Thinking of Painting Your Foundation or Retaining Walls?

Aug 15, 2014Do It Yourself, Exterior Painting

If given the chance, I’m going to try to talk you out of it. Not that a painter wouldn’t want the business but some things just trump that desire to make another buck.

Here’s how the conversation between you and me might go:

“But it’s so ugly,” you will say, to which I will reply, “Yeah, it will be even uglier in 5 years when the paint starts peeling.”

Here’s the thing: constant moisture and paint are incompatible. Dirt is always wet and foundations are always in dirt. Connect the dots and you can see why concrete foundations are better left alone.

Foundations are made to raise the rest of the house above the dirt and moisture. That bottom edge where the cement meets the earth is going to start peeling before anything else on the house needs to be re-painted. Guaranteed.

Nobody looks at a nice house with a concrete foundation and says, “That house is ugly, they should have painted the foundation.”  Everyone looks at a foundation for what it is: the thing that holds up a beautiful house. Does anyone paint the asphalt driveway leading up to a mansion? It’s ugly, but nobody cares. It’s a driveway. The same principle applies to foundations.

You will get painters who think they are doing you a favor by including painting the foundation in their bid. Please Just don’t listen to them.

You might think I don’t like concrete either but I was just looking at it from your perspective. I actually like the look of concrete. Some higher-end homes will use it as an architectural element INSIDE their homes to give the interior a more earthy look, especially in designs that use floor-to-ceiling windows and blur the distinction between indoors and outdoors. But if that’s not your cup of tea that’s understandable.

As a landscaping material concrete works well because it is low maintenance – if you keep the paint off of it. It’s the perfect neutral color that goes with anything and as a backdrop for your landscaping there isn’t anything that highlights your landscaping better than concrete. Take a look at the use of concrete in landscaping by Robert Leeper Landscapes.

Look at your foundation in a different way: as a neutral backdrop for your landscaping. Don’t have landscaping next to your foundation? Plant a few bushes and I think you’ll agree it will look better than painting the foundation, no?

By the way, install a drip line for your landscaping next to your house rather than try to water it with sprinklers. You want to keep water off your house and if you rely on sprinklers that are closer to your house than three feet you are asking for trouble. Daily moisture on your siding is a sure way to end up having to have it replaced, especially if your cable guy attaches cable TV, satellite dish, telephone, or internet wires to your siding. Don’t let them do it!

I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I’ve seen many painted foundations but none that I thought looked better than bare concrete.  Besides, painting foundations creates a maintenance headache. It just isn’t worth it.

What If the Foundation has Already been Painted?

If you or the previous owner has already gone down that road I’d just let nature do its thing and let it flake off. I know the old color won’t match the new color of your house if you change colors and it will look bad for several years but it might be worth it in the end. Also, a very aggressive pressure washing will speed up the process.

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If so,

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