Exterior Cladding: Which Material is Best for Your Community?

Replacing or modernizing the siding on your home is one of the most important home improvements you can make to add value to your home. You also want to ensure that you're getting the most for your money while building equity.

Choosing which kind of replacement siding you want is not a simple task. The available choices are broad, with each material offering vastly different aesthetics, durability, energy efficiency, and price. Before choosing, it’s important that you educate yourself on the comparisons of available materials so that you can attain the aesthetics you want within budget.

Here we'll break down the seven most popular types of siding in order of price (lowest to highest) and share the pros and cons of each so you may weigh your options.

Cladding Types:

  • Vinyl Siding
  • Fiber Cement Siding
  • Cellular Composite
  • Wood
  • Stucco
  • Stone Veneer
  • Brick

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, vinyl siding is the most popular siding choice in the U.S. today. This is because vinyl siding is durable, comes in a range of color options, and it is relatively low cost. There are also a sizable variety of profiles of vinyl, including: horizontal or vertical panels, Dutch lap, shakes, shingles, beaded, and fish scales or scallops.

Advantages of vinyl siding:

Vinyl siding is incredibly durable and typically comes with a 30 to 40-year warranty post- installation.

  • Vinyl siding is incredibly durable and typically comes with a 30 to 40-year warranty post- installation.
  • There is a vast array of color options when choosing vinyl siding.
  • It is easy to clean with just a power washer and a hose.
  •  It is often the most economical option.

Disadvantages of vinyl siding:

  • Vinyl siding is not waterproof (only water-resistant).
  • Vinyl resembles plastic as it’s made primarily from PVC (a rigid plastic material).
  • It can sometimes bend under extreme weather conditions, whether it be hot or cold.
  • Contracts and expands with temperature fluctuations.
  • Vinyl siding is susceptible to “melting”. New Low-E windows act like a magnifying glass, concentrating the sun’s energy onto a small area. If that beam is reflected onto any vinyl siding, it can cause melting by increasing the surface temperature of any object it lands on.
  • Once you choose a color, you cannot change it or repaint it.
  • Color fades in time. A partial replacement may be noticeable.
  • Hail and tree branches can leave dents and marks in the side of your home.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber Cement Siding: Perhaps the second most popular siding option is fiber cement siding. Fiber cement siding is a mixture of wood, sand, and cement. It is created to look and feel like natural wood siding, but with greater advantages.

Advantages of fiber cement siding:

  • It has the same look and feel as wood, without the maintenance costs or susceptibility to insects.
  • It comes with a class 1A fire rating.
  • It is not prone to rot or decay and is also resistant to salty air in coastal areas.
  • It is versatile in its finish and texture.
  • May have 15-year finish warranty on color. It can then be painted.

Disadvantages of fiber cement siding:

  • It is more costly than vinyl siding.
  • Color does not go all the way through the product, so if there are any chips or damages to the
  • finish, touch-ups will be necessary.

Cellular Composite Siding

Cellular Composite Siding: Composite siding is a man-made material constructed from various combinations of fibers, binders, and fillers. The materials are heated and compressed into boards that resemble solid wood or other types of materials. More economical than wood siding, composite choices come in a variety of materials and colors. These products rarely fade and won’t peel.

Advantages of Cellular Composite Siding:

  • Durability. Seams are incredibly tight and hard to see.
  • Virtually no maintenance. It’s made of a cellular PVC material that doesn’t require recalking, repainting, or any other bothersome maintenance task.
  • Immune to conventional rotting.
  • An excellent warranty.
  • Excellent element and impact resistance.
  • A beautiful variety of design and appearance options.

Disadvantages of Cellular Composite Siding:

  • Cellular Composite Siding is not installed in a “traditional” manner; therefore, a qualified contractor should be hired for the installation.
  • Not real wood. For some homeowners, nothing stacks up to the style and quality of real wood, even if the composite looks nearly identical.
  • Material is not waterproof.
  • Contracts and expands with temperature fluctuations.

Wood Cedar Shakes  Siding

Wood Siding: Wood siding is another popular siding option (except for condominiums) due to its natural and timeless look. There is a wide variety of wood species to choose from, including: pine, fir, cedar, and redwood.

