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Types of Exterior House Siding: Styles, Profiles, Shapes, Trim and Accessories

So, if you’re new to the world of house siding – perhaps you’ve only just started researching what the options are – then you’ll no doubt very soon become completely floored by all the different types of siding and different styles of siding available.

Depending on the material you choose for your house siding, you will likely find that there can be as many as 12 different profiles, sizes and finishes to consider, and that’s even before you start look at what siding color to go for! And to add to the confusion, different manufacturers and suppliers sometimes have different terms for the same profile! So annoying!

But help is at hand: we’ve trawled through countless siding manufacturer catalogs and have created this definitive guide to all the types of siding and styles you’re likely to come across, what sort of materials each style is available in and what kind of house that style is most likely to suit.

So, here goes…

Types Of Wood, Vinyl & Fiber Cement Siding

One of the most ubiquitous siding materials in America is wood, and over the centuries modern technology has also allowed us to mimic wood look sidings with different types of materials such as vinyl, fiber cement and even steel.

So, if the style of a wooden house is what you’re after, then the first thing you’ll need to consider is which types of house siding material (real wood, vinyl or fiber cement) you want to use and secondly whether to use vertical of horizontal siding.

Generally speaking, vertical siding will highlight the vertical lines of the building whilst horizontal sides will highlight its width, so are you looking to highlight the width or height of your home? You can also consider combining horizontal and vertical siding types; this is most commonly seen in traditional homes where the gabled ends have vertical sidings whilst the main structure has horizontal sidings. Once you’ve made that decision, get ready, because there are many types of siding profiles to choose from…

Horizontal Siding Profiles

Clapboard – aka Weatherboard, Lap or Smooth Lap, Traditional Lap, Bevel or Bungalow

The Clapboard profile is one of the most ubiquitous, traditional types of siding in America.  Taking a side-on view, each board (or course) looks like a thin wedge or bevel, and each course is installed slightly overlapping the one underneath; effectively creating a small air gap between the siding and the building sub-structure or sheathing.
clapboard
This simple type of exterior siding was the easiest to produce quickly in the pre-industrial age and served as the primary siding style for centuries, which is why you will see it in all kinds of historic architecture styles such as Cape Cod and Craftsman houses, French Colonial, Georgian, Federal/ Adam style buildings, Greek Revival, Victorian/ Italiante and Queen Anne styles.

Beaded

The Beaded profile is an upgraded version of the Clapboard profile, which it is said was made popular by rich folk pre-1800 to show off their wealth as it was one of the more expensive house siding types to produce. With this style the lower, revealed edge of the clapboard has a rounded bead detail added. Stylistically, this bead will create a more dramatic shadow line so the horizontal lines will be more distinctive.

beadedSource: gehmangallery.com

Beaded profiles are also suited to traditional types of architecture such as Cape Cod, French Colonial, Georgian, Federal/ Adam style buildings, Greek Revival, Victorian/ Italiante and Queen Anne styles.  However, it is worth noting that beaded siding is not usually used in the unfussy style of Craftsman house.

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Dutch Lap – aka Cove

Like the Beaded profile, the Dutch Lap profile is another type of siding that appears to have been developed to create a distinctive shadow-line, which was considered very sophisticated and was more expensive to produce by hand. The deep shadow-line is made by a bevel cut into the top edge of the horizontal board. If you plan to go with Dutch Lap then do bear in mind that

“depending on the angle of the sun you’ll get unique shadow lines, so your home’s siding appearance will vary as the sun changes position in the sky.” (Source)

dutch lap
Again, Dutch Lap is a traditional style of siding, a type which works well with Cape Cod, French Colonial, Georgian, Federal/ Adam style buildings, Victorian/ Italiante and Queen Anne style homes.

Dolly Varden – aka Rabbeted Bevel

Dolly Varden or Rabbeted Bevel siding looks exactly like Clapboard siding once it’s installed – the difference is that the face of the siding that goes against the building sheathing is completely flat and the apparent overlap between courses is actually a notched joint (rather like tongue and groove).

