As exciting as it is, simply getting started on an exterior makeover can be the hardest part.

Simplify your exterior makeover project








We’ve created these five easy steps to help you feel fully prepared to tackle any project:

  1. Define your objectives and budget
  2. Decide what elements provide you the most payback
  3. Research your inspirations
  4. Decide what you can do yourself and what your contractor will do
  5. Define what it takes to get started

No matter the size of your project, your success will be determined by the information you gather first. So before you hammer your first nail or write your first check, make sure you’re clear on what outcomes you expect, how much it will cost and how you plan to get there.


Early on, don’t just think about the nuts and bolts of what will go into your project. You’ll need professionals and materials and a carefully planned budget. But first think about the bigger picture—what do you actually hope to accomplish? Do you want to give your home a face lift and add some of your own personal style? Or are you doing some necessary updating? Or just adding as much curb appeal as you can for your budget to angle for a future buyer?


Planning to put your home on the market?

Consider the elements that attract prospective buyers—and the ones that could drive them away. Pay close attention to the details. Updating smaller pieces of your exterior like gutter, trim, soffit and fascia can communicate a well-maintained home to prospective buyers. Minor updates such as new shutters in a color that compliments your siding or new, energy efficient windows can make a big difference from the curb.


Planning to stay put for a few years?

If you’re not planning a move in the next several years anytime soon, think about the elements of your exterior that you most want to update. For example, replacing your exterior with vinyl siding with vinyl will not only add beauty and curb appeal, but – you’ll be able to also reap the benefits of low -maintenance and improved energy efficiency for years to come. Maybe you’d like to add a patio for cookouts, or a big bay window for the perfect reading nook. Whatever you choose to work on, your home will not only be more valuable, it will be more enjoyable for you and your family.


A color change can be just the face lift your home needs to make it more appealing to you, and to any future buyers. You can achieve this simply with a new coat of paint. But if your exterior is worn maybe a total siding replacement is in order. Your personal taste is a major factor, but there are other things to consider. Love the idea of a bright, southwestern color scheme, but it would look odd among the Tudor-style homes on your block?Or perhaps you’re drawn to the eco-inspired “natural” palettes that are popular today, but your aging Victorian home yearns for something a little more Old World. Check with your neighborhood association guidelines, look at magazines, and consider colors that will compliment your surroundings as well as your home’s architectural style.


Replacing exterior cladding may be the best option if you’re looking for more than a cosmetic treatment for your exterior. This is a great time to not just update your home’s look, but to add energy efficiency and reduce your future maintenance commitment too.

Wood is the traditional choice for home exteriors, and initially it’s a low cost option. But over time, wood requires frequent repainting and eventually replacement because of deterioration from water and pests. Aluminum, steel and vinyl cladding options provide a low maintenance alternative, and can even improve your home’s energy efficiency with insulated options. And if you want the traditional look of wood without the maintenance, look into vinyl siding with wood grain finishes and even shake and “cedar” shingles. You can also find stone veneer products with the realistic look of stone at a much lower price, and they blend beautifully with vinyl siding.


Add accents to significantly improve your home’s appearance without undertaking a full-on remodel. Updating your exterior may be as simple as replacing some trim, adding a new porch rail, or installing new shutters and window boxes.


Make a few small changes.


If you want more than a new paint job but aren’t ready for a total overhaul, try picking a few key details you’d like to change. Even a small remodel can make a major difference in your home’s curb appeal.


Adding a fake or functional dormer can make a modest home look spacious and interesting. A floating or fake dormer will improve your home aesthetically without adding any real space. A functional dormer turns an unused, dark attic into a well-lit extra room. Look at your budget and decide which option suits your home.



Build or update your front porch to set a new tone for your entry. Consider the style of your home. Is it sleek and sophisticated or relaxed with country charm? Once you’ve determined the style, then you can begin researching the materials needed to create this look and feel. If you’re building from scratch, look around online for inspiration. You can even find ideas driving by other homes. 


Pay close attention to overhangs, columns, doors, porticos, railings, trim, and fixtures.







A complete remodel can be a daunting undertaking, but it’s the best way short of new construction to create a home just the way you want it. Gather some inspiration, decide on a rough budget, then sit down with a professional who can help you decide just how to accomplish your vision.


The right professional can help you choose the elements you want and get the most out of your budget. Are you looking for new exterior siding, energy efficient windows? What about expanding the front porch and adding railing or columns? Does your garage or entryway need to be replaced? How about the trim? Now’s the time to get all your options on the table so you can make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.


Architectural style is a factor to consider when envisioning your project. The style and appearance of your home can be changed, but it takes a professional with a good sense of your home’s “bones” to accomplish this without overwhelming the structure. New design elements like faux stone, arched windows, gables and dormers can be added to give your home an updated look, but too many details can feel incongruous with the surroundings and overall structure—a sure sign of a bad remodel. Make sure you’re working with a professional who takes a measured approach and can steer your vision in the right direction.











