House Siding Options: A Visual Guide

A visual guide to the options available for exterior siding on homes.


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Choosing the Right Siding

    When selecting siding, there are six basic issues to consider:

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

    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 cladding.

    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 it have the strength to resist temperature shifts present in your climate? How does it stand up to everyday wear and tear?

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Stucco Siding

    With the reasonable costs of stucco, its variety of applications, and the untold numbers of recipes for making it, stucco as a siding has been in use for hundreds of years. Traditional stucco 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 tarpaper then covered with stucco. Stucco is often applied to brick or stone surfaces, as well.

    On this Spanish Mission-style home, the stucco is textured to give the feel of age and durability.

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Stone Siding

    Stone is among the most durable of all building materials. Granite, limestone, slate, and other types of stone are beautiful and nearly impervious to the weather. And stone siding--being nature's creation and thereby green--comes with everlasting advantages.

    In most cases, the initial materials costs of stone are more than other types of siding--often considerably more. The level of difficulty in adding stone siding to an existing structure is high and work should be done by a professional, further increasing costs. As time passes, the upside of the investment becomes clear; stone will be as natural and attractive decades later as when first installed, with little in the way of maintenance.

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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 them to protect the home. Due to the cost of installation and materials, brick is at the higher end of siding costs. Under normal conditions, brick siding will last the life of the building, with nothing more than the occasional washing.

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Wood Siding: Bevel Siding

    Bevel (also called clapboard or lap) siding is one of the oldest forms of exterior cladding used on homes. It is made by re-sawing 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 favorites because of their longevity and price. Cedar and redwood are great options, as they contain natural rot resistance, but will 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 (paint or stain) and caulking on the outside. All wood siding requires ongoing maintenance including painting and caulking to prevent weather damage.

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Wood Siding: 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 require periodic maintenance including painting and caulking to prevent weather damage.

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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 by 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 1x3-inch battens and 1x10-inch boards alternated with 1x3-inch battens and 1x5-inch boards, to create further interest.

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

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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, if installed properly and maintained, is about 20-30 years.

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

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Wood Siding: Split Logs

    Using split logs to side a home gives it a traditional mountain or forest feel. Log siding is typically made from cedar, cypress, redwood, or pine logs. The logs are dried and treated for longer a lifespan. Log siding can be painted or stained but is generally used in its natural state with a clear coat sealer.

    Log siding is expensive and requires more maintenance than most other types of siding. Regular treatment against insect infestation and the sealing of cracks in logs are musts to deter decay. Installation and maintenance of log siding is not unlike other forms of wood siding, but it is challenging and should be done by a professional or a knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer.

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Metal Siding

    While metals are regularly used as roofing and structural materials, metal siding on homes is becoming more common thanks to an increasing number of sources for material.

    Whether the metal is copper, zinc, aluminum, or one of the various types of steel, the beauty of metals is the degree to which they can be formed to meet required shapes, curves, and edges. The strength and the longevity of metals also surpass most of the common siding materials 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 cooper and Corten steel will change when exposed to weather, but most will maintain the factory finish indefinitely.

    Photo provided by Thomas McConnell / CG&S Design-Build, cgsdb.com

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Brick Veneers and Fabricated Brick Siding

    The brick veneers and fabricated brick sidings manufactured today are generally molded from actual clay, brick, or other natural materials or polyurethane, and are durable, realistic-look, 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 money and time actual brick requires. 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.

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Stone Veneers and Fabricated Stone Siding

    The stone veneers and fabricated stone sidings manufactured today are usually molded from real rock, stone, or other natural materials, and are 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. 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.

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Vinyl Siding

    Since its introduction in the 1960s, vinyl has become the No. 1 siding in the United States because of cost, versatility, and low maintenance. Upwards of 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 life-long and transferable.

    Vinyl is 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. The siding needs to be installed on flat surfaces, so the wall will need to be lined with half-inch-thick sheets of rigid-foam board to provide a nailing surface.

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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 since it is termite-resistant, water-resistant, non-flammable, 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 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.

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