Few home improvements or repairs can enhance the performance, curb appeal, and value of your house like new siding. Various siding materials have come and gone over the years, but a handful of standards have remained, along with the occasional newcomer. For example, no one uses asbestos siding anymore, and fiberglass and hardboard composite siding have been largely replaced with vinyl and a new standard, fiber cement.
Here's a look at the features, pricing, and maintenance considerations of these popular materials, as well as the timeless options of wood and metal.
Few would disagree that wood siding is one of the most attractive of home siding options. Common types of wood siding include wood planks, boards or panels, and shingles. Wood clapboard lap siding is one of the oldest types of house siding, and you can see its beauty in many historic homes. The main drawbacks of wood siding are its high cost and relatively high maintenance needs.
- Wood siding is available in a wide variety of styles, textures, and finishes.
- Wood clapboard or beveled lap siding is horizontal and has overlapping joints.
- Wood plank or board siding is vertical and comes in board and batten, board-on-board, and channel-groove or tongue-and-groove styles.
- Board siding also comes in a plywood version, often called T1-11, which is simply exterior plywood with various face treatments and groove patterns to emulate a traditional board-and-batten design.
- Wood siding is fairly easy to repair but difficult to install over existing siding.
- Wood requires an exterior finish, such as paint or stain.
- It can be damaged by sun exposure, rot, and insects; it is subject to warping and splitting.
- Wood siding runs from moderate to very high in cost. Nationally, average costs are $3 to $14 per square foot, installed, according to a major consumer cost estimating service. Cost varies widely by type of wood species and style of siding and exterior finish.
- T1-11 is the least expensive type, on average: $3.50 to $7.20 per square foot, installed.
- Cedar shingles/shakes are the most expensive, averaging $6.50 to $13.75 per square foot, installed.
- Lap siding can run from about $2 per square foot for pine or cypress siding, to as much as $14 per square foot for redwood. Cedar lap siding, the most common type, typically costs $5 to $10 per square foot, installed.
- Painted finishes tend to require higher maintenance and require good exterior house painting preparation.
- Wood siding is prone to paint problems due to moisture if the home is not properly ventilated.
- Stained finishes usually require somewhat less maintenance than paint.
Metal Siding: Aluminum and Steel
The high-maintenance needs associated with wood siding brought a desire for an alternative. Aluminum siding was the first to fit the bill and it has evolved over the years into a very low-maintenance and popular siding choice for newer homes. In recent years, the availability of low-cost overseas steel has led to an emergence of steel siding.
Horizontal aluminum and steel siding comes in horizontal strips resembling wood lap siding, which include a mounting flange at the top for nailing, and an interlocking edge along the bottom to seal against the weather. Galvanized corrugated roofing is also sometimes used for siding on modern-style homes.
- Metal siding comes in a broad range of styles, including horizontal and vertical strips and panels, as well as shingles. At a distance, it is hard to distinguish metal siding from wood.
- This siding typically includes a factory-applied finish for maximum corrosion resistance. Plain, unfinished panels are usually galvanized for corrosion protection.
- Metal is commonly used as "retrofit" siding and it is sometimes applied directly over wood siding when the desire for low maintenance wins out over aesthetics or when the wood siding has been severely damaged.
- Metal is a durable material, but prefinished painted finishes have been known to fade, chalk, and bleed onto brick walls below the siding. Newer versions tend to be more color-fast than their predecessors.
- Metal is now available with some special plastic or vinyl coatings for additional resistance to fading and weathering.
- Aluminum and steel is prone to denting and can be noisy.
- Uncoated steel and aluminum are moderate in cost. Average costs (materials plus installation) run $3 to $6 per square foot for aluminum, $4 to $8 per square foot for steel.
- Vinyl- or plastic-coated aluminum is more expensive.
- Material costs can fluctuate greatly depending on market conditions, tariffs, etc.
- Steel and aluminum are low-maintenance siding materials.
- Plastic- or vinyl-clad aluminum siding can carry a 35-year warranty.
- Standard pre-painted aluminum siding may be prone to chalking.
- Denting is a common problem with aluminum or steel siding.
As the search for low-cost, low-maintenance siding continued, the next evolution after aluminum and steel siding was the advent of vinyl siding. Like aluminum, vinyl siding comes in strips with interlocking edges. A special tool called a zip tool is used to join and separate the siding strips.
- Vinyl comes in a range of styles, including horizontal and vertical panels and a range of colors.
- Vinyl siding is available in a variety of textures, including wood shake/shingle style.
- Commonly used as a retrofit siding, vinyl is often applied over old wood siding.
- Vinyl can be prone to cracking in cold weather if subjected to impact.
- Proper installation is critical, or siding will warp or buckle.
- Low to moderate—vinyl is usually less expensive than aluminum or steel siding. The national average for installing vinyl siding (materials plus labor) is $3 to $8 per square foot.
- Vinyl is a very low-maintenance siding material—it never needs painting, as the color is solid through the material.
- If cracked, siding section must be repaired or replaced.
- Limited warranties of up to 50 years are available on better quality products.
Fiber Cement Siding
Cement fiber siding is the latest development in a residential siding. It's durable, very low-maintenance, and because it is made from recyclable materials, it's resource-efficient. Fiber cement siding cuts and installs like wood siding. Some of the major manufacturers of this product include Allura (formerly CertainTeed), James Hardie Industries, and Cemplank.
- Fiber cement comes the closest to emulating a natural wood grain and is virtually indistinguishable from some wood siding products.
- Complementary trim and millwork pieces are also available to provide design detail for the home.
- Fiber cement comes primed or pre-finished.
- It is available in beveled planks, shingle or shakes, and stucco-panel styles.
- Fiber cement is moderate to high in price. The national average is about $10 per square foot, installed. While this is higher than vinyl or metal, fiber cement siding lasts a very long time, and you may never need to replace it over the time you own a home.
- Fiber cement is extremely durable.
- The material is not subject to rot or insect damage.
- Fiber cement is virtually maintenance-free.
- Warranties of 50 years are routine from the major manufacturers, and even longer lifespans are common.