Choosing the Right Siding

When selecting house siding (also known as cladding), there are six basic issues to consider, besides the initial cost:

1. Water Resistance. Water-resistant types of siding will have longer life spans.

2. Ease of Installation. If you’re installing the siding on your own, make sure it is within your skill set, requires no special tools, and creates no harmful dust when cut.

3. Energy Efficiency. Check the R-value rating for energy savings and understand what will be needed as far as insulation beneath the siding you pick.

4. Aesthetics. Your siding will be in full view as you come and go, so make sure it is beautiful to you.

5. Versatility. Make sure the siding has the versatility to meet the varied needs of your specific project. If there are aspects of your home’s exterior that will make using a particular type of siding more challenging than others, make sure you understand what the added costs or necessary adjustments will be.

6. Durability. Does your siding of choice have the strength to resist temperature shifts present in your climate? How does it stand up to everyday wear and tear?

Stucco Siding – With the reasonable cost of stucco, its variety of applications, and the untold numbers of recipes for making it, stucco as a siding option has been in use for hundreds of years. Traditional stucco siding is a cement type of mixture added to sand or lime. Because it can be shaped and textured, stucco is used to achieve an array of architectural styles. Generally, for application, a wooden wall is covered with galvanized metal screening and tar paper, then covered with stucco. Stucco is often applied to brick or stone surfaces, as well.

Vinyl Siding – Since its introduction in the 1960s, vinyl siding has become the No. 1 cladding in the United States because of its price, versatility, and low maintenance. More than 300 color choices are available in profiles that include horizontal and vertical panels, shakes, shingles, fish scales, lap, and beaded designs. The only routine maintenance is an occasional wash. Warranties offered by vinyl manufacturers generally are lifelong and transferable.

The vinyl siding cost savings extend to installation. It’s the least expensive of all siding materials to install and can be cut dramatically if you’re able to do the work. Vinyl siding is sold by most home centers and requires few tools to install. This home siding needs to be installed on flat surfaces, so the wall will need to be lined with 1/2-inch-thick sheets of rigid-foam board to provide a nailing surface.

Wood Siding: Shakes and Shingles – Another option for wood siding is shakes and shingles. Shakes are machine- or hand-sawn from wooden blocks called bolts. Shakes are thicker than shingles and less uniform in appearance and thickness, but they do last longer. Wood shingles are sawn for a smooth and consistent look and can be cut into an array of shapes to create visual interest. Both come from a variety of woods but most common are Western red cedar and redwood.

Shakes and shingles are available with a fire-retardant treatment, which is a requirement in high-risk locations. They are installed over a solid surface, such as plywood, with a moisture barrier between the two and a finishing coat (paint or stain) and caulking on the outside. Shake and shingle siding requires periodic maintenance including painting and caulking to prevent weather damage.

Metal Siding – Metal no longer has to masquerade as other materials; steel or aluminum siding adorns the outside of many modern-look homes. Aluminum siding is especially lightweight and cost-effective.

Whether the metal is copper, zinc, aluminum, or one of the various types of steel, the beauty of metals is that they can be formed to meet required shapes, curves, and edges. The strength and the longevity of metals surpass most of the common house siding options currently on the market.

The application process generally requires a frame to attach it to, a backing material such as plywood, and a moisture barrier (these needs will vary depending on the specific material and the location of the house). The surface of metals such as copper and weathering steel will change when exposed to weather, but most will maintain the factory finish indefinitely. Metal siding can also be painted, but will likely need to be retouched later on.

Wood Siding: Bevel Siding – Bevel (also called clapboard or lap) siding is one of the oldest forms of exterior siding used on homes. It is made by resawing a board at an angle to create two pieces that are thicker on one edge than on the other.

Pine, spruce, cypress, and Douglas fir are the favorite wood choices for this siding because of their longevity and price. Cedar and redwood are great options, as they contain natural rot resistance, but they do cost more.

Bevel siding is installed horizontally with the upper piece overlapping the lower. Wood siding is installed over a solid surface, such as plywood, with a moisture barrier between the two and a finishing coat (either paint or stain) and caulking on the outside. All wood siding requires ongoing maintenance including painting and caulking to prevent weather damage.

Wood Siding: Board and Batten – Board-and-batten siding is an American classic that has been used since our nation’s early days. Board-and-batten sometimes referred to as barn siding, is a vertical design created using wide boards, such as cedar or pine, spaced with narrower strips, the battens, covering the places where the wide boards come together. There are no standard board or batten widths or spacings, so feel free to innovate. It is possible to develop varying patterns, such as 1×3-inch battens and 1×10-inch boards alternated with 1×3-inch battens and 1×5-inch boards, to create further interest.

This type of wood siding can be installed directly over a flat surface, such as plywood, with a moisture barrier between layers. Wide boards are placed first, then battens are used to cover the spaces between the boards.

Engineered Wood Siding – Engineered wood siding is made with wood castoffs, such as sawdust, and bonding agents. It is a strong, lightweight product that is less expensive than real wood. Engineered wood comes in an array of typical wood siding styles. It does need to be painted for weatherproofing purposes, but factory-applied finishes are available. The standard life expectancy for this home siding, if installed properly and maintained, is about 20-30 years.

Engineered woodcuts, handles, and is applied like solid-wood siding, but you do not have the imperfections that often accompany and must be negotiated within real wood.

Brick Siding – The durability, light maintenance, and appearance of brick siding make it popular with homeowners. Made of fired clay, brick comes in different colors, textures, and sizes. Brick siding is generally not a structural part of a house but rather a veneer that is constructed on the outside of the wood frame structure. The brick veneer is held together with mortar, a mixture of cement—or lime and sand—and water.

Water can penetrate brick veneers, so it is important that a water membrane is installed between the wood and bricklayers to protect the home. Due to the cost of installation and materials, brick is at the higher end of the siding cost scale. Under normal conditions, brick siding will last the life of the building, with nothing more than the occasional washing.

Stone Veneers and Fabricated Stone Siding – The stone veneers and fabricated stone sidings manufactured today are also molded from real rock, stone, or other natural materials, and are just as durable, realistic, lightweight, and easy to install.

Since no footings or foundations are necessary, do-it-yourself homeowners can generally install the panels themselves and for a fraction of the time and cost actual stone or rock requires. The application generally involves a framework that is attached to a backing material such as plywood, but many products on the market today have simple instructions: Glue in place and caulk the seams.

Fiber Cement Siding – Fiber cement siding comes in an array of textures that give the appearance of actual types of wood. It is more durable than wood siding since it is termite-resistant, water-resistant, nonflammable, and guaranteed to last 50 years (depending on the manufacturer). Fiber cement siding is composed of cement, sand or fly ash, and cellulose fiber.

You will find that fiber cement siding is typically more expensive than vinyl siding but less than wood siding. It is installed over studs or exterior wall sheathing on a moisture barrier. Factory painting is highly recommended and generally warranted for 25 years.