House Siding Options: From Plywood to Vinyl

  • 01 of 05

    Plywood Siding

    Plywood Siding for House
    Chris Clor / GettyImages

    House siding is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—exterior home purchase you will make. Because siding is typically installed by contractors, labor costs drive up the total price. This means it is a choice you want to evaluate thoroughly before pulling the trigger. 

    Plywood goes up fast because it comes in large sheets and it is inexpensive. Plywood for siding is not the type of exterior grade plywood you might use for sheds. Home-grade exterior plywood siding is has a rough sawn, textured appearance, and the edges are ship-lapped to allow for a tight fit.

    • While plywood is a viable low-cost option, it is not considered a premium material. One way to make plywood siding work, though, is to mate it with the more attractive, premium material on the house facade. For example, three sides of the house might be plywood, with the front being made of manufactured veneer stone or cedar shake shingles.
    • Plywood is a dimensionally stable wood, so it resists major expansion, contraction, warping, and swelling.
    • Plywood siding is available in large sheets of 8' or longer, so installation goes faster.
    • Vertical grooving on plywood gives the impression of multiple boards rather than one large board—more pleasing to the eye.
    • Plywood is one of the few types of siding that can be considered a do-it-yourself material. DIYers routinely install and replace plywood siding on their homes.
    • Plytanium® from Georgia-Pacific is one representative brand.
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  • 02 of 05

    Fiber-Cement Siding

    Allura Fiber Cement Panels 1500 x 1000
    © Plycem USA, Inc.

    If you can afford it, fiber-cement siding is one of your best house siding options.  It's durable, fire-resistant, and looks like real wood siding.

    • Fiber-cement siding is 85% cement-like materials (sand, cement, fly ash, etc.) and 15% cellulose fibers.
    • This siding can be difficult to install by yourself. Most homeowners contract this project out to qualified fiber-cement installers.
    • Though fire-resistant, it is not fire-proof. Fire-resistant means that it slows down the spread of fire (fiber-cement's cellulose, or wood, content allow it to burn). HardiePlank has a 1-hour fire rating, far beyond vinyl or natural wood.
    • Fiber-cement is expensive, both in terms of product cost and installation.
    • When fiber-cement is stacked up against vinyl siding, fiber-cement is considered the more premium product and tends to garner better resale value for a home than vinyl.


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  • 03 of 05

    Vinyl Siding

    Painting Shutters on Vinyl Sided House
    kirbyworks / Getty Images

    Vinyl siding is inexpensive, quick to install, and becoming more attractive as time goes by. Vinyl does get a bad rap as being an inferior building material, and some of these criticisms are warranted, such as its flimsiness and poor thermal blocking abilities.

    • Vinyl siding is cheap, relatively attractive, and getting better all the time.
    • Usually not an option if you are trying to historically renovate a house. The main issue is that any type of siding that obliterates original architectural details (such as clapboard) is not considered appropriate for historic renovation.
    • Vinyl is one of the cheapest types of siding you can buy.
    • Vinyl siding does not have good thermal-blocking "R" values. But it can be backed with thin insulation that slightly increases its insulating value.
    • Vinyl siding is a quick fix. While siding manufacturers are making headway with developing better-looking vinyl products that more closely mimic "real" wood siding, vinyl still has long ways to go.
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  • 04 of 05

    Aluminum Siding

    Aluminum Siding
    CC By 2.0 Image by Tomwsulcer Creative Commons / Wikimedia

    Aluminum siding, popular for much of the twentieth century, eventually became shorthand for everything cheap and shoddy about renovated homes and it fell out of fashion. Now it is back but in a new and better way. Manufacturers have added features such as more realistic texturing and improved joints which make aluminum an option for some homeowners.

    • On one hand, aluminum siding is not considered very "green" because of the great amounts of energy required to produce metallic siding. On the other hand, it is not a petroleum-based product, as is vinyl siding.
    • Aluminum transmits thermal energy, which is not desirable for siding.
    • Aluminum has tiny, almost invisible seams between the panels. Other types of siding, such as fiber-cement, requires larger caulked seams.
    • Like vinyl siding, aluminum dents easily. But like vinyl, it too can be backed with foam insulation, which helps prevent dents.
    • Alcoa, the giant aluminum producer, does still sell aluminum siding, but this is architectural-quality siding more than it is ordinary house siding. Other companies, like Revere, offer aluminum siding with more traditional profiles.
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  • 05 of 05

    Cedar Shake Siding

    Cedar Shake Siding
    ML Harris / Getty Images

    Truly one of the more beautiful types of siding materials available, cedar shake does have a well-deserved reputation as a stately, classic material for homes of distinction.

    • Cedar shake requires more maintenance than other siding types listed here.
    • High resale value can be gained for homes that have cedar siding in good shape.
    • Cedar shake requires skilled labor for attractive and water-tight results.