The question: It’s February, and I’m tired of seeing gray. I’d love to add some color to my house, and I love turquoise. I’m considering painting the trim in a bright blue to help freshen up the exterior. What do you say?
Fresh paint or stain on your home’s exterior can definitely help lift your spirits during these winter months, but I think that in most cases bright colors like turquoise should be used sparingly on the exterior of Cape Cod houses, as they just don’t fit in with the architectural style.
Most traditional Cape Cod houses are sided with clapboard or shingles, typically in gray tones, and the trim is usually painted white. That is the traditional look, but you’re right that it can be a little monochromatic. Here are some ideas for adding color with no regrets.
Before you make a decision about colors for the exterior of your house, I’d suggest that you first take a walk around the neighborhood and gauge the tone of the other houses. If you live in a town center or an old home in a historic district, you may face restrictions from the historical commission, so be sure to check. But even if that’s not an issue, I think you’ll be happier with your choices in the long run if you take your cues from the houses and nature around you.
The best place to start if you want to experiment with color is your front door, because it can be easily changed if you’re not happy with the hue. A next step might be to also paint your shutters, and people often choose to match their shutters with their door, which looks nice in shades of blue, black, or red.
Another approach would be to stain your clapboard or shingles. This will help the wood age more evenly and attractively. On clapboard, a solid stain looks good. On shingles, a semi-transparent stain creates a soft look and will weather nicely. With the Outer Cape’s harsh weather, oil-based stains are more durable than water-based stains and will need less maintenance. But if you are staining the wood on your house, most likely you will want a white trim as too many colors can get busy.
A painted trim looks best against natural wood, especially in earthy colors like Briarwood by Benjamin Moore — a gray-taupe in their Historic Color palette. Darker colors can provide a more contemporary look.
Whatever colors you choose, it’s important to prepare the site well. Make sure that the wood is clean, sanded, and primed. You will always need two coats of paint. The carpentry crew on my staff first checks the window trim to see if it’s rotted. Over time, I suggest that you change out wood trim for a composite material like Azek. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s more durable. Wood should be repainted every eight years, but composite material can go much longer before it needs to be repainted.
This week’s Dovetail Joint question is answered by Nate Reinhart, the owner of Reinhart Painting in Wellfleet. Keep sending your questions and we’ll find more good answers.