Picking appropriate exterior paint finishes for your house is only a single aspect of the process of selecting paint. As a responsible homeowner, it’s crucial to ensure that your exterior paint can endure tough weather conditions and the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Although professional home exterior painters will skillfully prep your home for a seamless and durable coat of paint, your choice of paint finish can determine the ultimate appearance and lifespan of the paint. This useful guide will assist you in selecting the optimal paint finish for your home’s exterior.

Before getting to the best types of paint finishes for the home exterior, let’s talk a bit about the sheen.

What is a Paint Sheen for the Exterior?

The paint sheen impacts both the appearance and functionality of the exterior paint. Most homeowners are acquainted with the level of shine, or lack thereof, present in the paint. A glossy sheen reflects light and appears mirror-like, whereas a flat or matte sheen absorbs light and appears dull. In between these two extremes, there are other sheen degrees, such as eggshell and satin.

A paint’s performance is also determined by its sheen. High-gloss paint is most effective for areas that experience heavy impact or moisture. Duller paint sheens are less durable and tend to attract dirt. Paint with more sheen contains more solids, resulting in a thicker and more resilient barrier on the exterior of the house.

Paint Sheen for Home Exteriors

Types of Exterior Paint Finishes Your Can Choose For Your Home

The impact of paint sheen goes beyond just visual appeal, as it significantly influences the durability of exterior paint on various surfaces such as siding, trim, and doors. Professional painters commonly employ four distinct types of exterior paint finishes for homes, each providing specific advantages when applied to appropriate surfaces.

Various manufacturers use different terminologies to describe their paints. However, there are typically four distinct sheen levels to consider:

  • Flat (also referred to as matte)
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Semi-gloss
  • Gloss (or high-gloss).

With each level, the proportion of resins/binders to pigments increases.

paint finishes for home exteriors

Flat Exterior Paint Finishes

Although flat paint finishes were previously more prevalent, they are now infrequently employed on exteriors. Flat paint is characterized by its matte appearance, porous nature, and vulnerability to fading and mildew issues. Customers nowadays tend to prefer paint finishes that are glossier and more long-lasting, but flat paint needs to be considered.

Flat paint can be an excellent choice for concealing imperfections in older homes as they lack in shine. Nevertheless, using a flat finish solely on exterior walls and not on frequently touched areas such as doors, railings, or windows is recommended.

Best Application: Flat exterior paint finish is appropriate when you have an older house with wooden siding or need to disguise imperfections on the siding.

Hides surface imperfectionsMore susceptible to fading and mildew
Absorbs light, minimizing the appearance of flawsLess durable than glossier finishes
Can give a more vintage or classic look to a homeDifficult to clean
Tends to be less expensive than glossier finishesCan’t be used on frequently touched surfaces
Pros and Cons of Flat Exterior Paint Finishes
Flat Exterior Paint Finishes

Eggshell Exterior Paint Finishes

The most popular exterior paint finish is eggshell paint. This is because eggshell offers a balance between a flat finish that lacks luster and a high-gloss finish that is too shiny, resulting in a pleasing appearance on various siding types, such as stucco and horizontal wood. Eggshell paint is also more durable than a flat paint, making it easier to clean with the occasional power wash. Moreover, it can be used to conceal imperfections on older wood or stucco divots, as well as protect the house from precipitation and seasonal weather changes. Eggshell paint lays down evenly, resulting in a smooth finish without brush strokes, roller edges, or spray marks being noticeable after application.

Best Application: An eggshell exterior paint finish is appropriate when you want a low-reflective finish that can hide minor imperfections while repainting your house siding. It’s also an ideal choice when you want to highlight trim details in a subtle way.

Provides a low-reflective finish that hides minor imperfectionsEggshell finishes can be more expensive than flat finishes
Offers a balance between a flat and high-gloss finishMay require multiple coats for full coverage
Works well on a variety of siding types and trim detailsNot as durable as semi-gloss or gloss finishes
Offers more durability than flat paint finishesRequires more maintenance than a gloss finish
Can easily be washed with occasional power washingNot recommended for high-traffic areas like doors
Pros and Cons of Eggshell Exterior Paint Finishes
Eggshell Exterior Paint Finishes

Satin Exterior Paint Finishes

A satin exterior paint finish is a great option for exterior trim areas that receive frequent use or touch. It has a nice sheen and is highly durable, making it resistant to peeling and mildew. This stretchy paint is perfect for use on various trim areas, including eaves, soffits, overhangs, trim boards, porch ceilings/trim, door frames, and window sills, among others. However, it’s important to note that the satin finish can make imperfections like dents, dings, and ridges in wood sidings more visible.

Best Application: If you live in a hot and sunny environment and desire a trim with a beautiful but not overly shiny finish, satin paint is a suitable choice. It contains more UV protection, which makes it ideal for exterior use where fading is a concern.

Provides a beautiful sheen without being too shinyMagnifies imperfections in older wood trim and siding
Highly durable and stretchy, resists peeling and mildewCan be more expensive than other paint finishes
Ideal for use on exterior trim areas that are touched oftenNot recommended for use on large exterior areas
Contains more UV protectant to prevent fadingMay require more coats for even coverage
Suitable for use in hot and sunny climatesMay not be as easy to clean as glossier finishes
Pros and Cons of Satin Exterior Paint Finishes
Satin Exterior Paint Finishes

Semi-Gloss Sheen

Semi-gloss exterior paint finish is a great option for surfaces that require regular cleaning due to its visible shine. The glossy sheen of semi-gloss paint makes it more durable and easier to clean than satin. It can also withstand harsh weather conditions and excess moisture. Semi-gloss paint looks stunning on trim details but is not recommended for surfaces with cracks, chips, or other imperfections that need to be concealed.

Best Applications: A semi-gloss external paint finish is recommended for painting exterior surfaces that require frequent cleanings or high durabilities, such as garage doors, front doors, exterior trim, gutters, shutters, metal lamp posts, railings, and window sills.

Durable and long-lastingCan highlight surface imperfections
Resists moisture and harsh weather conditionsMore difficult to touch up
Easy to clean and maintainCan be too shiny for some tastes
Provides a visible shine and glossRequires careful surface preparation
Great for areas that require frequent cleaningMay require more coats for even coverage
Pros and Cons of Semi-Gloss Sheen Exterior Paint Finishes
Semi-Gloss Sheen For Exterior Walls

High-Gloss Paint Finish for Home Exteriors

For those who want their exterior trim to stand out, a high-gloss paint finish is a perfect choice. This finish offers exceptional durability and adds depth to the color of the paint. However, it’s important to note that painting the entire exterior of your home with high-gloss paint is not recommended, as it can make the surface look unnatural and highlight imperfections. It’s best to reserve this finish for highlighting intricate architectural details, trim, and doors while using a satin or semi-gloss finish on the exterior walls and siding to complement the high-gloss finish of the trim.

Best Application: If you want to emphasize the details of your exterior architecture or add a striking shine to specific features like doors, shutters, railings, or window frames, then a high-gloss exterior paint finish is the right choice for you

Extremely durable and easy to cleanMagnifies surface imperfections
Offers a beautiful, rich finish that makes trim details popTends to require more prep work before the application
Resistant to mildew and moistureCan make a house look “plastic” if used on the entire exterior
Highly reflective, which adds depth and dimension to a spaceCan be more expensive than other paint finishes
Provides excellent UV protectionTends to require more prep work before application
Pros and Cons of High-Gloss Sheen Exterior Paint Finishes
High-Gloss exterior paint