Angie's LIST Guide to
Siding

Unless they are made of brick or stone, most homes are protected by some form of exterior siding. Traditionally made of wood, siding now comes in several materials including aluminum and vinyl. Each has its strengths and weaknesses to consider.
 

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Siding tip: Ask your siding installer for samples of grades, colors and textures and view them outside at different times of the day. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Paul E.)
Siding tip: Ask your siding installer for samples of grades, colors and textures and view them outside at different times of the day. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Paul E.)
 
 

Wood

Timeless and elegant, wood siding is always a refined choice for the home. It will stand up well against the elements when properly cared for. One of the great features of wood is that you can choose a variety of styles from lap siding and vertical boards to traditional shingles and shakes. Of course, the biggest disadvantage of wood siding is that it needs to be repainted on a regular basis.

cedar shingle siding
The siding on this Cape Cod home is made of cedar shingles. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Tim B.)
The siding on this Cape Cod home is made of cedar shingles. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Tim B.)

Longevity – If you choose to install wood on your home, consider redwood, cedar or cypress. These species of lumber are better able to withstand moisture, insects and seasonal changes in climate. Wood can easily survive on the home for fifty years or more, provided the wood is regularly painted or sealed to protect it.

Maintenance – The wood should be power washed every year to keep it looking fresh. Plan on staining or painting your home every four years or so. Signs that your siding requires a fresh coat of paint include a faded finish, signs of mildew or flaking paint.

Cost – Having your wood siding professional installed typically costs between five and ten dollars a square foot. This price includes materials and labor. It’s important to also calculate the cost of having the wood maintained every few years. If you will do this chore yourself, plan on spending a few hundred dollars for the materials. If you have a professional handle the painting or staining, plan on the expense being in excess of a thousand dollars.

Installation – Look closely above the windows and doors. The siding should be cut and spaced so that a single board provides continuous protection directly above these areas. Horizontal siding boards should overlap by at least an inch, and all boards should fit snugly against doors casings and adjoining boards. All mitered corners should fit tightly with smooth seams.

Aluminum

Long popular because of its longevity, resistance to dents and energy efficiency, aluminum siding is also fireproof and will not rust.   Its enamel coating can come in a variety of colors, and because metal reflects heat, it also helps to reduce heating and cooling costs.

The main drawback to aluminum is that people generally regard it as cheap and of lesser quality than wood or brick.  It can be prone to denting, and some people complain that it can shake and be noisy in windy conditions.

Longevity and Maintenance - Expect aluminum siding to last between thirty and fifty years. Like vinyl, it requires very little maintenance. It should be cleaned every few years, and it’s a good idea to check it occasionally for dents, scratches or cracks. Another benefit is that it can be repainted, if you ever decide you want a different color.

Cost – Slightly more expensive than vinyl, aluminum will run between three and four dollars a square foot. Regular maintenance costs are eliminated when you choose aluminum.

Installation – The installers should spend time preparing the wall surface, making it as smooth and clean as possible. A 3/8th inch backing should be installed under the metal. The sheets should be overlapped by at least two inches, and corner caps should be used after the sheets are installed.

Vinyl

vinyl siding
The homeowner of this English tudor home chose vinyl siding because he wanted the least amount of seams possible. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Raymond K.)
The homeowner of this English tudor home chose vinyl siding because he wanted the least amount of seams possible. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Raymond K.)

The primary advantage of vinyl is that it requires little or no ongoing maintenance, but another advantage is that it can be manufactured to mimic other materials.  You can choose vinyl that looks cedar-shake shingles or historic wood clapboard.

There are a few disadvantage to vinyl siding. It does not fit tightly against the house, creating a situation where moisture and insects can sneak behind the siding and cause problems. It will also fade over time, leaving you with limited options for correcting the color. Freezing temperatures can make vinyl brittle, leaving it susceptible to damage.

Longevity and Maintenance - Expect quality vinyl siding to last about fifty years. Beyond power-washing it every year, vinyl siding does not require any maintenance.

Cost – A more affordable option than wood, you can expect vinyl siding to cost between two and three dollars a square foot. There is no need to factor in maintenance costs, since this product will be largely maintenance-free.

