Should You Paint Your House Black?

It's a bold, dramatic move, but is painting your house black a good idea? Real estate pros and design experts weigh the pros and cons.
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Should You Paint Your House Black?

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It’s not your grandmother’s house color. Black houses are popping up in neighborhoods across the country, and you may love them or hate them—but it’s tough to ignore them. We consulted housing, design, and real estate experts to find out when painting a house black is a good idea and when it’s probably not the best choice.

Some special considerations come into play when painting a house black. Whether you’re going for striking, awe-inspiring, or imposing, keep reading to learn about the ups and downs of painting a house black and to find out whether this intense exterior is suitable for your home.

It’s All About the Shade

Black is black, right? Not exactly. Kimberly Schroeder, principal designer for Spellacy Schroeder Interiors in Atlanta, Georgia, loves black houses but warns homeowners that “the shade of black is critical.”

Schroeder prefers black paint with a satin finish on the house exterior, paired with semi- or high-gloss black trim in a shade that’s 30 to 50 percent of the base color. She advises against using a contrasting color on the trim to avoid “…an unappealing patchwork effect.” Her favorite black shades are Benjamin Moore French Beret and Benjamin Moore Midnight Oil.

Sheen Level Matters

Creating a bold yet pleasing effect depends in large part on the paint’s sheen level. Trey Van Tuyl, real estate agent and owner of Discover Homes Miami, agrees that black houses are currently trending. He has some advice for homeowners wanting to follow the fad.

“A matte finish really works better with an older architectural style, while a high-gloss finish can look really special on a very modern home,” says Van Tuyl. He also recommends a contrasting color for the front door to achieve the maximum visual effect.

Keeping Cool Will Cost More

Dark colors absorb more heat than lighter colors, so homeowners who paint the exterior of their homes black in warmer climates may find it leads to higher air conditioning costs.
According to Robert Johnson, founder of an educational online woodworking company called Sawinery, those who live in sunny regions “might want to reconsider because a black exterior will absorb light and heat from the infrared rays of the sun, which will make your home uncomfortably hot.” As a result, you may need to run the AC more to stay comfortably cool indoors.

…and Heating Your Home Will Cost Less

Travis Nolan, founder of the Tampa Bay-based Old Crow Painting, is a big fan of black houses, a trend that’s been “popularized by Scandinavian countries as well as Japan’s shou sugi ban aesthetic,” he says.

While Nolan admits black exterior paint will increase cooling costs, he points out that because it absorbs more heat, it can “reduce your heating costs, hence its historical popularity in colder climates.”

Should You Paint Your House Black?

The Fade Factor

Another effect of exterior black paint absorbing more UV rays is its tendency to fade more quickly than lighter colored paint, so homeowners may end up having to paint a black house more frequently to maintain the shade.

A black house may also fade unevenly—if the south side of the house is exposed to constant harsh sun rays, it could fade quicker than other sides, making the exterior look uneven. Buying a high-quality exterior paint that contains inorganic pigments can help, but only to an extent. If trees or tall structures block the sun’s direct rays, the paint won’t fade as quickly.

Selling Your Home Might Be Difficult

While some potential buyers may love the idea of a black exterior, others won’t. According to Suzy Minkin, a real estate salesperson with Compass, a brokerage in Short Hills, New Jersey, “Today’s home buyers are very savvy, and they have strong preferences.”

Minkin explains that potential sellers need to appeal to the broadest group of buyers possible, meaning if you’re getting ready to put your house on the market, it might not be the best time to paint it black. She asks, “Would you really want the color of your home’s exterior to be a deal-breaker?”

Should You Paint Your House Black?

Start Small 

Michael DiMartino, senior vice president of installations at Power Home Remodeling, headquartered in Chester, Pennsylvania, suggests incorporating small accents first to determine whether you like the black look before painting an entire house. DiMartino says it can be labor-intensive and costly to repaint a black house if you don’t like how it looks.

Try painting “accent pieces like trim, black windows, or a black front door,” DiMartino recommends. Alternately, “paint a wall on the side of your house that isn’t visible, and then look at it every single day” to get a feel for how it fits in.