Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about …. siding
If the roof is the hair-do of a house, the siding is the outfit. Pragmatically, siding protects the outer walls of a house from extreme weather, creating a barrier against wind, moisture, and uncomfortable temperatures. But like all outfits, it’s prized not only for its function but also for its form. From shingles to clapboard to metal sheeting, the type of siding chosen for a particular house has as much to do with logistical factors, like budget and climate, as it does with the owner’s aesthetic style or preference. Whether you’re in the market for a new (or new-to-you) home, or whether you’re considering an exterior renovation, here are some of the pros and cons of popular siding types.
A timeless classic, wood has been the go-to siding choice for many centuries. And no wonder. It’s versatile, customizable, durable, and brings a aura of “high-quality” to any home. Wood siding comes in many forms — clapboard, shakes, shingles — and can be applied horizontally, vertically, or diagonally and cut into any number of shapes to create an infinite array of patterns and designs. Cons: Wood siding is fairly high-maintenance. Anticipate the need to have it tended to, either by yourself or a professional, every three to five years depending on whether it’s stained or painted. The good news? Well-maintained wood siding can last a hundred years or more.
Vinyl is a popular siding choice and with good reason. Like wood, vinyl is versatile, durable, and weather tight. It’s affordable and easy to install, which makes it appealing to those of us on a budget (who isn’t?) and the moderately ambitious DIYer. In its early day, vinyl siding was thinner and more brittle, which gave it a reputation for being drab and unreliable. Manufacturers heard the complaints and took action. The result is a siding option that’s thicker, nicer, and comes in a variety of colors, textures, and styles. Cons: It isn’t historically accurate, so if you’re hoping to restore a 100 year-old-house, you might want to consider other options. It also can’t be painted, so whichever color you choose initially, you’re committing to for the life of the siding. The good news? This is an affordable option that protects your house well and looks good.
This is a catch-all term that indicates that the siding is an amalgam of manmade materials mixed with wood pulp. A good example of composite siding is fiber cement board, like HardiPlank. Fiber cement is a durable material, highly resistant to rot, fire, and insects. It comes in many textures, and does a tremendous job of mimicking wood siding. Honestly, once painted, only a trained eye would be able to determine that it wasn’t real. Cons: Composite boards manufactured before 1990 were made using asbestos. If that’s the case with your house, or if you aren’t sure, you’ll need to hire a professional asbestos abatement company to do any exterior work. The good news? Though fiber cement board can be on the pricier side, it is a durable and long term investment that will provide your home with years of beauty.
Stucco is a plaster covering applied over the exterior wall of a house. A durable and weatherproof material, it provides a distinctive character and is often associated with the temperate climates of the Southwest. Stucco is actually comprised of three distinct layers — an adhesive coat, a smoothing “brown” coat, and a “finishing” coat that provides the house with color and texture. A mixture of sand, cement, lime, and water, the materials needed to create a stucco exterior are actually quite affordable. But, this isn’t a job for novices and the labor can be pretty pricey. Cons: When a stucco exterior needs refinishing, it can’t just be re-painted. The exterior has to be sandblasted off and the entire siding re-applied. The good news? When done properly, a stucco exterior can last up to 80 years. Not bad at all.
Brick is another classic siding choice that’s been used for centuries for its durability and beauty. A manmade material, bricks are formed from clay and shale and baked in a kiln at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. In the kiln, the materials chemically fuse (a process called “vitrification”) and a “brick” is born. Bricks themselves are remarkably durable, often lasting a hundred years or more. Unfortunately, the mortar that’s placed between them deteriorates over time and needs to be replaced or “repointed” in order for the structure to remain stable and weathertight. In modern construction, brick siding is a non-structural veneer that is attached, or “tied,” to the building’s structure. Cons: Brick isn’t an inexpensive siding choice, and the maintenance of a brick home isn’t cheap either. Repairing mortar isn’t recommended for DIYers (there are many moisture considerations) so you’ll need to hire a professional. The good news? Brick is beautiful. Nothing says “stately” quite like a traditional brick home.