5 Pro Tips for the Best Home Exterior Updates
Knock your block's socks off with this professional advice to give your home's exterior a striking new look on any budget
Every homeowner knows how important curb appeal is — Houzz discussions are full of questions about how to update an exterior. But sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Should you put your budget toward new paint or your wilting flower garden? We asked Houzz designers and architects to give us their professional advice. From planning to painting, here are their best tips for exterior update solutions for all budgets.
Start with simple maintenance. Basic cleanup can go a long way in amping up your home's exterior and its curb appeal. Give your exterior a good power wash, touch up paint trim, mow your lawn and spread fresh mulch over flower and plant beds. If you're looking for a one-day fix up, take it down another level. "If it's an afternoon project someone is looking for, I'd suggest repainting the front door and adding some potted plants or shrubs," says designer Joe Human. "Small items such as flowers, new bark or edging and a new welcome mat are very quick and inexpensive ways to instantly add curb appeal."
Marry the house to its landscape. The architects and designers we talked with are almost unanimous — landscaping is what makes the biggest difference in exterior appeal. Whether you're aiming for a quick freshening up or a complete front yard overhaul, take the time to come up with a basic plan for your landscape. Aim for a good balance of lawn and plants. "Avoid just putting sod down and calling it a day," says Kyle Sheffield of LDA Architecture & Interiors. "Create a transition from the house to the grade by using species that descend in height from the house. This will give the appearance that the house is married to the landscape rather than plopped on a lot."
Look for the sight lines in your yard. Get a visual from the curb or drive by the space you want to update. "Identify the 'where,'" says Kim Thibodeau of Paradise Restored Landscaping. "The viewpoint that will pull you and your guest outside."
If you don't have time or a budget to plant anything new, do a big cleanup. Detail trees and shrubs, and edge flower beds. Add topsoil and mulch to even out the grade, and weed and get rid of dead plantings.
Refresh exterior paint. After landscaping, a new paint job is these designers' top pick for the biggest and most inexpensive way to update an exterior.
Keep your color palette simple for the most dramatic effect. "There's nothing worse than a home with too many elements, textures and colors mixed together to create a collage of exterior styles," says designer James Carrick. "Keep consistency and simplicity in mind to bring out the elegance and charm of a home."
Figure out what can and cannot have its color changed on your house — such as natural stone or brick that shouldn't be painted — and use that as the basis for your palette.
Many designers suggest sticking with a two- or three-color palette for the siding, the trim and an accent. "If you'd like to use the three-color palette, be sure to balance where you want the accent color so it doesn't overwhelm the siding and trim color," says Sheffield.
Sheffield also recommends making the accent color the darkest of the three color choices. Use your color to emphasize the great parts of your house and draw the eye away from any negative features. Architect Thad Siemasko often uses exterior colors to exaggerate a paneled door, a slightly unusual trim or shutters. "We often tie the shutter, front door and garage door colors together as a deep highlight for a good effect," he says.
Take care updating older homes. Updating any part of your home's exterior should be done with care, but older houses can come with their fair share of woes. Rotted sills, leaky gutters, failed masonry joints and deteriorating windows can often be revealed through the updating process. "Older homes generally have some degree of damage from water infiltration over the years," says architect Jordan Parnass. "Renovating the exterior can be a great way to verify that vapor barriers and insulation are up to date — and inspect window frames, gutters and trim for any damage."
Even painting can cause some problems. "Painting on an older home can be difficult, depending on how many layers of paint are on and how well it's been painted over time," says Human. "This can cause more prep work and material cost." If you're worried that your home's age may cause complications, it may be best to consult a professional.
Pay attention to architectural details. Window shutters, molding around windows and doors, trim with backband and other exterior details can all add interest to exterior styles. And energy-efficient windows, new trim, gutters and siding can improve performance as well as aesthetic. "Anything that improves the building envelope as well as curb appeal will go a long way, especially if you're going to be selling your home," says Sheffield.
If it's in your budget, it could be worth considering an update to your home's roof. This often-overlooked part of the exterior can make or break a home's curb appeal. "Think of it as the cap or crown to your home," says Human. "If your whole house is spotless and the roof is looking tired, it will bring the whole thing down."
5 Bright Palettes for Front Doors
Top 3 Ways to Light Your Landscape
7 Details for the Well-Dressed House
Ideabook updated on Sept. 16, 2012.
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