Understanding Your Siding Options

If you’re researching options for home exterior materials, you’ll likely run across the terms cladding or siding. Both of these terms can refer to a variety of home exteriors such as metal, wood, vinyl, stucco and beyond. To make the right choice for your home, you’ll want to take some time to familiarize yourself with each type of siding. Points to consider include:

  • Each material’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Value, both upfront and over time
  • Your home’s environment: weather conditions, prevalent styles in your neighborhood
  • Your goals: longevity, eco friendly, energy efficiency, low maintenance, resale value

 

Metal Siding is offered in aluminum and steel. This material may dent and is susceptible to scratches and rust. It is not recommended for environments with corrosive environments (excessive rain, snow, hail, humidity). Installation must be done by a professional because the siding pieces are longer and will bend or warp if not handled properly. On the upside, metal is a great choice for soffit and trim, with many companies offering total soffit and trim packages, reducing maintenance and providing a comprehensive look.

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Durable, with restrictions
  • Colors may fade
  • Available in various styles, some which mimic the look of wood
  • Can dent if struck or rust if scratched, depending upon the metal application selected
  • Low maintenance if installed in non-corrosive environments
  • May bend or warp if not installed properly
  • Fire Resistant
  • Not suitable in salt air environments
  • Seamless installation (Steel only)
  • Difficult to paint unless the siding has a paint-compatible PVC coating
  • Eco-friendly if made from recycled steel
 
  • Complete soffit and trim packages to provide a cohesive and completed look
 


 

Wood siding is a commonly used choice, is available in many varieties and can be painted or stained to match any taste. Depending on wood selected and labor required, it can be expensive to install. To keep it looking good, wood siding requires heavy maintenance and upkeep. It is prone to wood rot and insects. Wood siding can be compromised if subjected to wide swings in temperature and climate.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Can last for years with substantial maintenance
  • Must be painted and stained frequently
  • A natural look
  • Flammable without a flame-retardant treatment
  • Easy to paint or stain to suit
  • Highly susceptible to decay, rot or damage by insects
  • Eco-friendly product
  • Maintenance requirements are high compared to other siding choices
  • Available in many styles: vertical, clapboard, shakes, shingles
  • Can be an expensive option based on the type of wood and labor required

 

 

Engineered wood siding is created by combining wood materials with glue to form boards and panels. Though it is stable and strong, engineered wood still requires maintenances and must be protected from the elements.
 

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Fairly low cost
  • Regular painting and sealing required
  • Eco-friendly
  • Will deteriorate over time: without proper care, compounds can separate
  • Stable overall
  • Wood rot and insect damage are threats
 
  • Finish is not consistent with real wood due to uniform grain textures

 

 Vinyl siding, composed of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), is an affordable, long-lasting and virtually maintenance-free cladding choice for any home’s exterior. Vinyl siding offers many styles, textures and colors, including many with the look and feel of real wood. Vinyl siding yields an an exceptionally high rate of return on your investment. Add matching soffit installation or vinyl siding trim packages for a truly cohesive exterior.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Durable construction and long lasting finish
  • Certain shades may be susceptible to fading in harsh light conditions
  • Features one of the lowest installed costs, with a very large payback on investment
  • Darker colors may not be offered in wider profile, but manufacturers are making advances on this front
  • Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance free, no painting, sealing or caulking required
 
  • Available in a wide array of colors with fade-resistant finishes
 
  • Profiles mimic the natural look of wood siding available
 
  • Rot and insect damage resistant
 
  • Available vinyl soffit and architectural trim elements create a  designer look
 
  • Ideal with a variety of architectural styles
 
  • A lifetime warranty usually offered
     
 
  • Boasts a third-party product certification and certified installer program
 
  • Outperforms most other exterior cladding choices, including brick, in many environments.
 

 

Stucco is a cement mixture formed with water and materials like sand and lime, then troweled over a wire mesh backing to cover a home’s facade. Synthetic stucco is comprised of a polymer/cement topcoat on top of a foam board and affixed to the side of the house. Both can be tinted and do not require painting unless you wish to change the color of your exterior. Stucco is usually applied by an experienced professional and requires thorough inspections to ensure proper installation and moisture management to prevent serious problems later.

Strengths 

Weaknesses

  • Durable and long lasting choice (aside from repairing cracks)
  • Cracks may develop over time as the home expands, contracts and settles
  • Can be tinted at time of installation,  eliminating the need to paint
  • Some synthetic stucco systems have been known to cause moisture problems on the underlying structure if improperly installed
  • Resistant to fire and insect damage
  • Professional, experienced installation required
  • Ideally suited to complex architectural design
  • Requires regular painting
 
  • Usually limited to certain architectural styles

 


Fiber cement siding is made from sand, cement, wood fiber and bonding additives. Paint goes on well, it mimics the look of various forms of natural wood siding and doesn’t shrink or expand much. Available pre-primed and painted.

