If you leave your poured concrete or cinder block foundation unpainted, you're passing up a major opportunity to add color to your home and landscaping design. Your foundation may serve as the pedestal or staging point for your exterior decor, so the choice of color could add to the curb appeal to your home. At the same time, the appropriate paint also protects your foundation from surface cracks, spalling and other premature decay.
Whites and Grays
Selecting a flat white paint as the foundation color adds extra contrast and snap to the colors used on your home's siding and trim. At the same time, the white wall provides a bright backdrop that helps a perennial flower garden or ivy ground cover stand out.
A light- to medium-gray paint contributes softer contrast to dark-green shrubbery. If your home is bounded by a pavement walkway, a darker gray paint establishes the sidewalk's boundary, especially if it is complemented by ground-level lighting at night.
Analogous colors belong to the same color family but vary in saturation or brightness. The foundation of a brownstone home would look monotonous if it was painted in a perfectly matched dark brown, but a darker brown would highlight the many tones within the aged brick veneer.
In like fashion, you could complement redwood siding with foundation painted in a darker weathered barn-wood shade. It is usually a mistake to paint your foundation a bright color, but using a smoky version of a light-green or powder-blue wall on the foundation can draw attention up to the siding.
Your foundation can play the same role in your color scheme as shutters, window frames and the front door. Professional designers often refer to the color wheel when balancing these design elements. A triad scheme helps decorators find complementary colors that supply subtle contrast to the dominant hue of the wall itself.
For example, with wheat-colored siding, opt for teal shutters and a smoky version of that same teal -- or, alternately, a much lighter variation of the teal applied to the shutters -- on the foundation.
Most paints eventually fade when exposed to the bleaching ultraviolet rays of the sun, and that's true whether the coating is oil-based or water-based. But silicate mineral paints use inorganic pigments that are UV-resistant and indefinitely maintain their original color. The only downside to mineral paints is they are only practical for cementitious surfaces, and they are available in a much smaller color palette.
Before painting, it is important to apply block filler to any holes or small cracks to minimize the risk of damage to your foundation from winter ice expansion.
Mike Matthews is editor of Green Building Product News, a national publication that covers sustainable innovations in building and remodeling, and he has spoken at national conferences on green building. He has also served as founding editor of "Paint Dealer" magazine.