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Should You Paint Your New Construction Home?

Read through to the end of this post for my six best white paints that I use often.

Paint is one of those things that seems to have homeowners pretty stumped. I think it is because painting your home is one of those things if you get wrong, you can't really hide it. Paint covers a lot of the surface of your home's interior and exterior, so it will obviously impact your decor.

Buying or building a new home, you would think would eliminate the paint stress, but it can actually be the very thing that causes it. Among the many decisions that a new homeowner has to make during construction, choosing paint colors can be the most difficult.

I know this because I get asked a lot, plus the Google search terms "should I paint my new construction home?" is one of the most frequent ones that leads people to our website. It goes beyond just choosing colors. The quality, finish and how colors transition from room to room matter.

The answer to the should I paint question depends.

Let me explain.

Here in Katy, Texas where I live and operate my design business, most of my clients are new construction clients. They are typically building a home through a production builder or a semi-custom builder. A smaller percentage are using a fully custom home builder.

The type of builder you are using for your new build will often impact whether you need to paint your home once you move in.

I wrote extensively about what builders don't want you to know about the paints they use in your home in THIS POST. Be sure to read it for some of the back story

Let's start with a fully custom builder.

The fully custom builder usually builds just a few higher end and very custom homes each year. Typically when you hire a fully custom builder, you own a piece of land and you possibly have an architect draw up the custom home plans for you, or you hire a builder who also has a relationship with an architect to draw up the plans. This means that you can pretty much build whatever home you desire.

Going this route will cost much more since everything is being built custom for you. There is no standard formula that the builder is using to build it to control their costs.

As part of that customization of your home, you get to choose all the materials and finishes - usually from whatever source you want to. You also get to choose the paint color palette and finishes. At the price point of custom homes, you are usually working with a design professional - whether one hired by the builder or by you. But you will likely have professional guidance when choosing the right color and finishes for your home before it's built.

Semi-custom builders are typically builders that offer both production builds (in subdivisions) as well as new builds on the customer's own lot. They offer some customization either from within their own curated materials offerings or they allow the customer to bring their own sources in which will usually be a higher price.

With semi-custom builders they will basically allow you to customize your home up to a certain degree. The builder usually has a design center or they partner with a company that provides the design gallery type service where you go to choose your materials and finishes. Certain features that they don't offer, they may allow you to bring in your own source.

Basically you may be allowed to go outside of their building formula, but you will likely have to pay much more for that. Choosing paint colors and finishes is usually one of those upgrades.

Then there is the production builder.

The production builder builds hundreds of homes per year in several different price points typically. While the higher price points will have more included upgrades than the lower price point homes (which you would pay extra for), you will still find that their material sections is limited.

This is because they have a strict formula that they use to be able to build a lot of houses very quickly and remain profitable.

In order for them to be able to build fast and on budget, they must stick to this formula which includes the suppliers, materials and methods that they use.

Since this post is about paint - let's talk about what that formula looks like for a production builder.

If you ever built a new home and asked the builder to allow you to paint the ceiling white and the walls another color, and you hear no, there is a reason for that. I covered this in the blog post I linked to above, but to repeat it here - It is much easier and less costly for a builder to hire the same team of painters to go in and spray the interior paint on both walls and ceilings. They simply cover everything and spray away. This means they work much much faster, which means they can produce more for less.

They sometimes use paints with thinner consistency. Thinner paints could mean a lower quality. In fact if you check with any popular paint brand, you will see that they have a "builder grade" formula, which is often the cheapest you can buy.

Builder grade paint, which a lot of production builders use, is actually meant to simply hand you a finished home, with paint on the walls along with the keys come closing day. They don't really take into account your daily life and needs. The paint will not hold up to heavy wear and tear.

Builders don't tell you this, although some will allow you to upgrade to a more durable formula, and even painting the ceiling a different color from the walls.

A lot of homeowners don't realize that they are expected to paint their home before moving in depending on their lifestyle.

If you have kids and pets, it is best to paint. This means a significant expense upfront. The builder grade paint is not meant to be scrubbable or even wipeable. You will find that the paint will come off. The builder usually leaves extra paint int he garage or attic, which may seem like a good thing, but the fact is that if you go to touchup, you will often see the paint difference, even if it is from the exact same can.

Another reason why you don't want the builder grade paint on the walls when you decorate your home is the look of the walls. As a designer, I can always tell the difference when a fully decorated room has builder grade paint on the walls. The room feels dull and the walls tend to lack depth. The paint has no sheen at all to it, and just looks unfinished.

I am not suggesting that you paint your walls really shiny, that is also a no-no, unless you are going for the lacquered look. You want a subtle hint of sheen that will reflect the light in the room nicely. An eggshell or high quality matte finish can accomplish this.

One more thing I want to mention is that if you are building and you are able to request smooth walls, or at least not the heavy "knock-down" texture - do it! Production builders will insist on a texture (usually the heavy knock down texture), because it hides imperfections in the sheet rock application very well. It is also the same reason why they use the really flat paint finish. Go smooth if you can, but if you have to have the walls textured, ask for something very subtle like an "orange peel" pattern.

