Colour makes a strong first impression. Painting the exterior of a commercial building or multi-family home is a big commitment, one that needs to please owners and tenants for years to come. Here are some things to consider before starting your next exterior painting project.
The Other Exterior Elements
An easy starting point, when choosing an exterior paint colour, is to look at the existing colours of the building that won’t be changing. Features like brick, slate, stonework and roofing shingles will likely remain the same, unless you are doing a complete exterior renovation. Take these elements into consideration when choosing your exterior colours and use them as a resource to pull colour shades from. It is important to choose colours that tie in with these elements in a complimentary way. Paying attention to the buildings undertones will help determine if you should choose warmer shades, like beige and brown or cooler tones like white, blue, grey or black.
The Surrounding Property
When deciding on an exterior paint colour, take a look at the surround property of the building and pay attention to the building to property size ratio. A good rule of thumb is that darker colours tend to make a building look smaller while lighter colours tend to make it appear larger. If the building is on a small lot, painting it white or a lighter colour will make it appear large and the lot appear small. Choosing a darker colour will make the building appear smaller but more substantial.
The Surrounding Climate
Climate is also an important factor to consider when choosing exterior colours. If a building gets an abundance of sun throughout the day, the appearance of the paint will be affected. Stick to brighter colours when sun exposure is high as the sun tends to wash out the colour of the paint. Lighter shades are also great for windowsills as it reflects the sun’s heat and light inside. If your building is in an area with lots of trees, shade or rain (hello Vancouver!) choose colours that compliment these surroundings, but keep in mind that shade will darken the appearance of paint colours even further.
The Surrounding Neighborhood
Pay attention to the neighboring homes and buildings in your surrounding area. Take a look around the neighborhood to get a feel of the general colours and trends that are prevalent. Choose a palette that compliments and blends in with the area as visitors and future buyers may be put off if your building stands out from those around it. Also, make sure to check your strata rules and/or the association bylaws of the surrounding neighborhood to see if there are any rules or regulations in place that dictate exterior paint colours.
Choose Three Shades
Normally an exterior paint scheme consists of three elements: the main colour, the accent colour (used on doors, shutters and other small areas) and the trim colour (used around windows, door casings, railing and other trim work). Ideally the trim colour should contrast against the main colour. If your main colour is a darker shade, choose a white or lighter complimentary shade. If using a light main colour, consider having a dark trim to make a crisp and dramatic statement. Accent colours are allowed to be a little bolder but be careful not to go too overboard – if choosing a bright colour like red or yellow for the front door, stay away from using the same colour again on the shutters, gables or gates.
Don’t Forget to Test the Colour!
Never rely on paint swatches alone! Paint colours can drastically change from the way they appear on a swatch. Always buy a small sample of paint and test it on a less obvious part of the building first. Look at the colour from different angles, distances, and at different times of the day to really get a feel of the true colour and make sure you are happy with it.
Stuck for ideas? Most large paint brands offer pre-selected colour palettes that take the guesswork out of choosing exterior colour schemes.
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