Angie's LIST Guide to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.