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S.A. “Sam” Jernigan: Time to paint? Tried ‘n true tips before you get out the ladder

S.A. “Sam” Jernigan
A client’s recently completed custom home in Nevada City. Architect David Wright Associates, Josh Moore Construction, both of Nevada City. Paint colors were selected sequentially after first narrowing choices based on window, stone and roof materials.
Photo by Sam Jernigan |

As our long and soggy winter finally recedes, many homeowners are eyeing the state of their home’s exterior and considering some refreshing — you too? If so, here are some timely tips.

Color considerations

This topic would necessitate a lengthy article of its own, but if you want your home to sport a new look, start by referencing a couple of key elements: the color of neighboring houses, and also the color of your roof — as these may each narrow your universe of choices.

While there are SO many options, one safe solution is based on a monochromatic theme.

Select a single hue (color) and use two different values (brightness), ideally situated three apart on a typical paint strip, and combine with one or more neutrals (white, ivory, black, etc.). Especially important is the color’s intensity — smoky colors look best on a home’s exterior vs. more saturated hues. (For example we’ve all seen the scary screaming yellow house before, the result of what I laughingly refer to as an unsupervised male buying the paint!)

As I’ve been specifying Benjamin Moore Paint for over two decades, I often turn to their Historical Color Collection (HC), as well as their Affinity Collection (AF) as each are filled with rich and mostly smoky hues across the entire spectrum of colors. (Resource: Knight’s Paint, Grass Valley, http://www.KnightsPaint.com, 530-273-6401)

Use color to play up or play down architectural elements

Our eye is always drawn to color contrast — so keep this powerful principle in mind as you determine which elements of your home’s exterior to paint which color. For example, there’s no need to “highlight” the downspout!

Instead, just roll right over it with the body color and it’ll virtually disappear. Ditto re: corner boards as they similarly don’t need to be in a contrast color, and your home will appear larger as a result — something to keep in mind if you’re planning on selling soon. I visually corrected an architectural peculiarity on a 100-year-old farmhouse I owned when living in Sonoma County by employing just a bit of painter’s tape — paint really IS magic in a can.

While you can similarly “paint out” certain details, key assets of your home’s architecture should be played up by painting/staining them an accent color in order to highlight them.

You can also update an older home by replacing the fascia (trim board at the roofline) with boards of a beefier width, and this is also an ideal spot for use of a third color.

All paints are NOT created equal

As I mentioned, I’m a longtime fan of Benjamin Moore (not to be confused with bargain brand, Kelly Moore) and I rely on their architectural pack and other oversized swatch collections for the trade in assisting clients with color selection. They are one of the top premium paint manufacturers and others include Behr, Sherwin Williams, and Clark + Kensington according to a recent study by J.D. Power & Associates (each company also offers various grades of paint).

Premium paints contain resins and high quality pigments which hold up best to the coating’s brutal 365-day exposure to the elements, whereas bargain paints typically contain water and fillers and their performance suffers accordingly. Especially given the labor involved, whether yours or someone you hire, it makes good sense to spend a bit more and purchase the best grade of product — a cost-effective decision in the long run which will ensure this next paint job lasts for years.

Test your colors first

Once you’ve selected finalists, it’s always best to buy quarts and do brush-outs on the house itself. These should be good-sized, 2’ x 2’ (or larger) is ideal, and do use two coats, not one. Check the color at different times of day as lighting conditions/shadows affect how a hue is perceived. In terms of sheen, a flat finish touches up more readily while shinier finishes light up a surface, drawing attention to any imperfections. Another helpful tool, especially if you have trouble envisioning, is having a photo of your home tinted in the shades you’re considering so you can test-drive various ideas on paper — something I’m doing quite a bit of lately now that spring’s officially sprung.

DON’T forget the primer

Good prep is critical — again, with an eye to making certain you don’t have to tackle this monster task again anytime soon. This consists of not only removing all loose paint and sanding smooth, but spackling any bad spots with a good quality exterior filler appropriate to your home’s material (wood, masonry, etc.). It’s also imperative you prime over this patching to ensure the spackle doesn’t “flash” through to avoid resulting blotchiness, a noticeable boo-boo often experienced by newbie painters (and the same principle applies when painting interiors too).

If drastically changing color by going significantly lighter or darker, you can have the primer tinted to that hue which improves the subsequent coverage by the paint itself.

Power wash, dry time

Be careful with power washers or over-enthusiastic jet settings on hose nozzles which can actually carve into wood, especially our century-old wood siding here in Nevada County. It’s also imperative that a house be fully dry before painting — keep an eye on the weather and allow up to two full days following washing or a rainstorm before applying your paint. Paint is best applied during mild weather, and never paint when the temps dip into the 50’s as it’ll impact its ability to cure properly. Latex paint actually takes a number of days to fully cure, even though it often feels dry to the touch within 30 minutes — so keep an eye on the weather forecast for the days following your paint party too.

Overall, a fresh coat of paint is not only eye-pleasing but provides invaluable protection for your home, typically one of your most valuable investments. So break out the paint brushes and ladders and enjoy the resulting curb appeal!

(Ms.) S.A. “Sam” Jernigan, Interior Designer, IFDA, of Renaissance Design Consultations in Grass Valley (www.RdesignConsultations.com) has over 20 years experience providing design consultation and 3D space planning on an hourly basis. She’s received “Best Of” and other awards of distinction from Houzz.com, Thumbtack.com, and HomeAdvisor.com based on her client satisfaction ratings, and has also been quoted extensively in the national media, most recently on Bed, Bath & Beyond’s blog. Visit her website to learn more or phone 530.362.1339.

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