an association like this – choosing a paint color is easy.

things to consider when painting the exterior of a house.

  • When choosing a paint color for a home’s exterior, don’t forget to consider other buildings or permanent structures on your property so your entire property will have a cohesive feel.

Coordinate other buildings and permanent features on your property.

Our gazebo and dock are stained brown wood. The color of our boat is tan. These are the first things someone sees when they arrive at our house via the lake. I consider them part of the exterior color scheme.

When choosing home exterior paint colors coordinate other permanent features on your property.

The lawn fire pit had tan chairs and a table around it.  Choosing the neutral color I did for the house will give the lake side of the house a very cohesive look.  (If you look closely up at the second floor sliding door, you can see where I painted two sample colors of paint on both sides of the shutters and on the end of the front-facing board.)

Sample Paint Colors on Different Parts of the Exterior of the House

Choosing a paint color for your home no longer has to be a guessing game or an expensive project. Paint companies all offer sample size pots of any color for a few dollars.

the best way to pick exterior house paint colors is to sample each on the house itself

Take advantage of these sample sizes of paint and get them mixed up in the colors you are considering. They allow you to actually see the paint on the house.

  • Never rush into a paint color decision or pick a paint color on a whim or at the paint store. ALWAYS SAMPLE and TEST the color first.

Test out exterior paint color choices on house before deciding on a color.

Bring the samples home to test the colors first on the actual house like I did here, but cover all the base color (the teal) for me so it doesn’t reflect on to the colors.

What is the best neutral color to paint the exterior of a house

I sampled colors all over the house…

brick ranch house exterior makeover

…around window trim…

Glidden Exterior House paint in the color Khaki Bronze

…and downspouts.

I tested the paints on every side of the house since the light is different on every side. I wrote down the colors in the order I painted them on a piece of paper so I would not get the color names confused.

How to test paint colors when painting a house.

If you don’t want to paint the colors you are considering on the house, paint poster boards and tape them to the house. Write the name of the color on the back of each board so you don’t get them confused.

  • Move the boards to all sides of the house to see how the color looks in the sun and shade and also how anything around it like the color of the brick or trees casts a shade of color onto the paint.
  • Look at the colors close up and from far away to see how they look. When viewing from far away you can see if the color has any undertones you like or dislike.

What is the best neutral color to paint the outside of a house.

  • Remove the colors you don’t like until you are left with one.  If you painted the actual house, go over the sampled colors with the color you like best to see the color over a larger area.

What is the Best Sheen to Use for Exterior Paint?

1. Satin/eggshell: Is best for siding because it’s a low-reflective finish that’s good at hiding surface imperfections. It has a slight gloss, so it stays cleaner, is more easily washed, and stands up to abrasion better than flat or matte paints.
2. Semigloss: This shinier sheen is easier to clean, more durable, and more moisture resistant than a satin or eggshell paint. Best for trim, particularly on windowsills, which take the brunt of the weather.
3. High gloss: Is resilient and dirt-repellent, and adds richness and depth to colors. It also magnifies surface imperfections and requires skillful application. Use it sparingly; best for shutters, doors, and surfaces you touch or come in close proximity to.

What is the Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House?

The cost of painting the exterior of a house depends on the size of the house, the cost of the paint, and contractor cost. A gallon can range from $17 to more than $100.  The cost of hiring a pro varies by region.

If you have the right size ladders and equipment, DIYing will save you money on the total cost of the painting the exterior.

Once You Have Chosen the Paint Color and Sheen

Picking the paint color can be the most stressful part of painting the exterior of a house.  Once it is chosen, it is time to actually paint the house and watch the power of paint do its magic.

Stay tuned as I will post the painting process and results over my next few posts.

How to choose the best exterior paint color scheme for your home. Considering each of these easy tips will ensure you find the perfect color or color scheme when painting your house.

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36 Comments

  1. I think you have chosen the perfect color. It will look great.
    Something I have learned living in the South on the water is that the “front” of the house is actually the water side. Being a transplant from Germany, I was always totally confused about when people spoke of the front of the house and didn’t mean the side facing the road. Until one day I was at a friends house and she finally explained it to me. Of course if you don’t live on the water, then the front of the house is actually the side facing the street.

  2. Your new color is going to be nice & you gave good tips on how to chose paint colors. Can’t wait to see the painting in progress & then finished. Wondering what else you have planned for the front!

  3. We live in a suburban bungalow (ranch in US-speak) built in 1958. It has a typical clean-lined, mid-century vibe; bottom half neutral brick, white siding top half, royal blue front & garage doors.