As it exactly mimics Clapboard, if you’re opting for real wood siding types then the Dolly Varden is a good choice if you’re concerned about moisture and movement as

“Dolly Varden is less prone to cupping than ordinary clapboards, because Dolly Varden siding lies flat on the sheathing.” (Source).

And again, as it looks just like Clapboard, Dolly Varden is good for all kinds of traditional styles of architecture.

Rustic Siding – aka Log Siding

Back in the days of true wilderness living you might have built a log cabin from actual logs… but not today! In fact even as far back as the 1930s realistic “log effect” siding was being milled out of wood.

logSource: www.coloradodreamhomesinc.com

Rustic siding basically is made to look like logs – side-on you’ll see that each course is actually flat on the back where it meets the building sheathing and rounded on the front, finished in various ways to look like a log.

Clearly this type of siding for houses is best suited to rustic, log cabin style homes, and depending on your budget and climate needs you can choose from a wide range of materials including wood veneer, cement, steel or fibreglass.

Vertical Siding Profiles

Board and Batten Siding

Among all the classic vertical siding types, Board and Batten siding is probably the best known and has been used from as far back as medieval times. This simple arrangement of flat boards fitted flush against the building sheathing and finished with thin battens covering the join where the boards continues to be popular today.
board and battenSource: www.barnesvanze.com
Because of its un-fussy, practical and simple aesthetic Board and Batten siding is often seen in rural architecture, like barns and farmhouses, but is also seen in modern interpretations of the Victorian Italianate and Folk styles, as well as in contemporary versions of Tudor and Craftsman homes too.

Vertical and/or Horizontal Siding

Shiplap Siding

Along with Tongue and Groove and V-Joint, Shiplap is one of the house siding types primarily made using wood, and typically using an inexpensive wood such as pine, as historically it was most often used for barns, sheds and rustic buildings like cabins or chalets.
shiplapSource: www.dlccorp.com
Shiplap siding is defined by having a recess or rabbet cut into both edges of the board on its horizontal plane, allowing for each board to slightly overlap the other.  Aesthetically this results in a thin, shallow line between each course, and increasingly contemporary architects are using this clean look to finish modern, minimalist style houses.

V-Joint Siding

V-Joint is a variation of Shiplap which incorporates a notched bevel (cut out along the edge of each board) so that the line between courses looks like a V side-on. This allows for greater contrasts of shadows in the changing light and mimics some of the patterns available in Tongue and Groove, see below.

Channel Siding

Channel siding is also another variation on Shiplap, but here a wider rabbet is cut onto one edge of the board, creating a much wider recessed line between each course. The result is effectively a Board and Batten look in reverse – it looks like wider strips of batten are covering the join.

Again, these exterior siding types (V-Joint & Channel) used to be mainly used for rustic buildings, but is increasingly being incorporated into contemporary architecture.

Tongue and Groove Siding – aka Flush or Butt

Tongue and Groove siding is so called because each board interconnects to each other via a slot (the groove) which is cut into one edge of the board into which is fitted a ridge (the tongue) that has been cut out of the other edge of the board. This results in a very strong joint that has good weatherproofing qualities.
tongue and grooveSource: webnash.com
Again, this means that traditionally Tongue and Groove siding has often been used for rustic style houses, but as with Shiplap, it is now also being used for contemporary homes – especially in vertical formation.

Certain lumber merchants have a variety of patterns of Tongue and Groove – the pattern being defined by beveled or molded edges incorporated in one or both of the join edges (see examples here).  When there is no bevel or moldings, the Tongue and Groove is referred to as Flush or Butt joints.

