Home Building Exterior Siding

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By Tammy Crosby-Editor, Dream Designs

Nothing will impact the appearance of your home more dramatically than the type of siding you choose, so its no surprise that homeowners are looking to dress to impress. As you look for exterior siding, look for a material that suits the style of your house, fits your lifestyle and works geographically, because you will be living with your choice of siding for a long, long time. When it comes to figuring out the cost of having your home sided – size really does matter, since its labor more than materials that youre paying for.

Here is a look at some of the most popular and affordable materials for exterior siding:

Solid Wood

The first choice for most homeowners is wood, because it stands unmatched for beauty and durability. Wood is available in boards, shingles or shakes. These products are typically made from red or white cedar but they are also available in pine, spruce, redwood, cypress and Douglas fir. The benefits to going with wood is it offers some insulation value, is easy to repair and install, and is available pre-stained, primed or unfinished in many styles. Some products even come with fire-retarding treatments. The drawback to solid wood siding is that it must be painted or stained, which will add several thousand dollars to the cost of the job and to maintenance expenses in the future. For example, wood shingles cost between $3 and $4 per square foot before staining or painting.

Cedar Shingles

Homes sided in cedar shingles (also called “shakes”) are made of natural cedar and are usually stained in shades of brown, gray, or other earthen colors. Shakes are very popular on traditional, ranch, historical and vacation homes that want to blend in with its natural or rustic surroundings.


Engineered or Composite Wood

If solid wood is too much of a strain on your pocketbook you might want to consider engineered or composite wood products like plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) and hardboard ($1.50 to $2.70 per square foot), but even the best of these products wont give you the look of real wood. Of the group, plywood (often sold in a reverse board-and-batten design) is the least expensive, easiest to install and has the longest track record. It works best on contemporary-styled homes. OSB and hardboard products are sold as 4 x 8 sheets or are molded to look like clapboard. They are available preprimed or prefinished in a wide variety of colors, which keeps the cost down.

Fiber Cement

If you want the appearance of wood, stucco or masonry, but cant afford it, fiber cement siding offers a strong and attractive alternative. This durable, natural-looking material is best known by the brand names HardiPlank and HardiPanel. A real selling point is the fact that its fireproof, resistant to rot, fungus and termites (a great perk if you live in an area that is hot and humid), and may have a warranty of up to 50 years.

The installed costs of fiber-cement are reported to be less than traditional masonry or synthetic stucco, equal to or less than hardboard siding, and more than vinyl siding. As always, size matters when it comes to your exterior.


You cant get any more sturdy than stucco. Simply put, youre covering your home with a layer or rock. Cement stucco is made up of a small quantity of lime, Portland cement, and water. This fine grained concrete is attached to your house using waterproof barrier paper, galvanized wire mesh, and metal flashings (handy devices that channel water to the exterior wall). While the strength of stucco remains unchallenged among sidings (it has a track record of say over a thousand years), it does have it drawbacks because of its rigid makeup. If the wood framing beneath it shrinks or if the house foundation moves, the cement stucco could crack. To avoid this happening to your new home, be sure the contractor frames your house with wood sheathing and allows the lumber to dry for about 60 days before installing the stucco. If you hire a talented plasterer, you have unlimited surface texture possibilities. If you want to add color to your stucco be sure to spend the extra money on a masonry penetrating stain, because other paints may peel after time. Traditional stucco has a low material cost, but is expensive to install ($12 to $16 per square foot).

Aluminum and Metal Siding

Aluminum and steel siding, may be considered a step up from vinyl in durability, but its plagued with its own limitations. Like vinyl, metal siding comes in limited colors, is a worse insulator than vinyl, dents easily and is very difficult to repair. So if you live in an area where you get a lot of hail or your house is surrounded by acorn trees, you might want to reconsider using metal.


Thanks to new technology in the vinyl industry, the common stereotype of a plastic home has all but faded. New product offerings wood-like textures, shingles and shakes, deeper colors and more trim options are making vinyl a popular alternative to its high priced rivals. Vinyl is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which makes it immune to rotting and flaking, but even the best vinyl siding will crack, split and look dingy after awhile. The fact that it requires low maintenance – it can be washed with a garden hose – and that it is cheap – $1.50 to $2 per square foot, makes it very appealing. Not so appealing is the fact that it has limited color choices, provides virtually no insulation, is not easy to repair, can fade over time and doesnt stand up well against Mother Nature.

EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Stucco)

Synthetic stucco, also called EIFS (exterior insulated finish system) consist of a a polymer-and-cement mixture, which is applied in two coats over rigid foam insulation and a fiberglass mesh. You might want to double think using this product, because since it came on the scene two decades or so ago it has been unable to successfully keep the water out. Water gets behind many EIFS systems and cant get out. What that means for you, is that your home will likely suffer some serious structural wood rot. Synthetic manufacturers are working on rectifying this problem by using special water management systems which collect the water and divert it back to the exterior of the home before it suffers water damage. Being a new homeowner, this may be one worry youll want skip. Synthetic stucco materials cost more than the real thing, but because its easier to apply it costs less.

The biggest trends in exteriors are vibrant colors and a wood look. Interior design has always been the big in when building a home, but now homeowners are starting to look outside. Lets face it – first impressions go a long way, so your exterior home should really stand out. People are looking for something different and unique, but at the same time want low maintenance – in walks vinyl. Vinyl manufacturers are hard at work to meet the demands of homeowners who want a higher quality and more stylish vinyl siding. The big change to vinyl is that its coming out bright and colorful, now that its adding acrylics into its mix. Most color palettes for vinyl used to be very similar and pale, but now homeowners can find deep rich colors like forest green and barn red.

Another new look by vinyl is dressing up as cedar shingles. These cedar shingles come very close to looking like the real cedar. The real beauty to these shingles is that they wont split, rot, flake, peel or chip like the real thing. Over the last several years, almost every vinyl manufacturer has come out with some sort of replica cedar product.

With everyone trying to simulate wood products, it would only make sense that someone would market a real wood siding product. Thats what Georgia-Pacific, who makes vinyl and fiber cement, has done with its Catawba hardboard siding. Catawba is 100 percent hard wood made out of pulp-grade wood chips pressed and bonded at very high temperatures. This process makes the wood very weather resistant. If you use two coats of paint you wont have to paint it again for 10 years – double the time of traditional wood products.

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