    I painted the siding and doors after living here for 12 years…much the same process as yourself. I did not want to paint the bricks, so chose a paint colour that would compliment it. Colours “courtyard stone” for siding and “amphibian” for the doors. Came out beautifully and looks like a brand-new house. I started a trend in my neighbourhood, I’ve since noticed several houses sporting newly painted siding.

    Easily the most satisfying in terms of return on investment DIY I’ve done to date.

  4. I have to second your comment about considering the colors of the surrounding houses.

    In my area, there is a municipal park that fronts an older established neighborhood. All the houses on the street that were opposite the park were painted in neutral, nature-influenced colors. About 10 years ago, one of the houses was sold and the new owners immediately painted the house pastel yellow, with bright white shutters and a baby blue front door. The house sticks out like an Easter-colored thumb.

    It still bothers me 10 years later!

    1. Hi Gail – I bet the neighbors of the house that was painted yellow are not very happy. I am sure everyone now refers to it as the yellow house. I guess they made their mark and want to be known. :-)

  5. Have you considered limewashing the brick? That’s what we’ll be doing this summer. It’s not necessarily painting as it’s a very light coat, can be washed off within 5 days if you hate it, and is verrrry inexpensive. We’re excited to give it a shot!

    1. Hi August –

      I have considered limewashing. I love the look and did a lot of research last summer about doing it, but found that the texture of the brick on the house would make it impossible to get a nice limewashed look. Most of the color would get caught on the ridges and not create a nice overall effect. I also looked into doing a German Schmear, but again the texture of the brick would throw the look off. The brick on my house has quite a lot of texture when you compare it to normal bricks.

      Are you going to be doing the limewashing yourself or are you hiring a painter to do it?

  6. If you would like to paint the brick you should check out Young House Love. They painted their house with a special paint especially for brick. It is a mineral paint that lets the brick breathe so that it doesn’t p eel. They just did a post on how they helped the company to come up with a color palette.

    I know you will love to get the teal covered up!

    1. Hi Carla –

      I did read their post about the brick and did look into the paint they used back when they first painted their brick. Their house looks amazing and what a great partnership they created with the company. The problem for painting the brick on my house is the texture, not so much about the kind of paint.

      Any paint would require gallons and gallons to get complete coverage over all the texture on the bricks on my house. If I was going to paint the brick I would use the brand they did since it is made for brick. Blesser House used the same paint to create a German Schmear on her house.

  7. Diane, This is going to look great. Can hardly wait to see in progress & after photos. Do you have a Sherwin Williams fan deck with 1000 paint samples?
    I use it a lot for paint & fabric selection. It’s great for subtle paint differences. I think it is about $15 but they might comp you one.

    1. Hi Patricia –

      I have fan decks for every paint brand. :-) They are the best to help when choosing a paint color. Getting to see all the colors at once is very helpful and inspiring. I even had a photo of the one I used for my post, but the post was getting too long, so I deleted it. Maybe I will place it back in. :-)

  8. I think your house will look great with the new colorful chose. We have a medium shade of brown with a darker brown trim. We also have a lighter tan accent color for some of the stucco areas on the lake facing side. My son says it reminds him of Tiramisu. We do have teal doors, though!
    Love your lakefront! And love the color of your boat. Though I am a real fan of color (our previous house was Hawthorne yellow), I think the earth tone colors look beautiful on the lake. Many of the houses nearby are painted brown,but we each have a different shade and all the houses on the lake are unique. Looking forward to your finished pictures.

    1. Hi Margo – The color scheme of your house sounds very nice. The teal door must really pop against the brown. Brown is becoming very popular. There is a new development going up near me, not on the lake but new homes that kind of look a little traditional with a modern farmhouse vibe. The color schemes are very different from anything I have seen before, but are neutrals – browns on browns, tan on tan with stone or even driftwood paneling. A mix of metal and shingle roofs and lots of different facade textures which makes the houses look very interesting. At first I wasn’t sure I liked the colors, but every time I pass they are growing on me.

  9. I love all your decorating ideas. But, I’m not really sold on the new color. That being said I’ve been surprised at how some paints turned out in spite of my misgivings. I had a pink tiled bathroom once with green paint. Hated it. The paint store suggested a mocha color which somehow muted the pink tile and it was stunning. So my guess is your choice will be fabulous and I’ll eat my words. Can’t hardly wait for the end result.

    1. Hi Linda –

      I know color choices are a very personal thing. I was inspired by many homes around me and when I visited Hilton Head Island two years ago and saw that every house on the island is a shade of tan with brown or off white trim. It makes the island look so calm and serene. I loved it. That is what I am after for my house since it is surrounded by trees and the lake.