Installation – A professional installer will remove the old siding and install insulation board before the vinyl is put in place. Vinyl siding will expand and contract, so it should hang loosely on the wall sheathing. Look for the siding panels to fit snugly against each other with a quarter-inch gap at both ends.

Fiber-cement

hardiplank fiber-cement siding
The homeowner of this San Antonio home opted for Hardiplank - a fiber-cement siding. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Adam B.)
The homeowner of this San Antonio home opted for Hardiplank - a fiber-cement siding. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Adam B.)

A relatively new development in the siding industry, fiber-cement has quickly gained popularity because offers a number of advantages over aluminum and vinyl.  It looks and feels much more like wood, but is less expensive and requires less maintenance. Resistant to insects and moisture, fiber-cement is also resistant to rot and hail. Available styles include clapboard siding, wood shingles and vertical panels. The one big drawback to fiber-cement is that it can be tricky to install. It requires special tools and the right experience to install it properly.

Longevity and Maintenance – Fiber-cement contains no metal that can rust. Because it is resistant to moisture and insects, the life expectancy is fifty years or more. The same qualities that make it durable also make it a low-maintenance choice for the home. It should be power washed once a year. After twenty-five years it may require a fresh coat of paint.

Cost – Fiber-cement is less expensive than wood, but a pricier option than vinyl. Homeowners should expect to pay between four and eight dollars a square foot to have the product installed. However, there will be minimal expense involved in maintaining the siding.

Installation – The joints of fiber-cement siding should be neatly lined up and properly caulked. It is installed like wood siding, with tight joints, clean cuts and mitered corners that are perfectly mated. Special tools are required, so you will want to hire a contractor with experience installing this special siding.

Choosing the right siding for your home will depend on several factors. Your budget will play a major role, as well as personal tastes. Before making a final decision, take into account the overall durability, maintenance requirements and potential drawbacks of each option.

Comments

Any idea how to keep the squirrels from eating my trim?
We live in the country, a long away from the fire department. That's why we wanted something that would not burn as easily as wood. It's been great.
But I have only 1 older dog now, and no cat. So the squirrels seem to think it's ok to come up on our porch. We are not in the woods but have woods close to us. These silly things started eating the trim around both garage doors.
I wonder if others have had this problem. What in the cement fiber boards are they craving.
We have also had them put a nest in the engine compartment of a truck that was sitting for a couple of weeks.
Another time they ate the wiring in the same truck. Repair was $800.
Any ideas about getting rid of them. I've shot several with my shotgun, but they still keep coming!!
I could use a suggestion for a good posion. I could put some up high on a wood pile so that my dog would not get it. HELP!!

And if the squirrels knock the poison bait off the wood pile, who do you think will eat it? I'd recommend getting a good quick terrier, maybe a fox hound. Fun for dog, and squirrels will learn to hang out elsewhere.

The most humane and safest way to control squirrels, is to place moth balls in troubled areas. Like most people I know, squirrels hate the things!

I had the same problem on my office with Hardy board. However, I noticed it was always the same squirrel.

I bought a trap and stated trapping squirrels. The first three weren't the one causing the problem, but I carried them to the park anyway. The fourth time was the charm. I trapped the problem causer. There have been no problems in the past two years since I removed the squirrel.

This article does not mention seamless steel siding which is a wonderful product with a great warranty.

Steel dents and is loud when heavy rain or hail hit it. Also if not installed properly the cuts in the steel, around windows, doors, electrical receptacles, gable cuts, kick out flashings, hose bibs,etc. The cuts will rust, thus leading to cancer in the material that eventually eat the area away. Stuff is no good unless you have a real good installer.

We don't sell seamless steel, But we do sell seamed steel. I can tell you that the product is galvanized so cut ends do not tend to rust unless they are set in coastal areas in direct contact with sea spray.
Steel can dent, but it holds it's color better than nearly any other product on the market. If you have a dent adn need a panel replaced you usually can't even tell where it was replaced. Most other maintenance free sidings cannot make this claim.
There are different siding choices to fit your needs. Steel is a great maintenance free product that holds up well to the elements without breaking the bank.

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