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Seven rules for winning exteriors

  • Story Highlights
  • Choose colors in line with your neighbors' homes
  • Mature trees add value; trim them if necessary
  • Pay attention to detail and fix the small things
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By Alex Jacobs
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This Old House

(This Old House) -- Bump up your curb appeal with these surefire tips


The homeowners replaced plain, white garage doors with a redwood carriage-house pair. The new doors unite the look of the honey-hued rafter tails and entry door.

1. Beware of grand gestures: Exterior improvements should be in keeping with the scale and proportion of your house and fit in with the neighborhood. So as lovely as a formal colonnade might look on the front of your boxy Colonial Revival, it may seem over the top when viewed in context with the simple saltbox next door.

2. Don't stand out like a sore thumb: When picking paint colors, it's best to match the intensity of your neighbors' shades. If pale blues are the norm, try a creamy yellow. Contrast that with a more saturated accent color for shutters and doors, and a lighter one for windows and trim.

3. Be a tree hugger: If an old maple is obscuring the front of your home, don't cut it down. Hire an arborist to trim it instead. Eighty-three percent of Realtors say that mature trees enhance the value of a home. This Old House: Using trees to save energy

4. Plant for all seasons: Your landscape should be eye-catching year-round, even in the dead of winter. So choose a mix of plants to provide four seasons of interest -- spring and summer flowers, bright fall foliage, and colorful berries or showy bark in winter. This Old House: Drought resistant annuals

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5. You can have too much of a good thing: Over-improving your facade can mean recouping less of the cost when it comes time to sell. Gauge how much to spend on renovations by checking to see what gussied-up homes are going for in your community, and stay under their bar.

6. Do sweat the small stuff: New house numbers, a special light fixture, and potted plants are inexpensive and go a long way toward dressing up an entry. This Old House: Plans for 10 container gardens

7. Preservation pays: Before you apply stucco over those weathered clapboards for a clean, low-maintenance look, consider that restoring architectural details may offer more bang from your renovation dollar. In Memphis, for example, the value of homes in historic districts -- where preservation is required -- has risen up to 23 percent higher than in nonhistoric areas. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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