  10. Glad the teal is finally going!! I am not a teal colour lover to start with and it did nothing for your house. I like the colour you chose a lot–right up my alley!! I love neutrals and dislike blue. Your house will look updated as opposed to modern and fresh instead of forgotten about. We have an old brick cape cod house and when we purchased it the trim and siding was this horrible green..years ago we went with a neutral and to this day I still love my choice like I did in the beginning.

    Cant wait to see the finished product.

    1. Hi Patrica –

      I am a fan of neutrals too. Even inside the house I like to keep the color base neutral so I can add anything and it goes. For the outside, I like the tan neutral as it looks serene, but classic and timeless. I plan to add lots of color in the way of flowers, large planters and a few other features to the front that will add more interest to the neutral house. I wish we could have it done quickly, but it all takes time, effort and money so it will be an ongoing project for the next few months.

  11. I think you’ve chosen the perfect color that complements the brick as well as the water side of the house with the boat and pier.

  12. Some really good tips for choosing and painting the outside of your home. I like the drain pipe sample a lot!

    1. Hi Linda – That is the color I am going with. It is called Khaki Bronze. On the paint chip it looks much darker, but on the house, just right. :-)

  13. We both moved to S.C. around the same time & I have enjoyed watching all your updates! We also are about to change the color of our house and you are so right….BIG decision! I can’t wait to see what yours looks like!!

    1. Hi Jane –

      It is a huge decision. So many options to narrow down, but going with what you love is the best choice. My color inspiration came to me after a trip to Hilton Head where all the homes are neutral tan. I really liked the look and since my neighbors all have neutral tan homes, it was the right choice for me to go with.

      Have you been sampling colors? Are you going to have more than one color? I went back and forth with painting the trim a lighter color, but after looking at modern ranch homes, I decided to go with only one color for all the trim and wood vertical paneling.

  14. I love your new color. And I like the Teal, but I believe this new neutral will add to the value. (Make your home look much more classy.)

    1. Hi Sheryll –

      I agree with you that the neutral color will add to the value, plus the house will look more updated like the other houses around mine, making the neighborhood look nicer. Once we landscape and add a few new features to the front, I will be happy. Then it is onto a new roof.

  15. Diane,

    I agree totally with you! It may be the color of the year but that does not mean it will work everywhere. Modernize it! Modern, when done right, is clean, crisp, and tranquil. Your setting is so beautiful and I think your ideas are spot on! It will transform your home and only add to the surroundings. I am so happy for you and will anticipate the changes to come! Enjoy the process!!!!!

    Barb ;)

  16. May I make a suggestion and not seem too forward? As a retired interior designer specializing in color (I say that only for the purpose of credibility!!), there is only one area that might make your system, which by the way is great, a little better. I noticed right away that when you painted samples along the doorway you left a bit of the teal showing between each sample. Not a good idea because the teal will invariably change the appearance of the sample paint. Paint the sample color right up against its adjoining surface like you did the downspout. Perfect! OR, try each paint “paper” taped OVER the downspout so you see it “at home” with the brick. All I am trying to say is don’t try to select paint when it is influence by another color that will not be included in the final look. Did I make that too difficult? I hope not! BTW, SUPER selection!

    1. Hi Linda –

      You are not too forward at all. :-) I had many paint color swatches all over the house, mostly against the brick on the back and front of the house to see how the big swatches of color looked on the house. I didn’t take photos of these. I will add your tip to my post as it will help others be able to find just the right color.

  17. I love your new paint color. I can only imagine how amazing your house will look without that awful teal color stealing the show. I think you’ll have a new appreciation for your brick color once you have the right accent color with it. Can’t wait to see the results.

    1. Hi Pat – I am pretty sure I will like the brick more once the house is neutral. Once the house is painted I am really excited about adding new features to the front facade of the house. One being the new steps, but we are going to add some features to the house that I think will update and coordinate both the front and the back into one cohesive style.

  18. Oh my goodness…. it’s gong to be beautiful! I always thought as I saw you spend all that time on your front doors I would have painted out all of that wood trim and gutters and downspouts a neutral beige but do a pop of color myself on the front doors – and keep wood look on garage still. But paint front doors something bright and trendy. I love the color it’s going to be beautiful on your house.

  19. Great tips Diane! I would like to change the color of our front door and shutters.
    I’m going to try your idea with the poster boards.

    Eager to see new pictures when you are done.