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Shakes 

Shakes were originally slightly rectangular pieces split from a log of cedar wood used by early settlers in the Northwest and Eastern seaboards of the Untied States to safeguard their homes against bad weather. Today they are available in a number of different types of house siding material – non-wood shakes are molded to resemble the texture of cedar and often come in panels of shakes fused together as opposed to the individual shakes you’ll get in real wood.

shakes

There are a couple of style variations for shakes to note. They can be “traditional” (smooth) or “split/ rough” – purists would argue that the rougher the texture the more authentic the shake – and they can be laid out in straight edge (sometimes known as even butt) formation, where the lower edge of each course of shakes makes a straight line, or in staggered formation, where the bottom edge of the course is uneven and therefore perhaps more rustic looking.

Today shakes are most predominantly used in Cape Cod style houses, but are also seen as accents in the Folk Victorian style and in the Craftsman style.

Shingles/ Shapes

The essential difference between the Shingle (also known as shapes) and Shake siding types is that traditionally the shake was split from the log whilst the shingle was sawn. Today, where you can get shingles in other materials such as vinyl, this distinction is somewhat redundant. The other, bigger difference is that there is a lot more variety in the pattern of the bottom visible edge of the shingle. The most commonly available shingle patterns are:

  • Straight/ Square
  • Scallops, (aka Rounds or Half Rounds)
  • Fish Scale
  • Hexagon
  • Half Cove
  • Octagon
  • Mitered Corner

Less available in vinyl, some wood siding manufacturers do also have the following patterns:

  • Arrow
  • Diagonal
  • Diamond

shapes

As with shakes, shingles made of vinyl or fiber-cement tend to be sold individually or in courses, where the shingles are effectively fused together, but made to look like individual shingles.

For the most part the shingle types of siding are mostly used on Cape Cod and Craftsman (usually square), whilst the more distinctive patterns  – such as scallops, hexagon, fish scale, octagon and half cove – are very prominent in the accented sections of Victorian Italianate, Queen Anne and Folk styles.

Soffit

Soffit is the catch-all term for the boards that are added to cover the underneath surfaces of a building, such as the eaves, porch ceilings and entryways.

soffitSource: www.qualityedge.com

There are basically two style types of soffit finish – beaded or solid (sometimes refereed to as smooth). The solid version is made from boards butted against each other, whilst with the beaded style is detailed with an added bead between each board. With materials such as vinyl and fiber-cement you will find that soffit is usually applied in molded panels.

Soffit should also allow for ventilation to attics and roof spaces. With vinyl and fiber-cement siding ventilation is integrated into the soffit panels – sometimes in such a way that the ventilation holes are nearly invisible.  However for wooden soffit, generally speaking, ventilation holes or vents are added to some of the boards and are therefore visible.

Siding Trims/ Accents/ Fascias

accents

Of final consideration when you’re planning siding renovation, are the trims, accents and fascias that finish off the building’s exterior. Depending on the material of siding you choose, there will be specialist trims, accents and fascia to make your home complete, but here is a round-up of the most common finishing terms you’ll come across:

– Band or Belly Board: this is typically wider than the average siding board and can be used as the first course of siding at the bottom of your house, or to create a line to separate levels, or where there is a change of materials or direction.

– Corner Post: this finishes off the corners of the house and can be standard, beaded or fluted.

– Lineals: these are used for the side edges of doorways and windows, and can be standard of fluted.

– Mantels: these are used for the top edges of doorways and windows, and come in different decorative finishes.

– Moldings: these also come in different decorative finishes, and are used in conjunction with door or window mantels, or at the top of the siding at the join between the roof material and siding, or where the siding meets the soffit on eaves or porches.

– Pediments and pilasters: decorative surrounds for doorways, particularly on historic houses.

– Gingerbread Trim: another type of traditional decorative trim, especially for gables and cornices.

– Brackets: again decorative accent trim for the eaves.

– Shutters: another decorative accent that mimics actual working shutters on windows.

Go back to our house siding options page to discover more detailed info about types of siding materials that you can choose from including to metal siding, stucco and brick and stone veneer.

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Further resources for house siding styles and profiles: