Nothing will affect the appearance of your home more dramatically than the exterior siding you choose. As you shop, look for siding panels and materials that suit the architectural style of your house and that fit your lifestyle. Your decision can also change the look of an entire neighborhood.
Here are the most popular materials for exterior siding.
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Traditional stucco is cement combined with water and inert materials such as sand and lime. Many homes built after the 1950s use a variety of synthetic materials that resemble stucco. Some synthetic stuccos have been problematic. However, a quality synthetic stucco will prove durable. Tint the stucco the color you want, and you may never need to paint.
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Stone Veneer Siding
If you think of ancient monuments and temples, you know that stone is the most durable of all building materials. Granite, limestone, slate, and other types of stone are beautiful and nearly impervious to the weather. Unfortunately, they are also extremely expensive. Precast stone veneers and facings are more affordable. Some stone veneers look quite genuine, while others are clearly artificial.
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Cement Fiber Siding
Fiber cement siding can have the appearance of wood, stucco, or masonry. This durable, natural-looking material is often called by the brand names HardiPlank and HardiPanel. If you want the look of authentic wood with a bit less maintenance, cement fiber is a good option. Fiber cement siding is fireproof, termite-proof, and may have a warranty of up to fifty years.
Some older homes have cement asbestos siding made from Portland cement and asbestos fibers. Removing that type of siding can be hazardous, so remodelers often apply a new, modern siding on top.
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Wood Clapboard Siding
Modern science has given us many synthetic wood-look products, and yet solid wood (usually cedar, pine, spruce, redwood, cypress, or Douglas fir) remain favorite choices for finer homes. With periodic care, wood siding will outlast vinyl and other pretenders. As with cedar shingle siding, wood clapboards can be stained rather than painted. Many wood frame houses built centuries ago still look beautiful today.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Brick and Brick Veneer Siding
Made of fired clay, brick comes in a wide variety of earthy, eye-pleasing colors. Although it is expensive, brick construction is desirable because it can last centuries and probably won't need any patching or repairs for the first twenty-five years. Older brick homes may have a stucco siding, which should be maintained because of its historical accuracy. Quality brick veneers are also attractive and durable, although they don't have the longevity of solid brick.
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Cedar Shingle Siding
Homes sided in cedar shingles (also called "shakes") blend beautifully with wooded landscapes. Made of natural cedar, the shingles are usually stained browns, grays, or other earthen colors. Shakes offer the natural look of real wood, but usually, require less maintenance than wood clapboard. By using stain rather than paint, you can minimize peeling.
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Engineered Wood Siding
Engineered wood, or composite wood, is made with wood products and other materials. Oriented strand board (OSB), hardboard, and veneered plywood are examples of engineered wood products. Engineered wood usually comes in panels that are easy and inexpensive to install. The panels may be molded to create the look of traditional clapboards. Because the textured grain is uniform, engineered wood does not look exactly like real wood. Still, the appearance is more natural than vinyl or aluminum.
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Seamless steel siding is very strong and resists shrinking and bulging when the temperatures change. The siding is custom fit to the exact measurements of your house. You can purchase steel siding with a wood-look texture.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Board and batten, or board-and-batten, is a vertical siding that often is used to give a building, like a church, the perception of being higher than it actually is. In small houses, like the one shown here, the vertical siding is just one of the methods that architect Cathy Schwabe uses to give this 840 square foot cottage a big look.
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Vinyl is made from a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic. Unlike wood or cedar, it won't rot or flake, but it will melt. Vinyl is usually less expensive to purchase and install than most other siding materials. There are, however, drawbacks. Vinyl can crack, fade, or grow dingy over time. Vinyl is also controversial because of environmental concerns during the manufacturing process. Beware, also, about the architecture of your home—vinyl has been misused on beautifully articulated Victorian homes, hiding the architectural detail and handcrafting from a different era.
If you like the idea of vinyl but don't like the look of vinyl panels, another option is to have a professional painter spray on a liquid PVC coating. Made from polymers and resins, the paint-like coating is about as thick as a credit card when it dries. Liquid PVC became widely available in the mid-1980s, and reviews are mixed. The damage caused by a poor application can be devastating. Learn about chemistry before you choose.
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We've gotten used to seeing corrugated metal roofs, but why not siding? It has a lower class reputation in the United States—traditionally, corrugated steel has been used for prefabricated military facilities and factories, so it's considered an "industrial" construction material. In Iceland, however, it's a very popular siding that can face up to the harsh winters of a northern climate. Modernist architects like Frank Gehry used it in the hot, dry Southern California region.
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You may think of aluminum siding as an old-fashioned option, but some builders offer it as an alternative to vinyl. Both materials come with insulation, are easy to maintain, and fairly durable. Aluminum can dent and fade, but it won't crack the way vinyl will. Also, aluminum is not usually considered harmful to your health or the environment. Although vinyl can be recycled, the manufacturing process is known to be hard on the environment. Seamless steel siding is another popular alternative. Corrugated iron has been used for siding but is more popular today as a roofing material.
Remember that the sidings we're talking about here are ones that are mass-produced and readily available. Anything can be used as siding when it's custom-made, as demonstrated by architect Frank Gehry. Consider the stainless steel siding on his award-winning design for the Disney Concert Hall. Why don't we see houses with stainless steel siding?
Which siding is the longest-lasting?
Brick siding can last hundreds of years on your home. For the first 25 years, it likely won't need any care.
What siding option is the most cost-effective?
Engineered wood is known to be inexpensive with easy installation. However, it doesn't have the same longevity as expensive stone alternatives.
How should I choose a siding material?
When choosing a siding material, consider your budget, the aesthetic of your home, local weather conditions, and how long you hope the siding lasts. Once you've narrowed down your options, consult with a professional.