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Renovation15 min

Choosing the Best Siding for Your Home: An In-Depth Guide

Part 1: Why Your Choice of Siding Matters

What type of siding to install on your home is one of the most important decisions you will make as a homeowner. Just the fact that it’s a choice you’ll be living with for the next 20 years or more makes it one you shouldn’t take lightly.

It’s not an inexpensive investment either. A re-siding job can run anywhere from $5,000 to more than $50,000, depending on material and local labor costs. This isn’t to say it isn’t worth the money. Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report ranks siding replacement among the top remodeling projects in terms of how much they add to a home’s value at resale.

Because siding is significant from both an architectural and a functional point of view, it trumps many other home improvement projects in terms of its ultimate value for the homeowner. Here are some of the factors on which your choice of siding will have a tremendous impact:

  • How much money you’ll spend on siding installation
  • How much time and money you’ll spend on home maintenance
  • How much money you’ll spend on heating and cooling
  • How comfortable your living spaces are year-round
  • Whether or not your home can achieve ENERGY STAR® qualification
  • How beautiful your home’s exterior will look now and decades down the road
  • Your home’s selling price

Ultimately, your choice should be based on your particular needs and priorities. Budget-conscious homeowners will weigh the immediate savings against the savings that can be made over the course of the material’s service life. Still others will put longevity, durability, maintenance, aesthetics or energy efficiency at the top of their lists.

Now that we’ve established why it pays to be prudent when selecting siding, let’s explore the different options available on the market today.

Part 2: Popular Siding Materials

A quick Google search will demonstrate there are a lot of siding options to consider, each of which presents a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. What makes the decision even trickier is that price isn’t always indicative of how good your siding will look or how well it will perform.

The good news is that fierce competition among siding manufacturers has resulted in better and better materials being brought to the market. The last decade alone saw huge strides in the quality of siding you can get for your money.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood siding is made from a combination of wood fibers, exterior-grade resins and performance-enhancing treatments such as zinc borate and water-resistant waxes. It is a relatively new siding product, having only been developed in the 1960s. Despite this, engineered wood has quickly become a major siding player.

Cost relative to other materials. The cost of engineered wood can be half that of real wood siding. Due to the relative ease of installation for the contractor, engineered wood may also cost less to install than fiber cement.

Environmental impact. Some engineered wood production uses timber harvested in line with Sustainable Forestry Initiative® standards. The synthetic resins used are low-VOC, and waste from both production and installation is minimal.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Lighter and more resistant to breakage and impact-related damage than fiber cement siding
  • Easier to install and does not require the use of specialty cutting tools
  • Primed at the factory (ready-to-paint). Prefinished siding also available in a wide range of profiles and textures
  • Holds up well to changes in humidity and temperature
  • Early versions were known to suffer from moisture-related issues

Wood

Wood is considered a premium siding material and is prized for its looks, warmth and workability. Common wood species used in siding production include Western red cedar, redwood, fir, spruce and pine.

Cost relative to other materials. The initial cost of wood siding is steep compared to engineered wood, vinyl and fiber cement. Cost also varies greatly depending on wood species and grade. Ease of installation helps reduce associated labor costs; however, the maintenance required throughout its lifespan adds to the overall cost.

Environmental impact. Old-growth timber is known to produce the best grades of wood siding. It also has an R-value, resistance to heat flow, of 0.8 even without synthetic insulation compared to non-insulated vinyl siding’s R-value of 0.6.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Easy to cut, shape and install
  • Available as primed or prefinished siding in a variety of species, grades, profiles and shapes
  • Easily replaced in small quantities when damaged
  • Cannot be installed over existing siding materials
  • Not as fire-resistant as brick or stone, even after treatment with fire-retardants
  • Susceptible to damage from insects and pests

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is made from a mix of Portland cement, sand and wood pulp. Though not as prevalent as vinyl, brick and stucco, it has risen in popularity in recent decades. Fiber cement was the principal siding material used in 19% of single-family homes built in 2015.

Cost relative to other materials. Fiber cement traditionally ranks between real wood and engineered wood in terms of cost. Factors that add to the cost of installing fiber cement include its weight, the need for special cutting tools and techniques, and the fact that it cannot be installed over existing siding.

Environmental impact. Portland cement is linked to CO2 emissions and has five times the embodied energy of wood. Because this material makes up nearly half the composition of fiber cement, the associated carbon footprint is significant.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Highly resistant to fire, termites, rot, salt air, and changes in humidity and temperature
  • Available as primed or prefinished siding and in a wide range of profiles and textures
  • Very heavy and prone to breakage during installation
  • Installation requires special cutting tools and techniques
  • Produces potentially harmful silica dust when cut
  • Early versions were known to contain asbestos; removal of fiber cement siding installed before the late 1980s requires a professional asbestos abatement contractor

Vinyl (PVC)

Vinyl has been the predominant siding material in the U.S. for the past two decades and has a market share of 31%. Its low cost and low maintenance are the biggest draws for builders, subcontractors and homeowners.

Cost relative to other materials. Vinyl is the cheapest among all siding options in terms of material and installation cost. Insulated vinyl siding, considered a premium vinyl product, has a price comparable to some engineered wood and fiber cement brands.

