Q: I’m getting ready to build a new home and I’m terrified of making a wrong decision about the materials on the outside of my home. I’m afraid they won’t look good with one another. I’m becoming paralyzed with fear, as I don’t want to have to do things over. I don’t have an endless supply of money. What can I do to relieve my anxiety?

A: You’re in fine company: Many people second-guess their choices of products and finishes, and they can be easily overwhelmed by the hundreds of decisions that must be made when building a new home.

There are several things you can do to relieve your anxiety and get it right the first time. Let’s address your primary concerns about the exterior of the home.

I’ll never forget going to downtown Cincinnati for a meeting about 20 years ago. I was driving past the headquarters of Procter & Gamble. In the middle of an open area stood a full-scale section of what would become a massive pergola.

The architect had commissioned it to be built to show the decision-makers at P&G exactly what the giant outdoor structure would look like. I wish I had taken a photograph of it, because today, the massive finished structure matches the sample prototype perfectly.

Any builder can do the same thing with a sheet of plywood and a few 2x4s. In fact, a new home is being built near mine right now, and either the architect, the builder or the homeowner has requested an exterior wall test panel be built to see how well the stone wainscoting will match the siding and roof shingles.


When creating a test wall, it’s important to place the panels in the same orientation as the home will be. That will allow sunlight to hit the test panel just as it will when the home is complete.

This method also works for visual and durability tests for products. For example, you may want to know how a certain flooring will hold up in your kitchen. I suggest using a thin piece of plywood or cement board to create a small test section, and then placing a sample of your new flooring over the current floor. Walk on it for three months. See how easy it is to maintain. See how you like the color and pattern.

Paint colors are somewhat easier to deal with. When it comes to exterior paint colors, all you need to do is drive around until you find a house that’s painted with the colors you love. Take lots of photos of the house (with the owner’s permission), then go to a paint store to get small cans of paint that match what you saw.

Paint a small section of your home, or create a test panel. Take a good look — and don’t make the mistake of viewing it from just a few feet away. You need to step back 50 feet or more to see how it will look while driving or walking past. Be sure to look at the colors at different times of day, as they can change a bit as light and temperatures change.

Tim Carter has worked as a home-improvement professional for more than 30 years. To submit a question or to learn more, visit AsktheBuilder.com.