Choose the Right Materials: Siding

First impressions count! Here's how to put the best face on your new home or remodeling project with the right siding.

Siding 101: Vinyl

Homeowners and builders like vinyl siding because it's long lasting, inexpensive, and virtually maintenance-free. Characteristics:

-- Never needs paint
-- Can be cleaned with soap and water
-- Comes in a wide variety of colors from pastels to deep tones
-- Styles include lap, shakes, scallops, and fish scales
-- Available with foam backing for energy efficiency
-- Lasts about 40 years
-- Cost: $1-$6 per square foot, uninstalled

Siding 101: Wood

The traditional favorite, wood has declined in popularity as cost has increased and homeowners look for lower maintenance materials. Characteristics:

-- Available as clapboard or lap siding, shakes, and shingles
-- Cedar and redwood are naturally decay-resistant
-- Flammable; look for factory-treated with flame retardant
-- Needs to be stained or painted every few years
-- Damaged boards are easy to replace
-- Cost: $1-$4 per square foot, cedar uninstalled; $5 per square foot, redwood uninstalled

Siding 101: Engineered Wood

Engineered wood siding is the generic term for hardboard and plywood made into 4x8-foot sheets or lap panels. Characteristics:

-- Available in smooth or embossed textures
-- Cuts and handles like real wood
-- Needs repainting every 5 to 10 years
-- Exposed cuts or edges can weather or decay
-- Lasts 20 to 30 years
-- Cost: $1.50-$3 per square foot, uninstalled

Siding 101: Fiber-Cement

Fiber-cement siding (made of cement, sand, and cellulose fiber) looks like wood, but it's more durable and less expensive. Characteristics:

-- Available in planks from 5 1/4 inches to 12 inches wide
-- Smooth or wood textures available
-- Fire-resistant and termite-proof; won't rot or crack
-- Holds paint up to 15 years
-- Limited, transferable warranties up to 50 years
-- Cost: $2-$6 per square foot uninstalled, plus trim

Siding 101: Metal

Metal siding made of aluminum or steel is generally low-maintenance, but steel isn't suitable near saltwater. Characteristics:

-- Available smooth or embossed with wood grain
-- Comes in a wide range of factory-baked enamel colors
-- Resists fire, rot, and insects
-- Scratches on steel will rust, aluminum can dent
-- Lasts 40 years to life of building
-- Cost: $2-$5 per square foot, installed

Siding 101: Brick

Brick is a traditional option made from fired clay. It needs to be supported by the home's foundation. Characteristics:

-- Available in many sizes, colors, and textures
-- Won't rot, burn, or fade, should last a century
-- Provides excellent sound and thermal insulation
-- May result in lower insurance rates
-- No maintenance the first 25 years; then inspect mortar joints
-- Cost: $6-$12 per square foot, installed, but varies by region

Siding 101: Brick and Stone Veneers

Lightweight aggregates, portland cement, and pigments are cast to imitate brick or stone. Characteristics:

-- Less expensive and not as heavy as natural stone or brick
-- Wide variety of styles; can be combined with other materials
-- Only maintenance required is to check mortar for cracking
-- Like natural brick and stone, resists fire, rot, and insects
-- Should last the life of the building
-- Cost: $4.50-$6 per square foot, uninstalled

Siding 101: Stucco

Stucco is best suited for dry, warm climates, and should be avoided in overly wet zones. It's popular in the Western U.S.

-- Installed over a wire mesh on wood frame
-- Can be colored; textures include smooth, raked, or swirled
-- Naturally fire resistant and a good insulator
-- Susceptible to water penetration
-- Time consuming to apply
-- Cost: $3-$15 per square foot, uninstalled

Siding 101: Synthetic Stucco

Also called exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS), synthetic stucco is less expensive and less likely to crack than stucco.

-- Moisture penetration plagued early versions of this product
-- Professional installation is essential to prevent moisture
-- Energy efficient
-- Can be washed with a hose and water
-- Should last the lifetime of the building
-- Cost: $6-$14 per square foot, installed

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