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Does not rot; resists moisture, insects and pests
  • Costs more than vinyl products
  • Looks similar to real wood. Offered in a range of styles like shakes and lap siding
  • Pre-painted more expensive than primed unpainted
  • Does not expand/contract as much as real wood
  • A heavy product; can add thousands of pounds to a typical house
  • Paint friendly
  • Product warranties may be limited and are often pro-rated.  Removal of existing siding may be required
  • Fire Resistant
  • Caulking and periodic re-caulking of seams required to prevent water damage
  • Pre-primed and painted finishes are available
  • Absorb moisture, crumble and delaminate if not maintained
 
  • Nails can loosen and panels may lift away over time
 
  • Special cutting tools and respirators to prevent inhaling toxic silica dust may be required.
 
  • Limited insulation properties or R-Value

 

  
Cedar shingles require less maintenance than wood clapboard, but are still made of natural cedar. Minimize peeling by choosing stain over paint, or leave shingles to weather to a natural grey patina.

 

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Long lasting
  • Must apply stain or paint to keep peeling and decay in check
  • Natural appearance
  • Flammable unless treated with flame-retardant
  • May be painted or stained any color
  • Prone to rot, insects and other forms of decay, though less so than regular wood siding
  • Eco-friendly
  • Labor intensive installation and cost of ongoing maintenance make it a more expensive choice
 
  • Insulation properties or R-Value limited
 
  • Best only on certain architectural styles

 

Cedar polymer siding can provide the look of natural cedar, but the affordability and easy installation of vinyl siding. It requires minimal maintenance, comes in an array of colors and offers a high return on investment.  

 

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Thick, durable product
  • Not paintable should you want to change your color down the road.
  • Good payback on your investment
 
  • Virtually maintenance free, no painting, sealing or caulking
 
  • Available in a broad selection of fade-resistant colors
 
  • Resistant to rot or insect damage
 
  • Features a realistic, random cedar-grain texture on shingles and gutters that looks like the real thing
     
 
  • Typically carries a lifetime warranty
 
  • Apply as an accent or on the entire exterior
 
  • Various profiles: perfections shingles, hand-split shake, and half rounds
 

 

Brick and stone siding are handsome, lasting and low maintenance choices. Materials are costly and require installation by experienced installers or stone masons. You must also make sure that, at the foundation level, your home has the proper structural support before you begin the installation.
 

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Very durable
  • Requires structural foundation support due to significant weight
  • No need for painting or staining
  • Requires professional installation/construction
  • Available in a variety of decorative styles and colors
  • Mortar joints can deteriorate over time and require maintenance
  • Fire resistant
  • Costly
  • Rot and insect-resistant
 

 


Brick and stone veneer is created from thin slices of natural brick/stone, or from a concrete composite. Veneer is a great way to bring the look of brick and stone to your exterior or interior, at a fraction of the cost. It’s more versatile and easier to apply than natural brick/stone, because it weighs less and thus doesn’t require additional structural support. 

 

Strengths 

Weaknesses

  • Wears like natural brick and stone
  • Installation can be handled by an experienced DIY’er, but large projects may require a professional
  • No painting or stain required
  • Mortar joints may require maintenance over time
  • Offered in a variety of styles, colors and textures
  • Not recommended for surfaces with running water
  • Fire resistant
 
  • Rot and insect-resistant
 
  • No additional structural support needed, unlike natural brick/stone
 
  • Choose thin veneer or composite varieties
 
  • Costs less than natural brick and stone
 

 


Insulated siding is vinyl siding with rigid foam plastic insulation that may be laminated, or otherwise permanently attached by the manufacturer. Insulated siding provides the style, durability and sustainable benefits of vinyl siding, with the bonus of better energy efficiency. Available in styles similar to vinyl siding, but  the widths are typically wider - 6” and 7”.

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Increase R-value of exterior walls
  • Darker colors in wider profiles may not be available at this time
  • Continuous insulation over the studs of a home reduces thermal bridging and heat loss
 
  • Included on the Energy Star Qualified Homes checklist, Version 3
 
  • Can camouflage bows and dips common on most walls
 
  • Durable, long lasting product
 
  • Virtually maintenance free -- no painting, sealing or caulking
 
  • Offered in a variety of beautiful colors that resist UV fading
 
  • Resists rot and insect damage
 
  • Complementary vinyl soffit and architectural trim elements available to create a true designer look
 
  • Ideal for many architectural styles
 
  • Lifetime warranty usually available
 
  • Boasts a third-party product certification and certified installer program