Exterior Finishing: A Comprehensive Guide to the Final Stages of Building a House

 Learn how to finish your new home's exterior with accuracy and reliability.

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Building a house is an exciting journey that involves several stages. From pouring the foundation to framing, plumbing, and electrical installation, there are numerous stages to take before a new home is complete. One of the final and most crucial stages of building a house is the exterior finishing, which involves protecting and beautifying the exterior with roofing, siding, windows, doors, painting or staining, landscaping, driveways, and walkways. In this guide, we will walk you through each of these steps, providing comprehensive and accurate information to ensure that your new home's exterior looks stunning and stands the test of time.


 The first step in exterior finishing is to install the roofing. This includes shingles, metal roofing, or other roofing materials.

Roofing is one of the most important aspects of the exterior finishing process, as it protects the interior of the house from weather elements such as rain, wind, and snow. When it comes to roofing, there are several options to choose from, including asphalt shingles, metal roofing, clay tiles, and wood shakes. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to consider factors such as cost, durability, and style when making a choice.

Once you have selected a roofing material, the installation process begins. The first step is to prepare the roof deck by installing a layer of underlayment to protect the roof from water damage. After the underlayment is installed, the roofing material is laid out and secured to the roof deck with nails or screws. Finally, the edges of the roof are finished with flashing to prevent water from seeping in.

Scaffolding for exterior home decoration
By vista.com


Once the roof is complete, the siding is installed. This includes vinyl, wood, or fiber cement siding, as well as stucco or stone veneer.

Siding is another critical aspect of exterior finishing, as it not only adds beauty to the home but also serves as a protective barrier against the elements. There are several options for siding, including vinyl, wood, fiber cement, stucco, and stone veneer. Each material has its own pros and cons, so it's important to choose the one that suits your needs and budget.

The installation process for siding varies depending on the material, but generally involves attaching the siding panels or boards to the exterior of the home. The siding is then trimmed to fit around windows, doors, and other openings, and finished with corner pieces and other decorative elements.

Windows and Doors

 After the siding is installed, windows and exterior doors are added. This includes choosing energy-efficient windows, and adding storm doors and screens.

Windows and doors are not only functional but also play a crucial role in the home's aesthetic appeal. When choosing windows and doors, consider factors such as energy efficiency, durability, and style. There are various types of windows and doors to choose from, including double-hung, casement, sliding, and bay windows, as well as French, sliding, and storm doors.

The installation process for windows and doors involves measuring and cutting the openings, securing the frames, and sealing them to prevent air and water infiltration. After the windows and doors are installed, storm doors and screens can be added for added protection and ventilation.

Trim and Molding

 After the windows and doors are installed, trim and molding are added around them to give the exterior a finished look.

Trim and molding are decorative elements that help frame the windows and doors and provide a finished look to the exterior of the home. These elements can be made from various materials, such as wood, PVC, or composite. They can be installed in various styles and sizes, depending on the design and architectural style of the home. The trim and molding are cut to fit around the windows and doors and are installed using nails or screws. They are then finished with caulking and paint to ensure a seamless look.

Painting or Staining

 Once the exterior is complete, it is painted or stained to protect the wood and enhance its appearance.

Painting or staining the exterior of a home not only adds curb appeal but also protects the wood from weather damage and rot. The choice between paint or stain depends on personal preference and the type of wood used for the exterior. Paint offers more color options and provides a more uniform look, while stain highlights the natural beauty of the wood and requires less maintenance.

Before painting or staining, the exterior must be thoroughly cleaned and prepared. Any loose or flaking paint or stain must be removed, and the surface must be sanded and primed if necessary. The paint or stain is then applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer, and allowed to dry and cure for the recommended time.


 After the exterior finishing is complete, the landscaping is added. This includes planting trees, shrubs, and flowers, as well as adding outdoor lighting and irrigation systems.

Landscaping is the final step in exterior finishing, and it involves adding plants, trees, and other outdoor decor to enhance the home's curb appeal. Before beginning the landscaping, it's important to plan out the layout and design, taking into consideration factors such as sunlight, soil type, and drainage.

The landscaping process involves preparing the soil, planting trees, shrubs, and flowers, and adding decorative elements such as rocks, mulch, and outdoor lighting. An irrigation system can also be installed to ensure that the plants receive the right amount of water.

