While trying to figure out what color to paint the exterior of your home, you should also carefully consider which exterior paint sheen to use. We get asked this question quite often, proving that it’s not such an easy decision to make.
Let’s take a look at what paint sheens are available and what factors you should take into consideration.
What is Paint Sheen?
Paint sheen is simply the gloss level of paint. The higher the gloss level, the shinier or more reflective it will look. The different levels or categories of sheen are flat/matte, eggshell/satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Flat having no shine, and gloss being the shiniest.
Different sheen levels can make the color look different and reflect light in different ways. Glossy to flat are on totally different ends of the shine spectrum and look completely different.
We always choose a flat or matte finish when painting the exterior of a house and also most walls and ceilings on the interior. For the exterior, we don’t like to have any shine at all because it tends to give the surface a plastic-like appearance.
We also think a flat exterior paint sheen, especially on masonry, creates more of a timeless look. That’s why we went with Sherwin Williams White Duck in flat for all of our exterior brick and trim on our current house.
Surfaces that have a sheen are easier to clean, but matte surfaces are not impossible to clean as I often hear people say. We’ve had no issue at all cleaning the outside of our homes when they start to look a little dirty. Rinsing with a water hose or pressure washer has always worked like a charm.
One of our favorite designers, Studio McGee, also chose to use flat on the exterior of her new home. She used Benjamin More White Dove in flat for all of her exterior brick, siding, and trim.
Eggshell or satin is the perfect sheen if you don’t want overly glossy, but want just a little sheen. This is what we prefer to use in areas with moisture, such as our bathrooms. The slight amount of sheen helps protect against watermarks being left on your walls.
Another place we like to use satin is on our interior trim and millwork. The slight amount of shininess creates a nice contrast with walls in a flat finish.
This sheen will also make the surface a little slicker making it easier to wipe down and clean in these areas where dust tends to build up.
Another thing to consider with a satin or eggshell finish is that the color of the paint will appear a bit richer compared to the same color in a matte or flat finish.
Keep in mind that shinier finishes will also show more imperfections. This should be taken into consideration if you are planning on doing your own painting, as roller and brush marks will be more visible.
So what about on the exterior? Again, we personally do not like any shininess on the exterior of our homes, but this is the finish that many people prefer as it makes it a little easier to keep the outside of their house clean.
Semi-gloss and Gloss
Semi-gloss and gloss paints are highly reflective and very “shiny”! In my opinion, these sheen levels should only be used on interior trim, doors, and millwork – surfaces that get a lot of wear and tear.
In our current home, we chose semi-gloss for all the items I just mentioned. Since we used the same color on walls and trim, we let the sheen of the semi-gloss paint create a bit of contrast between the two.
So should you use a semi-gloss or gloss finish on the exterior of a house? I say absolutely not! I’m typically not so dogmatic about design decisions, but I think using such a shiny paint on the exterior, would make your home look like it is made of plastic.