Siding Buying Guide

  • Getting started

  • First, siding provides protection for the structure from the climate and elements. When designing the exterior of a home, builders and homeowner have a multitude of options for creating the desired look and lifestyle. The façade of a building is the most visible aspect and will send a visual message. By choosing the siding material, color and style, the owners determine that message.

  • Materials

  • Wood is the traditional exterior siding for homes. Available in a range of species, grades, and profiles, wood offers a traditional charm and expensive aesthetic. The use of wood creates a depth in design. Depending upon the area of the country, wood species will be readily available, or may be ordered, which will increase the time for installation. End cuts of any wood siding must be treated to avoid moisture absorption.

    Pine is an economical softwood often used for siding especially when painted or stained. When treated and stained, it can mimic the look of cypress — which is expensive and often not available. Due to the nature of the wood, it should acclimate to the humidity of the area prior to installation to diminish the spaces between the boards or shingles after installation. All sides and ends of pine must be sealed or it will absorb moisture and warp or cup. Treated pine will be rot-resistant but maintenance is a must for pine siding.

    Spruce is a softwood available in the East and Fir in the West with much the same features as Pine. Easily milled into profiles, these species will require maintenance as they are not rot resistant.

    Cedar is naturally rot and insect resistant and since it does not have resins, it is easily milled into profiles. Frequently used for shakes and shingles, Cedar is prized for its graining, and staining will enhance its look and long life.  

    Redwood is naturally rot and insect resistant and is easily milled into profiles. The color of heartwood redwood is prized and is the most expensive of the wood siding choices. Since it is a Western species, Redwood can be even more expensive in the East. With little resin, it takes paint and stains easily, but staining is the most popular because of the beauty of redwood. With proper installation and simple maintenance, Redwood siding should last a long time.

    Engineered Wood is produced from thin layers of wood that are bonded together with the grain parallel to the long direction and compressed into strong, uniform boards.  Since it is manufactured under controlled situations with jointed or lapped veneers, it is engineered to be stronger, more uniform, and straighter than traditional lumber, plus an overlay makes it water and insect resistant. When compressed, textures can be added to the surface. Boards are light-weight, and primed or pre-painted.

    Vinyl has become the most popular siding for exterior cladding due to its longevity and low maintenance factors. Created in a multitude of profiles that may mimic wood or offer a smooth finish, vinyl siding is now produced so color is retained throughout. Newer technologies for color in vinyl also permit darker colors that will not fade. Vinyl is insect resistant and does not absorb moisture so it will not warp or expand — unless exposed to a direct heat source. DO NOT locate an outdoor grill up against a vinyl sided structure! Vinyl siding will carry a warranty of a minimum of 50 years and many offer a lifetime warranty.

        •  Insulated vinyl siding will contain an expanded polystyrene formed insulation that fits into the profile of the vinyl siding. While it provides an R-2 to R-3.5 value, the insulation is also a thermal block. Plus, the insulation provides a backing that reduces cracking from blows versus non-backed vinyl.

        •  Certified vinyl siding will be resistant to 110 mph. winds and even higher. In hurricane prone areas or along the coast, wind resistant products are required and vinyl offers products in that category.

    Plastic is formed into siding products such as shakes and shingles, and decorative trims such as scallops.

    Fiber Cement siding is created from wood pulp, cement, clay and sand that is mixed and molded into siding profiles.  Fire-resistant and insect resistant, fiber cement is resistant to water, salt spray and ultra-violet rays. Siding is molded into a variety of profiles, surfaces—wood grained or smooth— to provide a variety of designs. Fiber cement is heavier than other materials. Delivered primed or pre-painted, it may need to be touched up if scratched and will need to be repainted periodically, but not as often as wood. When handling, fiber cement use proper protection for the eyes and a dust mask. Cutting with a circular saw requires carbide-tipped blades.