Driveway and Walkways

The final step in exterior finishing is to install the driveway and walkways. This includes choosing materials such as asphalt, concrete, pavers, or gravel.

The driveway and walkways are the final touches in exterior finishing, and they play a significant role in the home's curb appeal and functionality. There are several materials to choose from when it comes to driveways and walkways, including asphalt, concrete, pavers, or gravel. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to consider factors such as durability, cost, and maintenance when making a choice.

The installation process for driveways and walkways involves preparing the ground, laying out the material, and compacting it to ensure a level surface. The edges are finished with curbs or other decorative elements, and the surface is sealed or finished with a topcoat.

Final Inspection

 After the exterior finishing is complete, a final inspection is conducted to ensure that the house meets building codes and regulations.

The final inspection is a crucial step in the exterior finishing process, as it ensures that the home is safe, structurally sound, and up to code. A building inspector will conduct a thorough inspection of the exterior, looking for any issues or deficiencies that need to be addressed.

During the inspection, the inspector will check the roofing, siding, windows, doors, trim, and landscaping to ensure that they are installed correctly and meet the building codes and regulations. Any issues or deficiencies will need to be addressed before the home can be considered complete.


  1. Diversity in Materials: Exterior decoration materials are incredibly diverse, ranging from natural materials like stone, wood, and bricks to modern alternatives such as vinyl, glass, and metal. Each material gives a unique aesthetic appeal and functionality.
  2. World's Largest Mural: The record for the world's largest mural is held by the Pueblo Levee Project in Pueblo, Colorado, USA. Covering a staggering 3 miles (4.8 km) long, it was painted by over 30 artists and took several years to complete.
  3. Oldest Decorated House: The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts, built around 1637, is believed to be the oldest surviving timber-frame house in North America that has been continuously inhabited. It showcases the simple, yet elegant exterior decorations of the early colonial period.
  4. Sculpture Clad Buildings: The Kunsthaus Graz in Austria, also known as the "Friendly Alien," stands as an example of the unique intersection between exterior decoration and architecture. Its biomorphic structure is clad with thousands of acrylic glass panels that light up at night, creating a mesmerizing effect.
  5. Colorful Towns: Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, South Africa, and Guanajuato in Mexico are renowned for their vibrantly colored houses, a unique form of exterior decoration that makes them distinctive and attractive tourist destinations.
  6. Natural Decoration: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, were said to have used plants as an exterior decoration, showcasing the timeless appeal of natural elements in enhancing aesthetics.
  7. Record-Breaking Christmas Lights: Every year, people around the world decorate their houses with Christmas lights, but the record for the most lights on a residential property is held by the Gay family in LaGrangeville, New York, with over 601,736 lights!
  8. Exterior Decoration and Film: The iconic 'Psycho' house, featured in Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Psycho,' has its exterior decoration as one of its defining characteristics, demonstrating the significant role of exterior aesthetics in cultural and artistic representations.


The tale of exterior decoration is as old as human civilization itself. It began during the prehistoric era, with early humans applying ochre, a type of clay, to the outer walls of their dwellings. As societies evolved, so did their methods of adorning their habitats.

Our story leads us next to the Ancient Egyptians, a civilization renowned for its architectural marvels. The exterior walls of their monumental structures, like the Pyramids and the Sphinx, were often decorated with detailed carvings and hieroglyphs. These decorations narrated their religious beliefs, celebrated their Pharaohs, and expressed their mastery over the material world.

Moving eastward to Ancient Greece, we find another chapter in our story. The Greeks advanced exterior decoration with their extensive use of ornamental details, such as friezes and statues, in their marble temples and public buildings. The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens stands as a testament to their contribution.

As we step into the Roman era, we discover a civilization that took exterior decoration to new heights. Romans introduced murals and frescoes on their exterior walls, depicting scenes from daily life, mythology, and nature. They also used intricate mosaics and introduced architectural features like arches and domes, which were often embellished with statues and carvings.

Fast-forwarding to the Medieval period, we come across the impressive Gothic cathedrals of Europe. The exteriors of these towering structures were adorned with gargoyle statues, intricate stonework, and stained glass windows, creating a grand and dramatic effect.

