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Tips for Exterior Trim Colors

Choosing trim colors is tricky. These tips will come in handy, and they work well for most house styles.

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Here the trim is just slightly lighter than the main house color.
  • Paint all vertical and horizontal trim elements that suggest structure in the main trim color.
  • Window and door frames usually look better painted in the principal body color. The same holds true for cornice brackets.
  • As a general rule, window sashes and shutters are the darkest parts of the color scheme. As a result, the windows seem to recede into the facade.
  • The sash color can be repeated on the front door and on the porch steps.
  • Storm windows should be the same color as the sash.
  • It's best if ceilings under the eaves are painted in the body color, while the entire cornice --the trim that faces outward -- is almost always painted in the trim color.
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For a showier style, choose high contrast.
  • If your house is two or three stories tall and you want more than one shade of the principal body color, it is tasteful to apply the darkest shade on the first floor, medium on the second floor, and the lightest on the third floor. If the dark color is on top, you risk making the house appear top-heavy. Houses with shingled upper stories are the exception; these should be painted a lighter shade on the lower story.
  • Gutters and downspouts should be painted to make them as inconspicuous as possible. On a frame house with olive trim and a light green body, for example, the gutters would probably be olive to disappear against the olive cornice, but the downspouts would be painted light green to correspond to the adjacent siding. On masonry buildings, the downspouts often are painted bronze green to simulate weathered copper.
  • In climates with heavy rainfall or snow, dark-color roofs will be more stain resistant so you'll want to choose other colors that work with gray or slate colors.
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