Comparing Siding Materials
You have several choices when it comes to siding your home, from traditional wood siding to more advanced and high performance materials like fiber cement. The decision on which is best for your home depends on many factors, including how long you plan to remain in your home, weather conditions, desire for insulation properties, budget and maintenance issues. Here are summaries of the most popular siding materials.
Fiber Cement Siding
The fastest growing siding material in the country, fiber cement siding is composed of cement, sand and cellulose fiber that has been cured with pressurized steam to increase its strength and dimensional stability. The fiber reinforces the product and prevents cracking. This siding product will protect your home from rot, fire, wind and insects.
Fiber cement siding can have an embossed wood grained texture, stucco or smooth finish. These products are combined with various types of flashing, rigid flashing and weather resistant barrier to block the weather. Ventilation accessories may also be utilized and painted as desired.
Because James Hardie® products with ColorPlus® Technology are manufactured to be dimensionally stable, paint stays on the boards longer than products that expand and contract with moisture exposure. Wood and wood-based products tend to move significantly with absorption of water, causing higher likliness of paint cracking, chipping and peeling. We do not recommend applying stains to fiber cement.
Introduced to the market in the early 1960s, vinyl siding has grown in popularity because of its price point and ease of maintenance. Manufactured with polyvinyl chloride, vinyl siding is very low maintenance.
Vinyl siding is available in a limited palate of colors, as well as a limited range of patterns. Vinyl siding also is available in a number of profiles.
Problems with vinyl are its lack of resistance to hail, high winds and retaining its looks over time. The upside is the lack of maintenance required.
Wood is a traditional siding material, either in shakes (shingles) or clapboard form. While it isn’t as common in recent years, wood siding has been used on houses for hundreds of years. Wood siding used to be made from premium raw hardwoods from old growth forests. Most of the old growth has been harvested or is unavailable for construction use. Most cedar siding is full tannic acids and resins that resist paint adhesion which then requires constant maintenance.
While nice to look at, wood siding generally comes without a warranty, requires frequent scraping and painting, and regular maintenance, particularly in regions with extremes of moisture and temperature. Other issues associated with wood include warping, chipping, termites, wood rot, moisture damage, flammability, and limited insulation value.
Once the “king” of replacement siding, aluminum has rapidly lost ground to more modern materials. Though it can dent and even fade, it won’t crack. Aluminum siding is fireproof, and comes in a variety of styles and colors.
Aluminum siding doesn’t rot, offers low maintenance, and is relatively easy to keep clean when it is new. It’s ideal for wet climates. However, aluminum siding tends to chalk, fade and dent. Once the chalking reaches a critical point, cleaning is impossible because cleaning will simply remove the finish leaving unsightly raw aluminum. Another great disadvantage is the difficulty of replacing damaged sections should your siding receive a major dent. It provides very little to no insulating properties, can be a bit noisy, and aluminum lacks the ability for detailed trim work.
Because of the variety of ways to apply it and formulate it, stucco siding has been utilized for hundreds of years. Typically seen in Mission or Spanish-style architecture, stucco can be smooth or course, raked or swirled. It can contain sand, lime or pebbles. Depending upon the climate and the desired texture, different types of cement are used in the stucco mix.
Advantages of natural stucco include fire resistance, a high degree of energy efficiency and low maintenance. It also expands and contracts with the weather, which minimizes cracking. Stucco can last up to 50 years before it needs to be replaced. Synthetic stucco was ostensibly developed to overcome moisture issues (with a history of spectacular failures). The downsides to stucco are price point, improper flashing which leads to major rot, and it cracks and stains.
An alternative to vinyl, aluminum and wood, fiberglass siding gives your home a look similar to wood without the hassle of scraping and painting, and is virtually maintenance free. Available in a variety of color options and produced in continuous lengths, fiberglass siding features clean, crisp lines with seams that butt tightly together instead of overlapping.
Fiberglass siding can be applied any time of the year without worry of buckles or splitting, even in the most dramatic temperature changes. It is resistant to oxidation, rust and the corrosive effects of harsh environments.