February 28

How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors for Historic Homes

People who own historic houses understand how much upkeep and preservation are needed both inside and out. Exterior paint provides a layer of protection by adding a barrier from sun, moisture, and pests.

In addition to the protection paint offers, its color can highlight a building’s architectural features and style, visually tying the exterior together. 

When painting a historic home, selecting the right paint colors can be challenging. Some homeowners attempt to update a historic property with modern colors, but trendy colors often don’t look right and may violate local ordinances.

If you live in a historic home, it’s essential to do a little research before starting an exterior painting project. 

How to Select Exterior Paint Colors for Your Historic Home

1. Research Your Neighborhood

Properties are considered historic or architecturally significant by the National Register of Historic Places or local historic boards if they exemplify a signature architectural style, capture the essence of a particular era, or are associated with a famous historical figure. The landmarks preservation commission will likely restrict exterior home colors if you live in a designated historic block. 

2. Historic Paint Color Options

Every home has a color palette that will work best with its architectural style. Consider what aesthetic you want to achieve and how that translates to your home’s paint color and finish, shutters, doors, and trim.

Some exterior elements are typically not painted and should be considered part of your home’s color palette. These elements usually include brick and stone foundations, chimneys, and roof surfaces. 

Bob Vila’s guide to historic paint colors is an excellent place for advice on historic paint colors. Many historic homes were initially painted in earth tones like browns, reds, greens, yellows, or neutrals.

If you want to keep the original aesthetic, choosing these palettes will be your best bet. You can also look at different paint manufacturers’ exterior historic color collections to help make color selections.

3. Use Paint Samples

It’s a good idea to buy and test out a few paint color samples. Once you’re narrowed your choices, get a sample of each and paint a small section of your home in each color.

Allow the paint to thoroughly dry and check to see how each color looks at different times of the day. The amount of natural light your home receives will impact how different colors look in varying conditions.

You may want to consider a lighter color to reflect more natural light for a very shady area. Very sunny areas can handle darker shades.

4. Consult with a Professional

It can be overwhelming to choose the right exterior color scheme for any home. Working with an experienced color consultant can alleviate the anxiety and reduce the risk of selecting the wrong paint colors for your historic home. Many professional painting contractors offer color consultation services for their customers.

exterior paint colors for historic homes

Attention to Detail is Important

Older homes require special care, especially those designated as historic. Proper cleaning and preparation must be done to prevent damaging historic structures.

Homes built before 1978 may also have lead paint, which can be dangerous to remove without proper training and equipment. The painters you choose should have experience painting historic homes to ensure their work preserves the integrity of your property.

Painting your home’s exterior is an undertaking and investment, so you want to make sure your new paint job lasts for many years.

When painting the exterior of a historic building, it is important to understand its unique qualities and the appropriate resources required for proper restoration. Here are a few important things to remember:

  • Check with your local historical association for any exterior paint guidelines or restrictions.
  • Choose high-quality paint products to increase the lifespan of your exterior paint and reduce maintenance costs.
  • Hire a professional painting contractor who has experience painting historic properties. A professional paint contractor will handle minor repairs and safely deal with lead paint, which is common in older properties.

 Older, historic buildings have the character and personality that newer buildings lack, but they also require more care when it’s time to paint or make other improvements.

In general, exterior surfaces should be repainted every 5 to 8 years, with touch-ups of high traffic, worn or deteriorated areas as needed. 

Experienced Painters for Historic Properties 

Image Painting is a full-service residential and commercial painting contractor based in Falls Church, Virginia. We have served the Washington, DC metropolitan area since 2003.

We are proud to be A+ Rated by the Better Business Bureau and are committed to completing every job with integrity and excellent customer service. 

We offer custom color matching, a two-year guarantee with a written warranty, and free estimates. Our employees are licensed, insured, and background checked for your protection. Call us at 703-256-2271 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. 


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