Deciding what’s important to you is the best place to begin when outlining your project. You’re not just after new siding and trim, after all, you want a cohesive package that really adds something to the value of your home. It makes sense to think about which exterior projects work together, and which add the most to your home’s resale value.

Choose the best investment

Remodeling your home is a great way to create a space your family can enjoy now, and that will pay you back with an improved resale value. But some investments have greater returns than others, and home remodeling projects are no exception. Some projects can earn you tax savings, reduced energy bills, and, of course, increase the value of your home when it comes time to sell. Look closely at Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report for 2010-2011, and consider the cost of your project versus the money you can expect to recoup



Look into your eco-friendly options



Sustainable options are the most effective way to lower your heating and cooling bill and add to your home’s worth--protecting its exterior for years to come. When considering “going green”, ask yourself the following questions: how important is my home’s energy efficiency? Am I willing to pay more now to enjoy savings over time? Am I interested in protecting the environment and reducing my carbon footprint?

If you decide sustainability is important to you, vinyl siding is a great option. Since it never requires paint it produces no VOC emissions. And when insulated, it can drastically reduces energy costs. It requires less packaging than other products, creates less construction site waste, and can be composed of recycled content. 

When making your selections, check for the NAHB Research Center Green Approved mark, or Green Circle Certified seal. 






If “homework” sounds like a chore then think of this step as where you indulge your creative genius instead.  You have made your decisions about what is important and set your budget…now you get to “shop” your choices.

  • Look through magazines to get ideas
  • Go online and review energy-saving products and environmentally friendly manufacturers
  • Include your friends and family to get suggestions
  • Drive neighborhoods you like or watch DIY and home improvement programs







  • When you find what you like; cut it out, print it, snap a photo, write it down or do all 4 and keep your ideas in your project binder.
  • Take notes on colors, textures, fixtures and other large and small details that catch your attention
  • Investigate your state, city or county’s tax incentives for improvements utilizing environmentally friendly or energy-saving products
  • Contact your bank or various mortgage lenders to see if you qualify for competitive home improvement or home equity loan rate
  • Research online or ask lenders and CPA’s to find financial incentives based on home improvements utilizing environmentally friendly or energy-saving products
  • Create an inspiration board from your notes/photos so you can add and adjust your design as new items inspire you




Unless you have a lot of building and remodeling experience, tackling a major project alone may cause you to get in too deep. It’s a good idea to consider every aspect of the project before starting work on it yourself—and most homeowners decide hiring a professional for at least some part of a major remodel makes the most sense in the long run.

Before beginning your DIY, ask yourself if you have the necessary skills to complete your project. You’ll also want to consider how long the project will take you, if you can devote adequate time to completing it, and how an ongoing project disrupting your schedule can affect other family members. Your idea of a reasonable timetable may not be the same as your spouse’s. 


 If you’re considering DIY, you may want to take theDIY Quiz offered by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) before you begin.





Partnering with the right professional is the best way to keep your project on track and running smoothly. The right contractor can make all the difference in how satisfied you are with the results for years to come. Ask family and friends who’ve had positive remodeling experiences for referrals. 

Look online on manufacturer’s websites for client reviews, information from the Better Business Bureau, and information about licensing and insurance. Check sites like Angie’s List for top-rated contractors with a history of happy customers.


Make sure you have selected the right builder or contractor by following the guidelines found in Hiring: the right builder or contractor


Download a PDF of the Contractor Phone Interview Questions




Finalize the designs

Take one last look at what you have planned. Make sure your budget reflects any changes you made along the way, as well as current material costs. You may also want to check to make sure the products you want are still in stock.

Get permission

Construction, especially structural changes, usually requires legal permits. Make sure you have them and fully understand local building codes and safety regulations. If you live in a historic area, there may be additional approval you’ll need to secure. Make sure your general contractors have the correct permits before you begin. Check again with your HOA and remember that getting permission is your responsibility.

Plan your project

Your plan should cover monitoring progress, managing contractor’s schedules and manpower, tracking spending against your budget, ordering and receiving materials, and everything in-between. Talk to friends and neighbors about for tips on managing an ongoing project, or look online for advice.

Expect the unexpected

Come up with a “plan B” for all the inevitable interruptions any project is sure to face. Things like bad weather, faulty equipment, materials running out of stock or failures to communicate are sure to delay your project now and again, but you don’t have to let them derail your attitude. When things go awry, plan to deal with the situation and then take some time off to blow off steam. A day trip with the family can be just the ticket to getting back in the mood to tackle your project.

Enjoy the experience

Make sure you take the time to document the project as it unfolds. You’ll want the pictures and video to share with family and friends, and they can become a great record of your home’s history.