Exterior Paint

Exterior paint does two things for your home: it protects the material on the exterior of your house and it makes a large contribution to the attraction of your home’s appearance. Partly because of its dual purpose, choosing exterior paint is best done with several factors in mind. Here are some tips.

Surface and condition

Most houses have more than one type of surface to paint. Take an external house tour and identify the various surfaces you have. Are they:

    • Metal
    • Wood
    • Siding, whether aluminum or vinyl
    • Brick

Next, consider what the paint looks like on each surface. Is it:

    • Peeling
    • Chipping
    • Mildewed
    • Bubbling
    • Faded

Has the wood cracked or rotted beneath the paint?

home institute 1 Once you have collected this information about your home, an expert at your local paint store can help you translate your situation into the type or types of paint that will work best for you and your home. For most situations, you will have a choice of latex paints, which are water-based or oil-based paints. Exterior paints are formulated differently than interior paints, so its best to buy exterior paints for the outside of your home.


Some of the problems mentioned above may be due to paint quality and application. Others may result from weather. If problems result from application, you may be able to fix them, but the climate is likely to stay the same. Make choices based on the conditions your exterior paint will be exposed to.


Exterior paint is not the only thing you need to paint the outside of your home. After you’ve prepped the surface, the details of which will depend on the material and condition, primer is the next step. It is important that the primer and the paint itself be compatible, so you may wish to buy them together to make sure.

Community Standards

In some places, like designated historic sites, authenticity is the standard. In other places, blending with nature is the goal. In a particular development in Williston, Vermont, home owners are limited to using paints or stains with earth tones. The idea is that the houses will blend into their natural surroundings. In addition, non-reflective material is required for the roofs, which must also be of earth tones, but darker than the buildings themselves.

In any case, some communities have explicit, and many have implicit rules or ideas about appropriate colors for houses. When this is the case, there is likely some board or other organization that has responsibility for approving choices, possibly an Historic Architecture Review Board (HARB). If you live in area in which such a board is active, make sure you allow time for the necessary consultations.

Even if your community doesn’t have explicit standards, unlike the interior of your house, your next-door neighbors have to live with the exterior paint you choose, perhaps even more than you do. So consider the effects on your neighbors and community. This is true whatever the character of your neighborhood is. If your neighbors’ homes are hot pink and lavender and yours is beige, it could be as out of place as if yours was orange sherbet and theirs were white.


With all the other considerations out of the way, you can consider your own taste and style. Given the parameters you have to work with, you can explore the possibilities. Color chips, also called paint chips, are available for taking from the paint store so you can consider your color choice at home. If you look at paint colors on the Internet, remember that monitors differ, and the color you see may not exactly match the actual color of the paint: paint chips are more reliable for making your choice.

Application Methods

As you’re making your choice, it’s a good idea to also think about how you’re going to get the paint onto the house. Painting the outside of your house may mean ladders, brushes, and rollers. Or it could be your introduction to paint sprayers. A recent innovation is the high-volume-low-pressure (HVLP) paint gun. It wastes less paint than traditional models, and the sprayers help you finish the job faster.

Written by Mary Elizabeth