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Exterior Appeal (and Evolution) of Residential Siding Options

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Exterior Appeal (and Evolution) of Residential Siding Options

Residential exterior siding can dramatically affect curb appeal. Finding a siding product that provides curb appeal, pleases the client and fits the budget can be a real challenge.

Builders and remodelers have many cladding options. In masonry, options are stone, brick and cementitious stucco as well as several innovative systems that replicate these masonry looks. Lap siding includes wood, aluminum, vinyl, hardboard, fiber cement and treated engineered wood. Many materials used in lap siding were developed to replicate the natural look and feel of wood, while decreasing the burden of maintenance and improving long-term performance. Panel siding selections are plywood, hardboard, fiber cement and treated engineered wood.

Older than the American Republic

Brick and stone sidings, which typically are the most expensive, have been around the longest (brick since 1611), followed by wood. However, the long-term maintenance of brick and stone homes – repointing challenges, settling cracks and general wear and tear – can be a concern.

Wood, sawn from logs, has been used as an exterior siding since the 1600s. When the early settlers arrived in America, old-growth wood (300+ years old) was plentiful. As the population grew so did the demand for wood, so it became necessary to use younger trees (50+ years old). According to Forest Products and Wood Science, a book by Bower and Haygreen published in 1982, the wood of younger trees, compared to older trees, is usually not as durable or strong and is more prone to fungal, termite and other insect degradation.

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This image shows two specimens after six months of exposure to termite colonies. The untreated engineered wood sample on the left shows significant damage from termite infestation, while the zinc borate-treated engineered wood specimen on the right remains intact and fully protected.

Stucco, a mix of cement, sand and lime, first surfaced as a siding in California in the 1700s. It requires a higher degree of experienced craftsmanship to avoid service issues, and it can be susceptible to cracks and bulk water issues.

The 20th century – emerging technologies and hybrid materials

Asbestos cement shingle siding was first introduced in 1915, gained popularity in the 1930s and ‘40s, and typically was found on entry-level homes. But as health concerns surfaced about asbestos, alternative siding materials came to market while the sales of this siding rapidly declined.

Sometimes called fiberboard, hardboard siding is a wood composite made up of wood fiber and binding agents. Pioneered in the 1940s and with sales that took off in the 1950s, it at one time claimed 9 – 12 percent of the cladding market. But its lack of preservative treatment and limited durability reduced its sales, particularly in high-moisture areas.

Aluminum siding emerged in the 1950s, when manufacturers that made military planes and equipment during World War II had a large supply of aluminum left over. Aluminum is corrosion-resistant but can have oxidation challenges, resulting in a whitish haze on its surface. Dents from normal use are also a concern.

Popular forms of vinyl siding were introduced in the early 1960s and gained prevalence in the 1970s. Compared to aluminum, vinyl was more durable and less likely to dent, was available in a range of colors and offered low maintenance. But raw material costs have increased, there are environmental concerns about petroleum-based products, including vinyl, and some vinyl products are susceptible to fading. So vinyl siding has lost market share and some of its price advantage.

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Originally developed for post-WWII rebuilding efforts, fiber cement siding arrived in the United States in the 1980s and gained market acceptance in the 1990s. It resists decay and has grown as an alternative to wood and hardboard siding in many markets while grabbing share from vinyl. Downsides to fiber cement include its silica content; hence installers must wear special masks when cutting the siding to prevent health issues. It is also brittle, compared to alternative siding materials, and thus is more prone to handling and impact damage. It may be significantly heavier than alternative materials, requiring more time to install than treated engineered wood siding.

Due to its weight and brittleness, fiber cement is limited to a maximum of 12 feet, versus traditional siding lengths of 16 feet. Longer lengths typically mean fewer seams on a wall for a cleaner, finished look.

The present day – longer warranties and sustainability

Treated engineered wood siding debuted in the 1990s. Treated engineered wood offers a real wood look without many of the natural defects and durability issues associated with real wood. Treated engineered wood is taking share from both the fiber cement and vinyl siding product categories.

The advantages of treated engineered wood siding include strength and rigidity; long-term durability by resisting moisture, decay and termites; easy maintenance; lower cost than brick, stone and cedar; excellent impact resistance; and an architecturally diverse portfolio of products.

Treated engineered wood siding products use raw materials more efficiently than many traditional substrates, can help reduce job-site waste, and offer durability and consistent performance. These features make engineered wood siding an ideal choice.

With LP® SmartSide® treated engineered wood siding, wood fiber and strands throughout the entire product are treated with exterior grade resins and zinc borate to help protect against decay and termites and add strength.

LP SmartSide treated engineered wood siding has undergone brutal testing in Hilo, Hawaii, for more than 15 years. The testing occurs at a reputable third-party site in an area with almost 170 inches of annual rainfall. The positive testing results relating to termites, moisture and decay allow LP to offer a 50-year limited warranty, in comparison to fiber cement’s 10- to 30-year warranties.

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The beautifully designed homes in these photos feature treated LP SmartSide engineered wood siding and trim, which are perfectly complemented by other cladding materials such as the masonry used on these homes.

Treated engineered wood is made primarily of wood, a renewable resource. Additionally, some manufacturers use wood procurement processes that target small, fast-growing trees and participate in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) and other programs to help ensure wood comes from well-managed forests.

For information about LP® SmartSide® treated engineered wood trim and siding, please visit www.lpcorp.com/smartside or call toll-free 888.820.0325.

Lance Olson, as senior technical sales manager, oversees technical services related to LP Building Products’ exterior siding products. His responsibilities span code compliance management, product testing and application training, new product field assessment, warranty analysis and customer technical support. Olson is a certified quality engineer and member of the American Society of Testing and Materials and various other industry organizations.

This information and the websites identified above are provided solely as a convenience to the reader. They are not intended to state or imply that the editors of Engineered Wood or LP Building Products sponsor, recommend, endorse or are affiliated or associated with the companies or products listed.