    Aluminum siding — everything old is new again. Created in several thicknesses (thicker gauges will be more wind resistant), profiles and textures, aluminum is fire, water, and insect resistant — essentially maintenance free! Industrial-grade paints resist fading and chalking, although scratches must be touched up. Hail may damage.

    Steel siding is created from heavy-duty, galvanized steel. Profiles may be woodgrain or smooth finish. Moisture, insect, and fire resistant, heavy-gauge steel resists impacts and high winds. May be finished with a fused polyvinyl chloride low-gloss coating in a variety of colors, steel siding will only need an easy cleaning.

    Brick provides an aesthetic unlike any others and is insect, water and fire resistant. As an insulator, brick is unrivaled by other siding products. It is wind resistant and provides a strong covering for a home. Brick is a natural product created by forming clay and shale into pieces that are cured at extremely high temperatures to produce a long-lasting, attractive construction material. Manufactured in a variety of colors, brick also can have a range of textures. The deterrent to brick is the cost. Laying brick is a time-consuming process, too.

    Stone siding may be a composite material or natural stone created as panels and easily installed, almost like puzzles. Water, insect and fire resistant, the stone veneers require no maintenance.  These panels are mostly used as accents in combination with other siding materials and not on the whole house.

        •  Natural stones such as limestone, marble, quartzite, sandstone, slate and travertine are used to create panels that can be easily installed.

        •  Composite stone panels may be a mixture of concrete, aggregate sand and water molded into panels and cured. Color will be throughout the panel. Water, insect and fire resistant, the composite stone panels require no maintenance other than washing.

    Brick Veneer is produced from natural clay or an aggregate mix. Some manufacturers use a mounting surface or grid for easy installation. The brick veneer is about half the thickness of regular brick and created in a variety of colors, textures and shapes.

    Stucco is one of the oldest siding materials used to protect homes. Made from natural elements of cement, sand and water, it is applied in layers to provide a strong, insulating layer on the exterior of the home. Colors can be personalized to provide a custom exterior and textures can be designed into the surface. Water, insect and fire resistant, stucco can last up to 50 years. While the materials to create the siding are not expensive— the slurry will be applied to a mesh substrate attached over a moisture barrier — the installation process is time consuming and requires experience in application.

  • Cost Considerations

  • Material choice will have the greatest impact upon the price.

        •  Brick is the most expensive to consider with much of the cost in the installation. With little if any maintenance and longevity, it may be an appropriate choice depending upon the budget and style of the home.

        •  Brick Veneer and Stone are higher in cost depending upon the stone used but have a lifetime of 100 plus years. With low and no maintenance other than cleaning, weigh the cost against the aesthetics.

        •  Wood siding can be expensive for the materials, installation and maintenance. Wood does not offer the same lifetime as other materials. The aesthetic of wood should be compared with the overall costs.

        •  Engineereed wood siding is very inexpensive especially when factored over the lifetime of the panels and the low maintenance.

        •  Vinyl siding can range in costs depending upon profile, manufacturer and design, with insulated vinyl adding an upcharge of almost 50 percent. With no maintenance costs and a lifetime of 20-30 years, vinyl is an affordable siding.

        •  Aluminum and Steel are inexpensive alternatives in the lower range of siding materials, although not as many options are offered. With no maintenance costs, and a 20 to 30 year lifespan, metal is an affordable material.

        •  Fiber Cement may run 50 percent more than vinyl. The cost of installation for fiber cement is higher than vinyl, aluminum and steel. With low maintenance and a lifetime expectancy of 35-50 years, consider the advantages of fiber cement.

        •  Stucco is among the more expensive of the siding options but it requires none or little maintenance and will last more than 50 years.

    Resale value of the home may be taken into consideration when choosing to re-side a house. A higher investment when residing may turn into a significant return at resale.

    Installation if done by a professional contractor will cost more than an experienced do-it-yourselfer.

    Maintenance costs may be a factor in choosing siding as the pricing is factored over the lifetime of the material. Maintenance is discussed under each material.