Environmental impact. Dioxin and other toxins are by-products associated with vinyl siding production. Vinyl siding also does not biodegrade.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Impervious to insects, pests and water
  • Color is consistent throughout the material, so nicks and scratches won’t show up easily
  • Available in a wide range of profiles, colors and textures
  • R-values ranging from 2 to 6 (for insulated vinyl)
  • Prone to fading under ultraviolet light
  • Can crack, warp, bend, melt and burn

Brick

Brick is an incredibly durable and long-lasting material made from fired clay. Although most modern brick siding is only brick veneer installed over the home’s wood frame structure, it is still one of the hardest-wearing materials on the market today. Despite heavy competition, brick’s 25% market share shows how well it has retained its popularity.

Cost relative to other materials. Brick is considered a high-end siding material and commands a premium price that is exceeded only by stone. Time- and labor-intensive installation further adds to its cost. However, home insurance can be cheaper for homes with brick siding.

Environmental impact. Because of its longevity and the ready availability of the raw materials, brick is considered a highly sustainable siding option. It also offers excellent energy performance.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Highly resistant to damage from water, wind and wind-blown debris when installed properly
  • Available in a wide range of sizes, textures and colors, and can be installed in a variety of configurations
  • Offers superior sound reduction
  • Significantly increases property value
  • Brick veneers are still penetrable by water and must be installed over a protective membrane
  • Mortar joints can deteriorate over time and must be replaced

Traditional & Synthetic Stucco

Traditional stucco consists of various combinations of Portland cement, sand, lime and water, and is installed over wood lath or expanded metal wire lath. Synthetic stucco, also called exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS), makes use of epoxy to prevent cracking. Stucco was the exterior wall material installed on 24% of single-family houses built in 2015. It is used extensively in the Pacific and Mountain regions and in the Southeastern U.S.

Cost relative to other materials. While the material itself isn’t very expensive, the amount of prep work that goes into installing stucco siding bumps up the total cost significantly. Cost-wise, stucco siding installation sits somewhere between wood and brick siding.

Environmental impact. Like fiber cement, stucco containing Portland cement is linked to CO2 emissions. However, some formulations use lime instead of cement, which helps reduce stucco’s carbon footprint.

Other Pros and Cons:

  • Highly durable and pairs well with other siding materials
  • Resistant to fire and insects
  • Easy to repair
  • Poor installation can cause premature cracking
  • Synthetic stucco is not “breathable,” which can lead to moisture build-up if the vapor barrier or drainage plane is compromised
  • Requires additional treatment in humid or wet climates with freeze-thaw cycles

Part 3: Other Siding Considerations

Siding material may be the biggest factor to consider when choosing siding, but the decision-making doesn’t stop there. Below are other important factors to take into account.

Profile

Your choice of profile can dramatically alter the way your home will look after siding installation. Some of the most common siding profiles are:

  • Lap. Arguably the most universal siding profile in the U.S., lap siding is laid out horizontally and is a natural fit for traditional home styles such as Cape Cod, Craftsman, Federal, French Colonial, Georgian, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Victorian/Italianate. Similar horizontal shadowed profiles include beaded lap and Dutch lap.
  • Board & Batten. Board and batten was a low-cost, material-efficient siding profile originally used on barns and farm buildings. In later years, it found applications in contemporary homes and other buildings where a visual emphasis on the vertical was desired.
  • Shingles & Shakes. Shingles and shakes are best suited to Arts and Crafts and Craftsman-style homes. They are also used as accents on Craftsman, Queen Anne and Folk Victorian homes. A wide assortment of shapes is available, including squares, scallops, hexagons, octagons and half coves.
  • Vertical & Horizontal Strip. Generally one of the most expensive siding profiles, strip siding is usually made of wood and must be installed over a continuous waterproof membrane. Strip siding works well with both rustic and contemporary home designs. Similar profiles include channel rustic, shiplap, v-joint, channel and tongue-and-groove.
  • Panel. These large sheets create flat, uniform surfaces with pronounced shadows at panel joints. Panels are considered a specialty profile and command a higher price than most. They are commonly used on modern homes.

Architectural Style

As seen above, profile choice is closely linked to a home’s architectural style. Often, architecture is also the deciding factor in the choice of siding material. Brick, for instance, best suits Colonial, English Cottage and Tudor exteriors. Stucco, while an excellent siding option for everything from traditional to modern home styles, is a favorite for Mediterranean and Southwestern Spanish Colonial homes.

Regional & Neighborhood Preferences

Because climate varies across regions, the type of siding typical to different locations can also vary greatly. For example, vinyl, the predominant siding choice in the Northeast, takes a back seat to brick in the South. Stucco also trumps vinyl in the West, accounting for 58% of the market in that region.

Neighborhood preferences, on the other hand, become especially important if you plan to sell your home. Buyers want the look and cost of your siding to be on par with what they see on nearby homes.

Workmanship

Whatever material you end up choosing, workmanship will help determine how your siding will look and perform years down the road and, ultimately, how long it lasts. You need to choose a contractor who understands manufacturer installation requirements.

We hope this guide has helped you make the right decision for your home. If you’d like to see what you can achieve with different siding options, check out the LP® SmartSide® Trim and Siding Visualizer. To learn more about LP products, contact an LP BuildSmart Preferred Contractor near you today.

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