The Renaissance saw a return to classical ideals, with structures featuring balanced proportions and detailed ornamentation. Architects like Brunelleschi and Michelangelo revolutionized exterior decoration, with buildings like the Florence Cathedral and the St. Peter's Basilica, showcasing exquisite exterior design elements.

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century introduced new materials like iron and glass into the realm of exterior decoration. This period saw the rise of architectural styles like Art Nouveau, which emphasized natural forms and structures.

Today, the narrative of exterior decoration continues to evolve. From eco-friendly green buildings with living walls to structures with digital screens and interactive facades, the boundaries of exterior decoration are continuously being pushed and redefined. It's a tale of human creativity, with each chapter adding a new layer of richness and complexity to the narrative.

So, the next time you pass by a beautifully adorned building, remember - you're not just looking at a structure, but a piece of our collective human story, told through the language of exterior decoration.

Expert Advice

  1. Match with Architecture: Always ensure that your exterior decor complements the architectural style of your house. For instance, a Victorian-era home might suit intricate woodwork, while a modern minimalist structure may benefit from sleek lines and a monochromatic palette.
  2. Color Harmony: Color is a powerful tool in exterior decoration. It can create harmony, highlight architectural features, or make your home stand out. Always consider the overall color scheme of your neighborhood to ensure your home's exterior blends in seamlessly.
  3. Lighting: Outdoor lighting not only enhances security but also highlights the beautiful aspects of your home. Use a mix of spotlighting, path lights, and ambient lighting to create a warm, inviting glow in the evenings.
  4. Landscaping: Landscaping is an essential part of exterior decoration. Choose plants that are suitable for your climate and soil. A well-manicured lawn, neatly pruned shrubs, and colorful flower beds can significantly boost your home's curb appeal.
  5. Entrance: The front door is the focal point of your home's exterior. Make it inviting with a fresh coat of paint or stain. If space allows, consider adding an elegant porch swing or bench, along with potted plants for a welcoming ambiance.
  6. Seasonal Decor: Don't forget to change your decor with the seasons. Hang a spring-themed wreath on your door, string up twinkling lights during the holidays, or place pumpkins and gourds on your front porch for fall.
  7. Sustainability: Consider integrating sustainable elements like solar lights, rainwater collection systems, or living walls. These not only help the environment but can also make your home more interesting and engaging.
  8. Personal Touch: Lastly, add a personal touch that reflects your style and personality. This could be anything from a uniquely designed mailbox to an artistic house number display.


Remember, exterior decoration is an art form that tells a story about the people who live within. So, let your home's exterior tell your story in a way that is as unique and special as you are.


Here are some essential safety instructions when it comes to exterior decoration:
  1. Protective Gear: Always use protective gear like gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, and steel-toe boots. They protect you from accidents and hazards, including falls, flying debris, and sharp objects.
  2. Ladder Safety: Use ladders with caution. Always place them on a stable, level surface. When using an extension ladder, the top must extend at least three feet above the roof's edge. Never overreach or stand on the top rungs of the ladder.
  3. Handling Equipment: Handle all decoration materials and tools carefully. If you're working with power tools, make sure they are properly maintained and grounded to avoid electrical shocks.
  4. Scaffolding Use: If you're using scaffolding, make sure it's securely erected and anchored. Don't overload the scaffolding, and avoid working on it during adverse weather conditions.
  5. Check for Hazards: Before starting work, check the site for potential hazards like power lines or unstable ground.
  6. Proper Training: Make sure all workers are trained on safety protocols, handling tools, lifting techniques, and emergency procedures.
  7. Hydration and Sun Protection: If you're working outside, remember to stay hydrated and protected from the sun. Wear sunscreen, hats, and light-colored clothing.
  8. First Aid Kit: Always keep a well-stocked first aid kit on site for immediate treatment of any injuries.
  9. Secure the Area: When working, secure the area to prevent unauthorized access, especially if you are working at height or with potentially dangerous tools.
  10. Fall Protection: If you're working at heights, use the necessary fall protection systems like guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems.


By following these safety instructions, you can ensure a safe and productive work environment during exterior decoration. Always remember that safety should never be compromised.

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