Monday, July 25, 2011

Choosing Exterior Paint Colors? Use This Questionnaire.

 Many people find it difficult to choose paint colors because they don't know how to begin or what factors they should consider. To help guide you to a color plan that will make your house look its best, I've developed the following questionnaire.  


  •  How large is the site?
               The larger the site, the more color latitude you have. 
  •   What is the relationship of the house to the site?
                 The more secluded the site, the more color latitude you have.
  •   How close and visible are your neighbors?
                Do their color decisions affect yours?
  •    If your neighbors are visible, what colors have they used?  
                Your house should look harmonious, but different.
  •   What is the distance from the house to the curb?
                Is the front yard very deep or shallow? Color can adjust how it looks.
  •   Does your subdivision, neighborhood association or historic district have strict rules about color?  
                New colors may require formal approval.


  •  What is the architectural style of the house?
               Rustic, contemporary, colonial, bungalow, ranch, etc.
  •   Does the architecture suggest a color palette?
                 •   Regional colors (tropical, urban, mountains, desert)
                 •   Historic colors (Colonial, Craftsman, Victorian, etc.)
  •    Does the house have pleasing portions?
                You may be able  to make adjustments  by how and where color is used,  or by adding trim or  other decoration.
  •   Are there different siding materials?
                Don’t automatically accent them. The result could look busy or choppy.
  •   Are there horizontal or vertical banding boards?
                Banding boards are usually utilitarian, not decorative.   If they're accented, the house often looks busy and chopped up.
  •   What are the dominant colors in the permanent elements, such as the roof, stonework, walkways, etc.?
                Are the colors warm (red, orange, yellow), cool (blue, green purple) or neutral (black or white)? 
  •   Is the entryway a naturally attractive focal point, or is the garage door the first thing you see?        
               Paint the garage door with the wall color to minimize its impact.
                (All doors aren’t paintable. Check the warranty first.)
  •   Is the entryway recessed and dark, even in daylight, or shallow and  bright?
               If it's dark, consider a light or vibrant color for the front door.
  •   Is the front door painted or stained?
                •    If the door can be painted, choose a unique color for pizzazz, and to create a focal point. Coordinate with the other colors and the permanent elements.
                •    If the door is stained and in need of refinishing, coordinate the stain color with the paint color(s) and the permanent elements. 
  •   Is there a separate storm or screen door?
               •    Is the style compatible with the front door? Storm and screen doors often hide the features of the front door, or clash with it.
               •    Can the storm or screen door be painted the front door color? 
  •  Are any doors and windows pre-finished, with parts that are inaccessible, or can they be painted?
             If they can’t be painted, consider them permanent elements and incorporate the color in your overall plan.
  •  Are there attractive, paintable details to highlight, such as windows, doors,  shutters or trim?
             Don’t automatically accent every detail!  Consider its role and the effect on the house as a whole. Banding boards are a perfect example of a detail that usually shouldn't be accented, particularly in high contrast colors.
  •  Is the foundation visible?
              Paint the foundation in the wall color, or a coordinated one of similar value, to create unity with the house. 
  •  Are functional items visible, such as downspouts, cable or utility boxes, wiring?
              Make them “disappear” by painting them in the wall color.      
  •  What colors dominate the permanent landscaping?
               Consider the color(s) of foliage, flowers, fruit, and bark. Are the colors warm (yellow, orange, red), or cool (blue, green, violet) or neutral (white)? Paint and landscaping colors that clash is a common problem.


  •   What colors do you like?
                Light, dark, neutrals, historic… 
  •   What overall impression do you want to create?
               Elegant, modern, rustic, cottage, grand, sophisticated, dramatic, subtle …


  • Pick colors that work with the permanent elements.
  • Plan how to make corrections with color where needed.
  • Choose the right things to accent. 
  • Camouflage the rest.
Details Add Up and Make A Difference…

Getting Started

  • Answer the questions in the survey.
  •  Determine what will be accented and what will be painted in the wall color.
  •  Decide what paint you want to use, then gather brochures to get ideas for color combinations. Buy the very best paint you can afford.
  • Choose two or three candidates for the wall color and buy the smallest amount of paint you can to create sample boards. View the samples under varying conditions and choose a color.
  •  Be sure you really do like the color by painting a small wall before buying all the paint you'll need.
  •  Choose candidates for the trim and front door colors. Create sample boards.  For trim, cut the board into strips and place around a door or window to show how the color would look in proportion to the wall.
  •  Analyze the effect of the wall and trim colors, then choose the front door color.
Choose paint colors that work well together and flatter the permanent elements in your house and landscaping, in all seasons.
©2011 Sandy LeRoy

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Painting Vinyl Siding

Last week I did a staging consultation for a couple whose house has been on the market for six months, to no avail. The house has vinyl siding with a great deal of dirt and mildew, and the paint on the trim and shutters is in poor condition, so cleaning and painting were among my top recommendations. The sellers had been afraid to pressure-wash for fear of damaging the windows, and they thought the vinyl siding couldn't be painted.

I understand their concerns about pressure-washing because all too often the person doing it is an amateur who uses too much pressure and causes damage. The answer is to use the right cleaner (and the right person) for the job, and to let the cleaner, not high pressure, do the work. As for being unable to paint vinyl siding, it's a common misconception.

Vinyl siding can be painted, if it's done the right way. Vinyl is a non-porous material that expands with heat and can buckle, making paint adhesion and elasticity key concerns. Look at your siding to see if it's already buckling because applying paint could aggravate the problem. Read the warranty on your siding if you're tempted to paint newer vinyl, just for a color change. You could void it.

Here are some other things you need to know:

  • Before you paint, thoroughly clean the siding to remove dirt, mold and any chalking caused by the deterioration of the vinyl.
  • Use a high quality latex paint with a blend of urethane and acrylic resins. It's easy to apply, has superior adhesion and is more likely to withstand the movement of the vinyl as temperatures change. 
  • Talk with the experts at your local paint store and ask them to recommend a product. Describe the condition of your house to determine if priming is needed. Some companies such as Sherwin Williams have a special line of paints designed for use on vinyl siding.
  • Avoid dark colors. The rule of thumb is for the new color to be no darker than the existing one. White vinyl can be painted, if you pick a light color and use the appropriate product.
  • For the paint to cure properly, don't apply it in direct sunlight, or on a hot day, or when rain threatens!    
The marketing hype is that vinyl siding will last forever and be virtually maintenance-free, but unfortunately vinyl does deteriorate and the color will fade over time. If your vinyl siding isn't looking its best, consider painting it, but do your homework first.