Curb Appeal Tips: Home Exterior

Suspicious siding, warped windows or peeling paint? Get your home's exterior in order to cash in on curb appeal.
After: A Little Love and Landscaping

After: A Little Love and Landscaping

Small details – like the exposed rafters under the roof and the stone cladding over the bases of the columns – make a huge impact on this home's exterior appearance. A cheerful, blue-and-white color scheme completes this charming Craftsman's transformation.

By: Alyson McNutt English

You see your house every day, so it's easy to get used to its looks — and to overlook its exterior blahs and flaws. But if your house isn't living up to its curb appeal potential, a few changes can add up to a fantastic front-of-house facelift.

Top Priority: Big Ticket Items' Colors and Conditions

It's not cheap, but the right (or wrong) roof or siding can change the entire look of your house. If you live in an all-brick house with a new roof, this won't be a worry for you. But for existing homes, taking stock of these two huge parts of your home's exterior can't be overlooked.

Especially if your curb appeal concerns are rooted in a desire to sell your home, those shingles may create a make-or-break moment for potential buyers before they ever walk in the door. "Once people get past the first impression, they check out the condition of the roof," says Pablo Solomon, an Austin, Texas-based artist and designer.

If the exterior of your home is painted, inspect it carefully. Peeling paint is one of those details you might not notice as much but people looking at your house for the first time will probably spot — and it will definitely color their opinion about your house. Check painted siding especially carefully; look not just for possible paint problems, but also issues like rotting or warped boards that may need to be replaced. 

Curb Appeal Ideas: Home Exterior Makeovers

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Before: Dingy Casita

While architecturally interesting, this 1920s Spanish-style home looks unlived in. The washed-out exterior and vine-covered trellis need some work.

After: Charming Facade and Entryway

This home's new look accentuates its Spanish-style architecture without feeling too themed. An earthy paint color complements the stucco exterior, while Spanish tiles draw attention to the front door and stairs. A new trellis extends all the way across the facade, making the home look wider and giving it more presence from the street.

Before: Nondescript Exterior

With the exception of the small capital detail on the porch columns, this beige-and-brown home is devoid of style and character.

After: A Little Love and Landscaping

Small details – like the exposed rafters under the roof and the stone cladding over the bases of the columns – make a huge impact on this home's exterior appearance. A cheerful, blue-and-white color scheme completes this charming Craftsman's transformation.

Before: Boring Brick

With its drab brick exterior, dingy awning and plain front door, this home doesn't make a great first impression. Plus, the staircase to the tiny front porch is hidden behind bushes, so there's no clear path to the door.

After: Amazing Grays

A coat of dark gray paint reinvigorates this home's brick exterior. A brand new staircase leads to the entryway, which was revamped with a blue door and a portico extension in place of the awning. Stylish house numbers, a new light fixture and colorful potted plants add the perfect finishing touches.

Good Idea: Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are the passages into the heart of the home, so it's important to make sure they're both in good condition and in good taste. "The front door should be the star of the show with everything else playing supporting roles," says Gina Samarotto, principal of Samarotto Design Group in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Even if your front door is in good shape, sprucing it up can be an inexpensive, easy way to give your whole house a facelift. When Alan Hilsabeck Jr., owner of Hilsabeck Design Associates in Flower Mound, Texas, moved into his house, the front door was one of his first curb appeal projects. He not only painted the front door, but he also added a new front door handle set and coordinated the handle's finishes with the house numbers. He also added new lighting. "The neighbors thought we did a complete home makeover," he says. "It just makes a huge difference to a home's curb appeal."

Think about paint when it comes to your windows, as well, says Mary Mausser, owner of MJM Interiors in Chicago. "If your window frames are somewhat wimpy, paint the trim around them so they appear chunkier," she says, adding that if you do this, color matching is essential. "If the windows are white and the homeowner paints the trim off-white, it will look like a mistake."

Put Your Best Facade Forward

While overhauling a home's exterior can be a big job, don't get overwhelmed. Just remember that you're going for one cohesive, inviting curb appeal impression. So after you've taken care of the bigger projects above, step back for a moment and reflect on the home's look. One of the bigger curb appeal dangers people don't think about is just going overboard. Don't go wild with ornate details that will take away from the home's overall curb appeal. "Less is more when it comes to style," Mary says.

Finally, when you're thinking about all these big ideas, don't forget the simplest, lowest-cost curb appeal booster of all: "Nothing beats a good cleanup, pickup, trim and unclutter," Gina says.

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