How to Choose a Roof Colour

I got a new roof on my house last week, and I thought I would share some of what I learned during the process of choosing the colour for my new shingles.

As a Winnipeg interior decorator and colour consultant, I know very well that many of us want to get a great look without spending a fortune. Although there are many spectacular roofing options available for those with a higher budget, a modest budget doesn’t doom you to an ugly house. In this post I’m talking about how to choose a fairly standard tab or architectural shingle that will look beautiful and harmonious with the existing elements of your home.

Narrow down your options

Rob from Great Plains Roofing and Renovations in Winnipeg brought me brochures from two companies, and we discussed which line from each company fell into my price range. This narrowed my initial options down around a dozen colours from each line. There is no point in agonizing over choices that are out of your desired price range.

Consider the fixed elements and eliminate the obvious

Now I had to look at the things that weren’t changing on my house to help whittle my options down further. In my case, this was the existing field colour (Benjamin Moore Woodstock Tan) and a brick façade with shades of cream, ochre, beige, peach and even a bit of black. I have to paint my front door and trim next spring, so I had some flexibility there.

This meant I could drop at least four options without even thinking — red, green, blue and white shingles weren’t right for this house. I also eliminated aged redwood because it was too red and didn’t relate to any of my fixed elements, and golden cedar because it was too similar to the existing field colour, and I wanted to bring in some contrast. Whew! So there we are with maybe six or seven options left.

Get the largest shingle samples you can lay your hands on

Up to this point, the brochure really gave me all the information I needed to make my decisions, and they happened pretty quickly. Now it was time to start looking at actual samples of the remaining brown, gray and black shingles.

Rob brought me sample boards for a few of the options we thought would work best. Sample boards start to give you a better sense of what a larger section of the shingle will actually look like, and they make it easy to create mock-ups that let you see all of your finishes together. Beware, though — this is a good starting point, but it is not enough.

While there is no brown in the actual brick, this deep brown shingle would have been a lovely, earthy option. Shown here with proposed creamy trim and BM Buttered Yam (small chip) as a suggested front door colour. Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

While there is no brown in the brick, this deep brown shingle would have been a lovely, earthy option. Shown here with proposed creamy trim and BM Buttered Yam (small chip) as a suggested front door colour. Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

See the shingles in real-life settings

NEVER make your final choice based on what you see on the sample boards or (worse yet) the tiny samples provided by some building centres. There is a lot of colour variation within each tab on a sheet of shingles, and the coloured flecks you see up close can change significantly when the shingles are covering a large area, up high and bathed in sunlight.

Get your roofer to give you addresses of homes where they have installed the shingles you are considering. You have to go out and see them in real life.

As much as this was my favourite shingle, I didn't choose it after seeing it IRL. (See how I put a white canvas behind so I wasn't distracted by my current door and trim colours?) Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

As much as this was my favourite shingle, I didn’t choose it after seeing it IRL. (See how I put a white canvas behind so I wasn’t distracted by my current door and trim colours?) Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

I loved this mock-up with the Harvard Slate shingle — but once I saw it on a few houses, I realized that it was wrong for my house. The blue was just too overpowering. There is no point in picking a roof that you love but your house hates.

This is why I kept an open mind to brown shingles, even though I started out thinking that I wanted something in a deep gray or soft black. Many houses around Winnipeg with similar brick have brown roofs, and some of them look quite nice. Frankly, sometimes you have to choose colours that you may not like in their own right, but that work perfectly in context to make your home look harmonious and beautiful.

Look at the neighbours

If possible, it is always nice to have your house work harmoniously with the houses around you. Both of my neighbours’ houses have very light gray roofs. One house is white with some dark gray siding; the other is a blue painted stucco that I think they might have thought was gray when they chose it. In any case, while a brown roof on my house wouldn’t exactly clash, bringing in grayer tones would be a bit more cohesive with the homes on either side.

Look inside your house for clues

I prefer to see a connection between what’s happening outside your home and inside. Looking to the interior of my house and thinking about the direction it is moving in helped me to make the final choice between a couple of viable options.

Option 1 was a deep, fairly flat brown. Although there is no brown in my brick, it worked well with the creamy shades. It would have created a nice warm, cohesive look. Nothing wrong with it at all.

Option 2 was a dual black that related to the gray and blue tones of the houses on either side of me and picked up the hits of black in my brick, as well as (bonus) working with my existing black railing, mailbox and house numbers.

Lately I’ve been adding more black and white to my interior decor. My kitchen has off white cabinets with black counter tops, and I’ve been phasing out and tweaking the existing earth tones in the adjoining rooms.

I created this rough mock up to help me see what the dual black shingle would look like with existing finishes and future paint choices. Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

I created this mock-up to help me see what the dual black shingle would look like with existing finishes and future paint choices. Photo and mock-up: Carol Standil

So, I chose option 2 — the dual black architectural shingle. I love the way it connects the exterior with the interior of my house. Now it needs the new colours for the trim and front door to pull it all together. I’m not posting photos until that’s done in the spring!

I want to thank Rob and the guys from Great Plains Roofing and Renovations for a great roofing experience. Rob was very patient and accommodating as I weighed my options, and the crew was very tidy and efficient. My new roof looks great!

If you need help choosing colours or finishes to create a beautiful, cohesive look inside or outside your home, book a consult with me! (And yes, I can do mock-ups like this for you!)

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