As vinyl siding has fallen out of favor, homeowners are increasingly looking to alternatives that not only fit their lifestyle and budget, but also hold up against their region’s particular climate. The siding on your home can affect the look of your entire neighborhood, so you’ll need to research your options thoroughly. We’ve put together a guideline, complete with pros and cons, of today’s most common preferences in home exteriors.
Which Siding is Right for Your Home?
Before shopping for siding, you’ll need to think about your specific needs. The DIY Network lists six main things to consider when choosing the siding for your home.
Water Resistance: If you want your siding to last longer, choose one with water resistant properties.
Ease of Installation: Looking to do it yourself? Be sure you have the right skills, the right tools, and won’t be exposed to harmful dust during cutting.
Energy Efficiency: Know what you’ll need for insulation beneath the cladding and check the siding’s R-value rating for energy savings.
Aesthetics: Pick a siding you will love to see day in and day out, as you are coming and going.
Versatility: Is the siding versatile enough to work with the varied needs of your home? If there are areas of your home’s exterior that might present a challenge when working with a certain type of siding, it’s important to understand if there will be added costs and/or necessary adjustments.
Durability: Does it have the strength to resist temperature shifts present in your climate? How does it stand up to everyday wear and tear? Is it resistant to wind and termite damage?
Pros and Cons of Popular Siding Options
Many homeowners are unsure about the pros and cons of the various siding options and which considerations are the most important for their particular situation. For example, is your region prone to high winds and/or termites? Termites cause more than $2 billion in damage to buildings in America each year, according to the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. They can cause severe structural damage to wood structures — damage that is NOT covered by any homeowner’s insurance. Alternately, wind damage accounts for more than $4 billion in damage across the U.S. each year. Consulting a home builder, contractor or architect can help narrow your choices. Award-winning home renovation expert Bob Vila outlines some of the upsides and downsides of popular alternatives to vinyl siding on his website.
While wood is easy to work with, it can be expensive, depending on the grade of wood you choose. Revered for its natural beauty, wood can last generations with dedicated maintenance; however, the maintenance can really add up in costs and time spent. For example, clear finishes should be reapplied every two years; semi-transparent stains every three years; and paints every five years. Because wood attracts termites, you’ll need to be sure to consider the cost of an annual pest-control contract as well.
Fiber Cement (HardiePlank)
With a reputation for stability and low maintenance, fiber cement such as HardiePlank is engineered with specific performance attributes specific to the climate where its used. Made from a mix of wood pulp, cement, clay and sand, it’s easy to paint, and is available in a variety of looks and textures to look like wood, stucco or stone. There are many pros to fiber cement siding, as it resists expanding and contracting with changes in humidity and temperature. Plus, it’s fire-resistant, wind proof, termite-proof and it won’t rot. Most manufacturers offer a 30-year warranty. A heavier siding, HardiePlank installation requires special techniques and tools that add to the cost. Finding a remodeling contractor with experience installing fiber cement is key.
Durable and with a distinct look, stucco looks nice with other siding and will last a lifetime if maintained properly. Resistant to fire and insects, stucco can be formulated with organic colors that sink all the way through the material, so that it doesn’t need to be repainted. The downside is that stucco installation requires a lot of prep work and needs to be installed by an experienced professional, who can be difficult to find.
Engineered Wood Siding
Half the cost of real wood, engineered wood siding is made of wood fibers and exterior-grade resins and is available in many styles, primed for paint or with a factory finish. Termite resistant and easy to work with, engineered wood doesn’t create hazardous dust when cut. Engineered wood has had a shaky start with moisture problems, which resulted in class-action lawsuits. The newer varieties, which are now backed with warranties and increased research and development, claim to have more durability and longevity.
Fire and insect resistant, synthetic stone is often used as an accent on the bottom portions of walls or chimneys. Made in molds from a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate, it can look like all sorts of stone types and shapes, including granite and limestone, dry stacked and round river rock. Synthetic stone is not heavy, so installing it doesn’t require you to reinforce your home’s foundation. While synthetic stone is cheaper than using real stone, it is still one of the more expensive siding options and, perhaps more notably, does not fool everyone.
If you’re set against vinyl, you’re joining a growing trend. The good news is that you have excellent choices in alternatives to vinyl siding. Whether you’re choosing the siding for your new house, or updating your current home’s exterior, just remember that your decision will affect the appearance of your home more dramatically than any other choice you make. Think about your specific needs, consider the alternatives, and consult a pro if necessary.