Advantages of wood siding:

  • Many agree that it is the eco-friendliest siding on the market.
  • Wood siding can be stained and painted in custom colors.
  • It has a high R-Value and is very energy efficient.
  • In many cases, it will increase the resale value of your home.

Disadvantages of wood siding:

  • Especially costly to install.
  • While it can be stained limitless colors, in doing so, it must be consistently maintained.
  • Wood can be easily damaged over time by insects or water.
  • It is costly to maintain. Requires to be stained every 2-3 years and repainted every 4-5 years.
  • It is not fire resistant, so it is not ideal for dry climate areas.

Stucco

Stucco: Stucco is a mix of Portland cement, sand, limestone, water, and additives to increase the material’s strength and flexibility. The material can be tinted to exactly the color you want for your home’s exterior, and design enhancements are possible, too. Stucco siding can be effective in most climates when it is maintained in good condition. In freezing climates, water might get into cracks in the stucco and cause severe damage during freeze and thaw cycles. The application of stucco has several steps.

Advantages of Stucco Siding:

  • Durability.
  • Stands up well to weather, wind, and debris.
  • Choice of any color and many textures
  • Can be formed to create decorative enhancements to the exterior.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Resistant to fire and insects.
  • Quiets outside noise.
  • Offers some insulation value.

Disadvantages of Stucco Siding:

  • Experienced professional installation is crucial for performance and appearance.
  • May crack as a home expands and contracts with temperature changes or settles.
  • Material and installation cost is considerably higher than vinyl, composite, and fiber cement.

Stone Veneer Siding

Stone Veneer: Veneer stone siding is available in styles that look very authentic; field stone, stack stone, ledge stone, river stone, cut stone, limestone and castle stone are among the most popular looks, and each type is available in a variety of color mixes. Stone veneer is also referred to as faux stone siding, manufactured stone, stone facing and architectural stone veneer. Most faux stone siding starts with lightweight concrete, though some is made with clay. To the mix is added polymers for strength and weatherproof wear as well as pigments to give the finished product the desired appearance. Some stone veneer is painted rather than pigmented. Other faux stone products are made of dense polyurethane. The mix is poured or forced into rubber molds that have been created using genuine stone, so the shape of the finished product is authentic. Predominantly applied to the front façade or as an aesthetic accent.

Advantages of Stone Veneer:

  • Creates the look of natural beauty on any exterior.
  • Rich spectrum of profiles and colors.
  • Lightweight design makes installation easier and does not require footing support.
  • 30+ years of durable home protection.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • Installs easier and faster than real stone.
  • Costs 40% to 70% less than installed genuine stone.

Disadvantage of Stone Veneer:

  • Especially costly to install.
  • Experienced professional installation is crucial for performance and appearance.
  • Installation must be done properly to avoid moisture issues.
  • Cheap stone veneer is painted, and the paint will wear with time to dull the siding.
  • Harsh chemicals will mar the appearance.
  • Faux stone is not as tough as real stone, but it is as strong as wood, vinyl siding or fiber cement.

Brick Siding

Brick: Traditional brick siding consists of full-size bricks that are laid with mortar and tied to the framed wall with anchor ties. Brick houses are timeless. Made from clay and shale, bricks give a home a uniform look that complements almost every exterior home design. Not only is brick an attractive building material, structurally, solid masonry walls are very strong and can, if properly maintained, provide hundreds of years of service.

Advantages of Brick:

  • Fire resistant.
  • Animals and insects cannot penetrate.
  • Wind damage is rare.
  • Fairly low maintenance. Bricks don't need any exterior painting.
  • Durability. They can last for a lifetime.

Disadvantages of Brick:

  • One of the most expensive sidings available.
  • Spalling. The term "spalling" refers to the peeling of the outer layer of a brick, which is caused by moisture and water seeping inside of the brick and then freezing.
  • Repointing: While bricks are highly durable, the mortar used to attach them together (pointing) can be more troublesome. Pointing can wear out over time due to exposure to the elements, especially when installed improperly. Repointing may be needed over time to replace the mortar and ensure the integrity of your brick structure.
  • When bricks get wet and freeze, the expansion causes the harder outside fired surface to break off. This exposes the softer inner part of the brick, which is more porous and holds water better. The bricks will quickly crumble, and must be replaced, they cannot be repaired.
  • If the brick should be painted, it is nearly impossible to return to the natural brick finish.
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