Every house has some form of siding, and you have several choices when it comes time to renovate or upgrade. Siding is a protective outer layer construction material used to protect commercial and residential structures from the elements—wind, rain, salt air, moisture, temperature, exterior noise, insects, mold, and fire. Industrial and commercial buildings tend to be utilitarian and frequently are sided with a weather-resistant metal made from aluminum or steel. The following five types of residential siding are equally concerned with architectural character.
Wood siding is a perennial favorite — from the traditional, to the modern, to the unmistakable look of a Cape Cod. This siding can be installed, vertically, horizontally, shiplapped, tongue, and groove, or installed as individual shakes or shingles. It may be made of insect and moisture resident woods such as redwood or cedar. It can be made of pine or exotic hardwood.
Wood siding can be stained or painted most any color and makes for an easy DIY project for the experienced craftsperson. It can be expensive and is a high-maintenance product, particularly in regions with climatic extremes. It requires regular refinishing and vigilance to protect from moisture and insect infestation. While the wood used for wood siding is frequently harvested from managed forests, the paints and stains used to finish it are not environmentally friendly.
The three most popular forms of masonry siding are brick, stone, and stucco. A brick sided home has an unmistakable rustic look, particularly red clay brick. Natural stones such as flagstone also provide an earthy feel. Brick and stone can be painted to create a more contemporary feeling. Additionally, they are highly durable, last for generations, require little maintenance, insulate well, and are insect resistant. Stone or brick siding is very expensive and require expert installation.
Stucco siding is much less expensive, though it still requires expert installation. It is a light weight concrete mixture that can be textured and painted in a host of colors. It is not as durable as brick or stone — it is porous and must be kept well-sealed or moisture can penetrate and damage the interior framing.
Homes are not typically sided with metal any more, at least in the United States — it is, however, extraordinarily durable. For a period, aluminum siding was all the rage, touted for its durability and low maintenance, and in the 50s and 60s many homes were clad in aluminum. Over the long term, it tended to dent and cheap materials corroded.
While metal siding is still more popular in Europe, copper sided accents may be found in abundance. Copper siding is unique for its coloring and weathering features. It is frequently used as roofing for bay windows and dormers, as well as for roofing itself. It is very expensive and the installation is highly specialized.
Composite sidings are man-made products, designed to mimic natural materials, but requiring less maintenance and the case of wood-like products increased durability. For example, sheets of T1-11, which is plywood, are designed to create a tongue and grooved look, or, with added vertical strips of wood, to resemble a board and batten siding. While requiring painting, plywood is more durable than boards of wood, and it is more easily installed.
Brick and stone veneers are manufactured to be lighter and less expensive than their natural counterparts, still durable, they require expert installation. Faux brick or stone can be made of fiberglass, which can be manufactured in a host of colors and styles. It can also be manufactured with a stained wood-grained texture, and is more easily installed by the experienced DIYer.
Fiber cement siding is a mixture of Portland cement, wood fiber, and silca (sand) and it meets most any challenge from the elements - from seaside weathering to hurricanes. Fiber cement siding can be manufactured to look like wood or stone or brick as well as in sheets for commercial application. It is expensive and heavy, requiring expert installation. Costs, however, can be mitigated by its durability. Manufacturers offer up to a 50-year product warranty and 15-years on the finish.
Composites, in general, are less expensive, highly durable, insect resistant, and frequently DIY friendly, but the manufacturing process is not always environmentally friendly
Vinyl siding is a plastic siding manufactured from PVC. It has become the most popular form of siding in recent years because it is inexpensive, durable (limited life-time warranty), insect resistant, and easily installed by the experienced do-it-yourselfer. Vinyl siding is a low-maintenance product only requiring periodic washing but it is not fire resistant, can be brittle — requiring repair, and like most plastic products, it is not environmentally friendly.
Vinyl siding is molded in a variety of textures and colors, it can even be textured and colored to look like wood. It can be applied vertically or horizontally, but if it is used to re-side a home, it will completely change the architectural character of the home. In a typical retrofit application, insulation is applied on top of the old siding and then the vinyl is applied, which immediately changes the relief and exterior character of a home.
The Moral of the Story
Not all sidings are equal. Siding may be made of wood, masonry, or it may be manmade — from metal to vinyl, to various composites. Depending upon your architectural tastes, environmental concerns, and pocketbook, one of these will be the best one for your home.