Simple Guide to Choosing the Perfect Exterior Siding
The hardest part of an exterior makeover for many homeowners is choosing the right siding materials. Some want their house to blend in with their neighborhood while others want a unique look that stands out. Modern siding materials can accommodate both of these preferences, but how do you know which materials are right for you?
Most of the siding on the market today have a variety of shades, shapes, and styles, and you can’t always tell them apart without having a closer look at the house – for example, fiber cement imitates the texture of painted wood almost uncannily. Aesthetic aspects are important, of course, but there is more to consider when choosing the materials that will be protecting the structural integrity of your house. So, if you’re wondering which type of siding is the best for your home, here is a simple guide to help you make the decision.
Vinyl siding is an attractive choice because it is:
- Easily maintained
- Installed quickly and easily, reducing the re-siding price
- Long lasting
- The color is throughout the material, so dents or scratches don’t show
However, it comes with some downsides, too:
- It’s not watertight
- Cheaper vinyl can fade when exposed to intense sunlight for long periods
- Can melt, bend and crack when exposed to weather extremes
- Cannot be repainted in most cases
Being the most popular type of siding in the United States, vinyl is strong and comes with almost unlimited color and texture possibilities. While it may not be the best looking siding of all its competitors, modern manufacturers produce vinyl that strongly resembles wood grain or stone. Vinyl is also very easy to maintain, cheap to repair, can be installed over existing siding materials and is very budget-friendly. However, vinyl is not waterproof and poor installation often results in leaks between the paneling which causes mold and other problems, so choose a reputable siding contractor.
Natural wood siding
Homeowners choose natural wood siding because it:
- Is an excellent natural insulator
- Can last for decades when maintained properly
- Is environmentally-friendly and biodegradable
- Has a naturally beautiful appearance, unmatched by synthetic alternatives
- Ages beautifully, shifting from a warm brown to a silver patina color
- Withstands weather extremes
- Can be easily replaced in small quantities if damaged
However, its popularity in the siding market is declining because natural wood is:
- Maintenance-intensive. The durability of wood siding depends highly on proper maintenance, which means that it needs to be covered with a layer of protective transparent or semi-transparent stain every couple of years, and inspections for mold and insect activity are a must
- Prone to termite damage if protective materials are not applied
Most types of siding try to imitate the look of real wood, however, none of them can replicate the natural color, scent or warmth of wood siding. This type of siding is also organic, renewable, recyclable and provides a natural layer of insulation – these are just some of the reasons why some homeowners don’t even consider manufactured exterior products. However, it is 2-3 times more expensive than its man made competitors and requires frequent maintenance, but homeowners still desire it for its classic, timeless look.
Fiber cement siding continues to grow in popularity because it is:
- Long lasting
- Weather, moisture, rot, fire, and pest resistant
- Imitates natural wood texture almost uncannily
- Requires little to no maintenance
- Accepts paint very well – you’ll have the option of repainting in the future
- Excellent product warranties for up to 30 years
However, you should also know that fiber cement:
- Is heavy and hard to install
- Can chip easily before installation – should be handled with care
- Cannot replicate the natural color of wood
- Requires repainting every 12-15 years
Fiber cement siding is made from wood fibers, sand, and cement and it’s designed to imitate the look and feel of real wood – just without the high price and intensive maintenance. It’s very durable, impervious to insects, and fire resistant. However, this material is very heavy and fiber cement siding installation requires at least two people, plus specific cutting tools. Fiber cement also costs 2-3 times as much as vinyl and requires repainting every 12-15 years, but when installed right, fiber cement is the type of siding that can last a lifetime.
Being one of the latest additions to the siding market, engineered wood is attractive because it is:
- Lightweight and easy to install
- Extremely resistant to impact damage
- Long lasting
- Withstands extreme weather conditions
- Easily maintained
- Backed by impressive warranties. For example, LP SmartSide offers a 5/50 year warranty – 5 years for labor and 50 for the products
- Impervious to insects
- Twice as cheap as natural wood
However, it isn’t as popular as vinyl because:
- It is relatively new to the market, making it harder to find a contractor that’s experienced with these materials
- Its “perfect” appearance is sometimes viewed as a flaw, as it lacks the charm of natural, authentic look of wood
Being one of the newest additions to the siding materials market, engineered wood provides the natural warmth of wood with added performance benefits. It’s made of fibers and composite wood and is about 2 times cheaper than natural wood. Engineered wood is also resistant to termites, weather extremes, easy to maintain and backed by excellent warranties. However, some say that the “perfect” smooth surface of engineered wood seems artificial and lacks the natural shifting of shades throughout the material, but when you want to create a smooth and warm exterior, engineered wood is an excellent choice.
Stone or brick
Stone and brick siding is considered the Rolls-Royce of the siding industry because it is:
- Impenetrable by the elements and can last a lifetime
- Resistant to moisture, rot, dents, insects and extreme temperatures
- Low maintenance
Its drawbacks include:
- High price
- Complex installation process
- Need for proper structural support
- Likeliness to become subject of water damage when installed improperly
- Permanent color choice – it cannot be repainted later on
The rustic appearance of brick or stone siding draws attention and creates a certain charm about a house. This type of siding can last for hundreds of years – if the building is still there, of course. However, its durability and resistance to all that mother nature can offer reflect in its price – stone and brick are the two most expensive products in the siding industry. But they’re worth the investment if you’re looking for long-term results with little to no maintenance.
Stucco siding is appealing because it provides:
- Excellent insulation
- Sound proofing
- Rot, mold, and mildew resistance
- Fire resistance
- Long lasting look
- Wide array of textures
- Easy repair
This type of siding also has its cons:
- Requires several layers of installation
- Can’t withstand very long periods of rain
- The process of changing the color is difficult
Stucco siding is made from lime mixture, cement, and sand, and it gives your house a beautiful Spanish style appearance. If you decide on stucco for your house, it provides an excellent opportunity to add a new texture, but make sure that you choose the right color – even though it can be repainted, this type of siding doesn’t hold new colors very well and you’ll have to invest in frequent repainting. Because of its insulation and soundproofing properties, stucco is perfect for noisy or crowded neighborhoods, but it isn’t suited for areas with heavy rainfall.
Other things to keep in mind when choosing your new siding
Residing your home is an excellent chance to refresh an old exterior and add some insulation for increased comfort inside, but many homeowners tend to postpone residing their home for as long as they can, as it seems like a daunting task. There is nothing to fear, though, when you believe in the materials you choose and trust the people who renovate your home.
This is why it’s recommended to select materials from top siding manufacturers – their products are high quality and usually come with excellent warranties. And if you have none or little experience in installing siding, it’s best to hire professional siding contractors who know how to make your house look its best and ensure that its structure is well protected.