Tips for Painting Exteriors

Tips for Painting Exteriors


East Bay painters and real estate experts offer advice about painting exteriors.

Choosing what color to paint your home’s exterior can be fun, but it can also be nerve-wracking. Here are five tips from East Bay painters and real estate agents to help make the process easy.

Experts say to consider the colors of surrounding elements — your roof, your garden, and nearby homes; keep in mind your home’s architectural style and era; test potential colors using online tools; next, test them in real life, on a small area of the house; and don’t be afraid to hire a consultant.

The first guideline may seem obvious, but many folks have ignored it to their peril. “You don’t want to clash with the colors of the homes near you,” said Maggie Resnick, an agent with El Cerrito’s MAJ Homes of Marvin Gardens.

At the same time, “You don’t want to copy the house next door,” advised legendary painter Karl Kardel, who founded his Berkeley-based painting company in 1959. The idea is to fit in harmoniously without creating a row of duplicate paint jobs.

Another factor: Your roof color. A shingle roof can have not just one, but many colors, and it’s important for the house to be compatible with them, Resnick said.

It’s a good idea to choose colors that are, if not historically accurate, at least consistent with the house’s style and era. Kardel has been a pioneer in this regard, restoring and painting Berkeley’s classic old Victorians for decades.

Online tools are a great way to see how your house would look in different colors, and it’s easy: You upload a photo of the house, then try on a variety of hues. Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore are two companies offering the tools online for free — just google “color visualizer” and the company’s name.

In addition to online testing, “paint little bits of the outside to see how you like the color,” Kardel said. Small quart paint cans are available at paint stores.

There are three main color elements when painting an exterior. The field color — the color of most of the house — is the most important consideration. Accent color refers to doors, shutters, and the like; trim color refers to window and door casings and roof edging.

Generally, the trim should contrast strongly with the field color. For example, if your main color is dark, as is increasingly fashionable these days, you might want to use white trim or another pale shade. If the main hue is light, dark trim can set it off just right.

Regarding the accent colors, think of these as accessories — a scarf for a woman, a tie for a man. A red tie or scarf goes well with a conservative dark suit, and the same is true of accent colors, for example, a bright red door.

And, as with accessories, you don’t want to overdo it. Just as a red purse, a red belt, a red scarf, and a red necklace would be too much, adding the accent color in too many places isn’t a good idea. Generally, a red door — a popular accent these days — is enough.

It’s easy for an amateur to run into trouble with all these considerations, which is one of the reasons Resnick recommends hiring a color consultant.

“These are colors you will be coming home to for many years to come,” the agent noted. “You’re paying thousands of dollars for a good paint job. Why not spend a few hundred more for a professional’s suggestions?”

Faces of the East Bay