Image Via Wix Gallery

I would say that the best time to paint is before you move in. Of course that could mean a significant cost upfront.

I would recommend that you compare the cost for painting after market or upgrading through your builder to see what might work out better for you in terms of cost. Painting a whole house could range from $5 to over $7 per square foot.

If you decide to paint after market, then there are things you should know about the right paint formula to use. You obviously want to be able to scrub dirt and grime without rubbing off the paint. The more familiar paint brands like Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and Behr, all have several levels of paint. You don't have to go with the top of the line, but you definitely want to get a superior formula and the right finish for the right application.

Behr paints seem to be a great value for the money. The Marquee formula seems to be one coat application with primer included. Their website information on Behr Marquee formula is that it is:

Exceptional Hide and Advanced Stain-Blocking

One-Coat Color Guarantee

Advanced Paint & Primer Formula

Superior Durability

I would recommend getting some professional advice from a good painter.

Speaking of professional advice, it would also be wise to bring in an interior designer for a color consultation before choosing your colors. Especially if you are moving into a brand new space that has no furniture.

Designers typically choose paint colors later on in the design process - after all the furniture, rugs, textiles have been selected, so the color is based on the furnishings. If you have a completely blank slate, you may have to go with neutrals.

When I say neutral, I am not just referring to white, gray and beige. Every color; green, red, blue, orange, yellow, purple all have a neutral shade. So you can bring in some color even if you don't have furniture yet.

For example, you love the color blue but afraid to commit to a shade of it before you select furniture, you can build a palette of colors including blues, and decide how you will apply that palette throughout your home.

A home paint palette is about 3-6 colors that flow together that you can apply in all the rooms of your home.

For example:

Color 1 in a flat finish for all ceilings. This would typically be a white

Color 2 in a satin finish for all trim and doors. This could be the same color as color 1 but a different finish. That is a very common approach.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to save money on this project, you may be able to skip painting the trims and doors.

Color 3 in an eggshell finish could be rooms that are open to each other on the lower level. I would keep this color in a light neutral. This would be rooms like the foyer, living room, kitchen, breakfast area

Color 4 in an eggshell finish could be the accent paint color that could be used in certain rooms in the main areas that are closed off or somewhat separate from the rest of the areas. Rooms like the dining room and study. This is where a deep blue could make sense - maybe a navy or indigo shade of blue. I would do a matte finish for deeper colors.

Color 5 could be used on the upper landing areas that are visible to the lower level. It could be another light neutral that complements the light neutral for the lower level. Maybe one to two shades darker or the same shade of the color on a nearby color card.

On color cards, colors are usually arranged a certain way, and colors in close proximity are usually related and can be used together. Not always, but a good rule of thumb.

Paint Color Swatch Image Via Wix

Color 6......and really other colors if you like, could be used in bedrooms

Whatever you do, do not use the same color throughout your entire home. This is just what the builder does.

A quick color palette I pulled together from this post from Behr Marquee's lineup of color.

This color palette above I could see in a whole house. There is some color but still fairly neutral. So if you have to choose your paint colors before you furnish your home, this would be a great palette to explore.

The Cameo White could be ceilings and trim. The Platinum could be for bathrooms. The Cotton Grey for open areas. the NYPD could be for the study. The Bermuda Grass could be the dining room and the Carbon could be for the master bedroom.

Of course you could add some other colors for kids' bedrooms. In kids rooms, you can go as colorful and imaginative as you want. I love to get them involved in choosing the paint colors for their rooms.

You may also want to include some wallpaper. Click THIS LINK to see my curated collection of wallpaper on Etsy. Installing wallpaper means that the walls must be specially prepped and primed

Another great tip for you is, if you do want much more color than the above palette I suggested, you could get a head start on finding your "inspiration piece" from where you will pull all your color. An inspiration piece is a textile, rug or artwork that possibly has a pattern and several colors that you can pull colors from for your wall colors.

I would say to start with a pillow as that is a small item that is easy to bring along with you to the paint store to choose your colors, or take it to the house while it's under construction to compare to the finishes. This way you can have your paint colors selected and ready to go as soon as you close.

You can check out my curated collection of pillow on Etsy for some inspiration, by clicking THIS LINK

Take these pillows above. There are is a lot of color inspiration here that could be applied as paint colors throughout your home. Below are three from Farrow and Ball

If you are in the process of building a new home, please reach out to us for help. If you decide to go it alone, be sure to ask your builder what paints they use. You specifically want to know the brand, the formula and the finishes. I would even go so far as doing a rub test at some point before closing, just so you are sure the paint is scrubbable.

If you have to move into your home but plan to paint, it is still very possible. I work with an amazing team of painters who will protect your belongings while they paint your home. Reach out for a referral if you are local to Houston.

Your brand new home is an accomplishment and you deserve to enjoy it. Don't be stressed out by paint, when help is out there.

And as promised, here are my 6 favorite whites by Benjamin Moore.

Please pin this graphic to Pinterest for easy reference

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we are paid a small commission from the vendor as a thank you, at no extra cost to you.

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration,


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