Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Choosing Exterior Paint Colors? Don't Ignore the Foundation

A disconnected foundation.

Often overlooked or deliberately ignored, the foundation of your house nevertheless is an important element in your exterior color plan. With the right color you can resolve design issues and make the house more attractive, but if you overlook the foundation, or you don't choose the color wisely, particularly if it's large and visible, you've created a distraction, or at worst an eyesore and undermined the appearance of your house.

The stark contrasting color chosen for the foundation of this house is such a departure from the stained siding that it draws your eye and fails to make the house look connected to it or to the ground. 

Why Foundations Are Often Ignored

Many people mistakenly think that the foundation of their house is a detail that doesn't matter. The reasons for this can include:

  • not knowing the important role the foundation can play in creating a unified, harmonious impression of the house.
  • failing to realize that leaving the foundation raw will make the house look unfinished or carelessly finished.  
  • not knowing that how the foundation is treated creates a chance to correct design issues, such as a house that appears too squat or too tall. 
  • the perception that the foundation is difficult to paint, or that it shouldn't be painted at all.

I'm not talking about foundations that are 6 inches or so in height, or beautiful stone or brick foundations, I'm talking about the larger raw concrete ones that are a visible design element that either supports or detracts from the look of your house. 

Color Strategies for Foundations

 Don't Ignore Large Visible Foundations.
Tall House with a Large Visible Foundation

If your house has a very large visible foundation, look at the relative proportions of siding and foundation, as well as the overall height of the house, to guide you to the best approach. 

Using a darker accent color on the foundation not only shortens the perceived height of the house and grounds it, the color plan becomes more custom and interesting.  It's usually best to avoid very high contrast between the body and foundation colors, and don't mix pastels with earth tones. If the house has a horizontal banding board, you have options. Depending on the proportions of the house and foundation, you can paint the board in the body color, the foundation color, or in an accent color to adjust the impression of height. 

Modular Home on Raw Concrete Foundation

Long, Low House

If your house is long and low like many ranch houses, paint the foundation in the body color to make it look less squat and more unified. In this case the painted foundation has the additional benefit of making the house look less like a modular dropped on a foundation. 

Foundation Painted the Body Color

Stained Wood Siding

When your house has stained siding, an unpainted concrete foundation can look jarring. The high contrast undermines the unity and harmony of the exterior and makes it look unfinished. Usually the best approach is to match paint to the color of the stain after it's been applied to the house and paint the foundation. 

Stained Wood Siding and Raw Concrete Foundation

Painting Raw Concrete

Yes, you can paint raw concrete, and as with any other painting project, correct surface preparation is essential. Whether you paint it yourself, or hire someone to do it for you, make sure to pressure-wash if needed, fill holes with concrete patch, repair cracks with an elastomeric caulk, then use a 100% acrylic primer before applying the paint. If the concrete is new, it should be allowed to cure at least 30 days before painting. 

Every detail matters when you paint the exterior of your home, even the humble foundation!