The Rule of Three: How to Choose Finishes for Your Home

With so many exterior building products readily available, it can be tempting to use as many as possible. It’s understandable, especially if you’ve had a house that was a single material, to want to add as much character as possible.

But before you go crazy, remember the rule of three; limit your exterior cladding choices to three materials. This prevents your home from becoming a patchwork quilt.

Here are a couple of pointers on how to choose finishes for your home.

First: Think about the main body material.

That’s typically what you will see the most of on your home – not only the front, but also on the sides and rear of your home. If your home is constructed of concrete block (CMU) your main body material is most likely stucco – at least on the first floor. If your home is a frame construction, the main body is most likely siding. Perhaps the sides and rear of your home are brick, but you want to add some variety to your front. Once you know your home’s main body material, you can start adding other materials that complement it (“Wow stucco, you look great today!” – no, not that kind of compliment).

Second: Choose materials based on the style of your home

Craftsman 2

Let the architectural style of the home be your guide when selecting complementary materials. If you have a Craftsman style home, you might consider adding shingles to the front elevation. Your third material could be either brick or stone – either as a wainscot or on the base of columns. Craftsman is a fairly flexible style that can use a main body of either stucco, siding, or brick.

Tuscan 1

Two styles that work great with stucco are Tuscan and French Country. If a Tuscan style is more to your liking, apply generous areas of stone to your home. Your third material could be brick headers over your windows – easily accomplished with cultured brick and stone. French Country looks great with a second body material of stone, but using a less rugged and more refined variety of stone than with Tuscan. The third material might consist of board and batten in a gable – reinforcing the vertical character of this style.

Folk Victorian 1

If your main body is siding, Folk Victorian and Low Country are two styles you might want to consider. Folk Victorian looks great when board and batten siding is applied to the gables with brick wainscot on the foundation. Low Country works best using all-horizontal siding with brick at the foundation. And if your main body is brick, you should consider English Country with stone accents and shakes or Georgian with siding or stucco in the gables. Keep in mind that three is the maximum number of materials and not the minimum. You don’t have to feel obligated to add one to get to three.

Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an existing one, be creative! Keep in mind some basic fundamentals, such as the rule of three, and you will be well on your way to a timeless design.