Can a new exterior grout color change our ugly home?

dps19063May 19, 2013

Thank you for your help! We are planning an addition/renovation, but we want to try to spruce up the existing stone exterior. First, we are changing the roof color to charcoal. Do you think that we should change the grout color? Also, our addition will be stucco. Any color suggestions for the stucco addition?

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Sophie Wheeler

It's not the mortar color. It's the too white of the trim that's the problem. Paint it an ivory. I wouldn't do charcoal for the roof either. The current dark brown works very well with the stone and is in the same family of color. From the landscaping, you don't appear to be in a climate where stucco would be a natural look. Also, if it's not done correctly, it has all kinds of moisture infiltration issues. I'd look at doing hardi plank or shingles instead.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:05AM
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my wife suggests purple for the color. But I don't think she was trying to be helpful.

More helpfully she observed that it is not an ugly home, it just is very historic and individualistic. You might consider looking up some Edwardian or Victorian color schemes. I agree that the white trim is not doing you any favors, but I think it is the combination of bright white trim and grungy faded shutters that just makes it look bad. (Also photographing it with the light off the windows making the windows look white isn't helping me.)

How realistic is changing the grout color? That seems like it would be a massive project. And compared the the rest of the surface, there isn't much grout, so I don't think you would get a huge impact.

I agree that it is hard to see how adding a stucco addition to a stone faced colonial is ever going to look like anything more than a slapped on thing.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 2:19AM
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Mismatched shutters (louver second floor, raised panel first floor) do not help either , but as Holly mentioned the stark white trim needs to go. Also possibly a more simple entrance trim.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 8:57AM
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I agree that the trim should be a buff or "stone" color, similar to the mortar. (On a historical colonial, it's likely the trim would not have been bright white on a house this size (bright white was expensive) but rather a dirtier white which was buff or stone by description. So not only would it look better, it would be a bit more authentic.

I think it's a nice sort of colonial revival house, and the door trim and shutters are pretty typical.

The original shutters on most of the houses in my neighborhood (houses from 1780s -1840s) are Mostly solid panel on the lower and louvered on the upper storys, and the replacements are the same. This was for shade/temperature control and security on the first floor and shade/temperature control and ventilation on the upper floors.

They appear to be hung correctly,too, which is Louver pointed Up when open, although I can't tell for sure.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Same house, slate gray roof, colonial blue trim, colonial off white door. (Okay, it's not my best conversion, but I'm busy this week. If I were doing this for my own house I would persevere the shading, especially on the louvers so you can see what that would really look like.)

Colors taken from

Just a quick idea of the impact redoing the trim could be. Yes, you could do the trims buff stone, but I think if you want pretty, a contrast color could have more effect.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 2:07PM
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I'm going to agree with everyone here that you shouldn't mess with the mortar. It's a subtle, historically appropriate color for the stonework. The mortar on the chimney, on the other hand, that looks a bit stark (and you might want to make sure that it isn't a cementitious repair, because that will cause problems with the stone down the road). FWIW, here in the Philadelphia area, most stone houses have white trim like this. I've definitely seen it in putty and ivory, but it's less common. Additions are generally clapboard. You do see stucco on genuinely old houses, but it's usually over authentic stonework, so that the look is a smooth surface over a bumpy substructure. A rough stucco over a smooth, flat wall (like you see on new construction) would be less consistent with the architecture. Palimpsest is right about the shutters in this region, too.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 2:30PM
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Fori is not pleased

I agree that your mortar is perfect. And that the trim is too bright.

I am not so sure I agree with the others to not do a charcoal roof though. I don't think it would be bad. If you can find other homes with similar stone in your area, check out what works for them (although I'm sure you've already done this!).

For the new stucco, I'd go with a color similar to the siding barely visible in the photo. You know, traditional stucco color. :)

For what it's worth, that is one NOT AT ALL ugly house! It has quite a bit of good-looking to it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 3:19PM
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I like the house. It's a nice traditional look. And there is no way I'd put on any stucco addition. Plain clapboard, sure. But only after I'd gotten an architect involved so it wouldn't scream ADDITION to the whole neighborhood. It's OK if it whispers it, and looks like it belongs. But too many people only think about the space they need and not the impact that the 50x100 family room space has on the exterior.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:25AM
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I like the brown roof that is on there. I have a stone house, and it has a dark charcoal, almost black roof, which was there when we bought it. It looks totally out of place, and someday, a nice dark brown one will replace it.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 4:28PM
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Love the house! Love the historic quality of it. I think a not-too-dark gray roof would look nice, although I wouldn't change it unless it has damage. The brown looks good too. I would like to see a rich medium dark green on the house for shutters and front door. With the rest of the trim cream or vanilla. As for an addition, ditto what GreenDesigns said. It would be easy for an addition to totally screw up the look of the main house. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:09AM
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I think millworkman also made a good point about the door trim. It's beautiful, but it's inconsistent with the rest of the house. That broken pediment belongs with columns, arched windows, and a generally higher style of architecture. The rest of the house has a lovely, simple charm, but it looks dull next to the fancy front entrance. And don't underestimate the power of landscaping. The hedge isn't doing you any favors. Some plantings that add color, texture and definition would give it more of an English country look.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 9:03AM
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The shutters are what make the home ugly. Take them away.

The black and white trim colors are a bad color palate to mix with the earth-tone natural stone exterior.

It is surprising that the OP does not notice how ugly (and crooked) the shutters are.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 12:55PM
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I don't think the shutters are ugly at all (though they do need to be straightened). I would find the house rather bare without them. Of course, I don't really object to the b/w palette either. I always thought it worked pretty well on my own house, which is quite similar to the OP. To each his own, I guess.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 1:54PM
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Scullery, the big difference is that your house is large enough that if you had a door frame the size of his, it would look proportional. His is large for his house, and made far larger by the fact that it is a.) freshly painted white and b.) the same color as the door. resulting in a unrelieved block of white that clashes with his faded and weathered black shutters.

I think that if the door was a different color from the trim, and everything was freshly painted (or equally weathered) it would look a lot better. My prefered solution would be to paint the trim, but you could also paint the door.

Yes, and you might as well straighten the shutters while you are at it :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 3:33PM
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I confess, I've thought several times of painting my front door, but I could never decide if it should be black or red, and so it stayed white. Without the wreath, it's that unrelieved block you describe!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 3:56PM
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I LOVE your house and II would not touch that mortar - it goes nicely with the aged stone look.

I would stay in the brown family for roof color to compliment the aged stone look - not a color that is bright or harsh or crisp.

The door is too "fancy" for the house and all the trim is too "crisp" white...look in the cream/taupe/earth-tone family. Not navy or black.

Shrubs need to go - think subtle English countryside landscaping.

I also agree on clapboard, not stucco, for your addition.

I can see ivy climbing the walls - but won't suggest that as you can never get rid of it and it is not good for your stone.

Looking forward to your transformation.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 2:09PM
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