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Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect Exterior Paint Sheen for Your Home

Updated: Mar 30


Choosing the right paint finish for your home's exterior is about more than just color. The finish, or "sheen," you select can significantly impact the durability, aesthetics, and overall protection of your house. With a myriad of options available, this guide demystifies the process, helping you find the answer to the pressing question: What type of exterior paint finish is best?


Introduction: The Art of Choosing the Right Exterior Paint Sheen

When it comes to painting your home's exterior, the finish you choose plays a pivotal role in both its appearance and longevity. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, the right sheen can add a layer of protection against the elements, enhance durability, and even influence how much maintenance your home will require over the years.


However, selecting the perfect sheen is not as straightforward as it may seem. The lack of standardization across brands means that a "satin" from Sherwin Williams could look quite different from a "satin" by Benjamin Moore. This variation underscores the importance of understanding the characteristics of each paint finish and how they align with your specific needs.



Understanding Paint Products Before Selecting Sheen

Before diving into the sheens themselves, it's crucial to select the right paint product. This choice sets the foundation for everything that follows. High-quality exterior paints from reputable brands like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore not only offer a broader range of sheens but also provide better coverage, durability, and protection against UV rays and weathering.


Price ranges vary significantly among different products and brands, and while it might be tempting to opt for a cheaper option, remember that the exterior paint is an investment in your home's future. Products like Sherwin Williams' Emerald Exterior and Benjamin Moore's Aura offer top-of-the-line formulas designed to withstand the elements while maintaining their color and finish for years.



Exploring Types of Exterior Paint Finishes & Their Applications

Understanding the different types of finishes available can help you make an informed decision. Here's a breakdown:

  • Flat Paint Finish: Known for its matte look, a flat finish offers excellent concealment of imperfections on your home's exterior. However, it's more susceptible to staining and isn't as easy to clean, making it better suited for areas with less foot traffic or touch points.

  • Eggshell Paint Finish: Offering a low sheen, eggshell is slightly more durable than flat and does a decent job of hiding imperfections. It's an excellent choice for a wide range of siding types, combining a subtle elegance with practical longevity.

  • Satin Paint Finish: Satin strikes a balance between matte and glossy finishes, providing a soft sheen that enhances durability and cleanability. It's particularly well-suited for trim, doors, and areas that require regular cleaning, though it's more likely to show application errors and imperfections.

  • Semi-Gloss Paint Finish: Known for its visible shine, semi-gloss is highly durable and easy to clean, making it ideal for high-touch areas like door frames and windowsills. While it offers increased moisture resistance, its reflectivity may highlight surface imperfections.

  • High-Gloss Paint Finish: Offering the highest level of sheen, high-gloss finishes are exceedingly durable and easy to clean. They're perfect for accentuating details like shutters and doors but can magnify imperfections if applied over larger areas.

Every finish has its place, and selecting the right one depends on several factors, including the condition of your exterior surfaces, maintenance preferences, and desired aesthetic.


Sheen Selection Based on Exterior Surfaces

Choosing the right sheen for your home's exterior involves understanding how different finishes perform on various surfaces and under different conditions. Let's delve into the specifics:

  • Siding: For most homes, the siding occupies the largest exterior area. An eggshell finish is popular due to its low sheen, which hides imperfections while offering more durability and ease of cleaning than a flat finish. Satin finishes are also a good choice, providing a slightly higher level of sheen for added protection and aesthetic appeal, especially on newer homes or recently repaired surfaces.

  • Trim, Doors, and Windowsills: These areas generally benefit from a satin or semi-gloss finish. The higher sheen levels make these surfaces easier to clean and maintain, and the added durability helps preserve the wood beneath. Plus, the contrast in sheen draws attention to the architectural details of your home.

  • Stucco and Masonry: These porous surfaces can present unique challenges. A flat or eggshell sheen can help hide imperfections inherent to stucco and masonry, while a satin finish might be used for areas of stucco that are smoother or have been repaired. The key is balancing aesthetics with functionality; higher sheen levels will provide better moisture resistance, but also highlight any surface irregularities.


When deciding between eggshell and satin for your exterior, consider your priorities: durability and ease of cleaning (satin) versus a more subdued aesthetic that hides surface flaws (eggshell). The climate and exposure of your home to sun and rain may also influence your choice, as higher gloss levels can reflect more UV light and protect against moisture.


Special Considerations for Unique Surfaces

  • Stucco Exteriors: Choosing the right paint sheen for stucco involves walking a fine line between aesthetics and practicality. Flat finishes can effectively mask the texture and imperfections of stucco, making them a common choice. However, they offer less protection from the elements. Satin finishes, while potentially highlighting imperfections due to their slight gloss, provide stucco surfaces with better durability and resistance to moisture and fading.

  • Choosing Sheen for Durability and Ease of Cleaning: It's essential to weigh the benefits of durability and ease of cleaning against the potential for sheens to highlight imperfections. A satin or semi-gloss finish on surfaces that see frequent handling (doors, railings, shutters) can make for easier maintenance, while flat or eggshell finishes might be preferable for large, uninterrupted surfaces like siding to maintain a uniform appearance.


The Impact of Paint Sheen on Aesthetics and Protection

The sheen of your exterior paint doesn't just affect how your home looks; it also plays a vital role in how well your paint performs over time. Higher gloss levels typically offer greater durability and resistance to weather conditions, making them ideal for areas that require robust protection. Conversely, lower sheen levels, while less resilient, can significantly enhance the appearance of your home by minimizing visual imperfections.

It's also worth noting that the initial shine of a paint finish may dull slightly over time due to exposure to the elements. This natural process can alter the appearance of your home's exterior, which is something to consider when selecting a sheen.



Professional Guidance: Leveraging Expertise in Sheen Selection

Navigating the world of exterior paint sheens can be complex, but you don't have to go it alone. Consulting with a professional painter or paint supplier can provide valuable insight into the best products and finishes for your home. Experts can assess your home's specific conditions, recommend the most suitable sheens, and even provide color consultations to ensure a cohesive look.


Professional painting services also ensure the application is done correctly, which is crucial for achieving the desired finish and ensuring the longevity of your paint job. A professional touch can make all the difference in transforming your home's exterior into a reflection of your style while providing the protection it needs to withstand the test of time.


Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision for Your Home

Choosing the right exterior paint sheen is a decision that impacts not just the look of your home but its durability and maintenance needs. Whether you prioritize ease of cleaning, aesthetics, or protection from the elements, understanding the characteristics of each paint finish is key to making an informed choice.


Remember, the question of "what type of exterior paint finish is best?" has no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your home's specific needs, the condition of your surfaces, and your personal preferences.


Armed with this comprehensive guide, you're now better equipped to select the perfect

paint sheen for your home. And when in doubt, don't hesitate to seek professional advice to ensure your home's exterior stands out for all the right reasons.

Ready to embark on your painting project? Choose your sheen wisely and transform your home into a masterpiece of durability and beauty.

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