Choose the Best Material for Your Home's Exterior with Our Guide to Siding Options
Choosing the Right Siding
When selecting house siding (also known as cladding), there are six basic issues to consider, besides the initial cost:
- Water Resistance: Water-resistant types of siding will have longer life spans.
- Ease of Installation: If you're installing the siding on your own, make sure the technique is within your skillset, requires no special tools, and creates no harmful dust when cut.
- Energy Efficiency: Check the R-value rating (which indicates its resistance to heat flow) for energy savings and understand what type of insulation will be required beneath the siding.
- Aesthetics: Your siding will be in full view as you come and go, so make sure it is beautiful to you.
- 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.
- Durability: Does your siding of choice have the strength to resist temperature shifts present in your climate? Consider how it will stand up to everyday wear and tear, as well as typical weather in your area.
Reasonably priced and available in a wide variety of applications, stucco has been used as a siding option 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, applying stucco siding involves covering a wooden wall with galvanized metal screening and tar paper, then covering it with stucco. Stucco is often applied to brick or stone surfaces, as well.
Since its introduction in the 1960s, vinyl siding has become the most popular cladding in the U.S. because of its price, versatility, and low maintenance. Hundreds of 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, and 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: 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: Shakes and Shingles
Another option for wood siding is shakes or 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 the most common choices 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, typically made from steel or aluminum, 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 for attaching the siding, 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: 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. To create further interest, you can install boards of different widths in varying patterns, such as 1x3-inch battens and 1x10-inch boards alternated with 1x3-inch battens and 1x5-inch boards.
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.
Wood Siding: Split Logs
Using split logs to side a home gives it a traditional mountain or rustic feel. Log siding is typically made from cedar, cypress, redwood, or pine logs. The logs are dried and treated for a longer life span. This wood 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 house siding. Regular treatment against insect infestation and the sealing of cracks in logs are required 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 homeowner.
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 wood can be cut, handled, and applied like solid-wood siding, but you do not have the imperfections that often accompany real wood.
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. Because stone is a natural material, stone siding is environmentally friendly and comes with longlasting advantages.
In most cases, the initial material 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, which further increases costs. As time passes, however, the upside of the investment becomes clear. Stone as an exterior siding will be as natural and attractive decades later as when first installed, with little in the way of maintenance.
The durability, light maintenance, and classic 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 brick layers 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 needed.
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. These siding options are durable, realistic-looking, lightweight, and easy to install.
Since no footings or foundations are necessary, do-it-yourself homeowners can generally install the siding panels themselves 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.
Stone Veneers and Fabricated Stone Siding
Like fabricated brick, 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.
Fabricated stone siding panels can typically be DIY installed, as no footings or foundations are necessary. The application process is generally quicker and more cost-effective than that of real stone or rock. It usually involves a framework that is attached to a backing material such as plywood. For other stone veneer products on the market today, you can simply 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 typically 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.