Vinyl siding still remains the most popular home siding option for US homeowners, and the current generation of products has been dispelling criticisms that are no longer valid.
Is vinyl siding worth considering for your home? Our goal here is to provide you with the comprehensive information you need to decide whether this material belongs on your short list of options. We will look at the different types of vinyl siding, the best options and the pros and cons of vinyl siding vs other types of siding.
Let’s get started by defining exactly what vinyl siding is:
There are two ways to answer that question. First, vinyl is the siding material bought more than any other. In a recent year, 27 percent of siding sold was vinyl, according to a nationwide study. By comparison, fiber cement remained second with more than 18 percent of the new siding market, a figure that shows it is closing the gap between the two materials. While still number one, vinyl’s percent of market share slowly declined in the last decade as fiber cement, brick and stone all made gains.
From a material standpoint, most vinyl siding is extruded Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with several additives:
In the manufacturing process, two layers of vinyl are extruded, one on top of the other. The material is still hot, so the layers fuse. The lower layer is called the substrate; the top layer is the cap stock. The layers are inseparable. Okay, enough of the science, let’s look at the different types of vinyl siding.
A large part of vinyl’s appeal is the wide array of horizontal, vertical and architectural style choices. Here’s an annotated list of the many types of vinyl siding profiles available.
Clapboard siding: The most common type of vinyl siding mimics wood clapboard siding that has been used for centuries. Clapboard vinyl siding looks like straight pieces of horizontal wood, each piece overlapping the board beneath it. Within this profile, you’ll find several sub-profiles including:
Note: The wider the piece of siding (e.g., triple 6” is nearly 18” wide), the fewer nails there are per square foot. This might affect its wind resistance rating. If you live in an area where high winds frequently occur, discuss potential issues with your siding contractor.
Dutch lap siding: This profile resembles the look of boards that have been beveled on the top half at a 45-degree angle. The lower half hangs at a 90-degree angle. Dutch lap siding was first used by Northern Europeans and brought to the United States, especially the Mid-Atlantic states, during the Colonial period. The profiles are more stylish than clapboard vinyl siding, and they produce more shadowing. However, there are fewer options.
Beaded siding: This horizontal siding has a rounded bead at both the top and bottom of each piece. The purpose is to create shadows on the siding for interest. The style dates back to wood siding produced in the late 18th Century. Most beaded siding is 6.5” wide.
Cabin board siding: Produced to look like the outer faces of stacked logs, cabin board siding delivers a rustic appearance. Cabin board siding is available in profiles from 7” to 10” wide.
Board & batten vertical siding: This siding features wide sections of vinyl known as the boards and narrow raised strips know as battens. Board & batten design in wood siding is centuries old. Today, vinyl board & batten siding is used most often to accent horizontal siding types. However, homes are sometimes clad entirely with this profile. Single 12” siding with battens at the edges and double 10” siding with a batten in the middle of each strip are available.
Vertical siding: This ancient style does not have battens and is most often used as an accent, though infrequently used over an entire building. Look for vertical siding in:
We’ve attempted to include all possible sizes for each profile from today’s top vinyl siding manufacturers. You might find additional sizes when researching brands and types.
Shingle siding: Made to mimic the hand-split cedar shingles long used where cedar trees grow, this vinyl siding product is available in several shapes. Popular styles are half cove, round, square, hexagon and octagon. Shakes are typically 5” to 7” wide and 6” to 10” in height. They are produced in sheets up to 5’ wide and 2’ in height. Mostly used as an accent on gables and dormers,
Shake siding: This product is usually made in 6’ to 12’ lengths with individual, rectangular shakes 7” to 10” wide. Shake siding, like shingle siding, can be used as an accent or applied to the entire home or building.
Note on shingle and shake siding: These products are often made from polypropylene resin to produce a siding that is thicker and more rigid than polyethylene. Shingles and shakes made from polypropylene are called polymer siding by some manufacturers such as CertainTeed, Continental, Everlast and Provia.
Color and texture: Whichever vinyl siding type you select, you’ll find it in an impressive range of color options from white to quite dark. For some lines of siding, darker colors are considered premium colors because they require more colorant in the mix. These colors might cost more. Texturing is also embossed onto the vinyl siding while it is still hot from the extrusion process. Most textures mimic wood grains, and some are more pronounced than others. Siding with heavier texturing might also have a premium price tag.
We cover this topic in more detail in our Insulated Vinyl Siding Guide, but here is an overview. Insulated siding is manufactured by most major brands. The insulation is a foam backing applied to the siding, and it is available in various types and thicknesses to create R-values from R-2.0 to R-5.0. The higher the R-value, the more effectively the material is to resisting the flow of heat out of your home during the heating season or into it in warm months.
Depending on the depth of your wall cavities from 4” to 8” and the type of insulation in them (fiberglass bats, rigid foam, blown-in cellulose), the R-value of the insulation you currently have will be in the range of R-13 to R-25. Insulated vinyl siding is most cost-effective in climates with extreme temperatures and on older homes that are poorly insulated.
Now you’ve seen all the different types and styles, it’s time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl siding.
Vinyl siding pros: What’s good about vinyl siding? Let’s take a look at reasons to consider it as the cladding for perhaps your biggest investment, your home.
Choose a siding certified for color retention, and you probably won’t notice any fading over the siding’s lifespan. Most US produced vinyl siding material has VSI (Vinyl Siding Institute) certification including a colorfast certification from independent testing group ASTM International (previously known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). One of three certifications will appear on the siding box. The first two are being replaced by the third: ASTM D6864, ASTM D7251 or ASTM D7856, the most up-to-date testing certification.
Vinyl siding cons: Not everyone is enthusiastic about vinyl siding. Here is the other side of the debate.
How does vinyl siding compare with fiber cement and other popular siding types?
Fiber cement is made from wood pulp mixed with Portland cement. The material is formed into boards or shingles textured with faux wood grain in most cases. As is the case with vinyl, the current generation of fiber cement products is significantly better than what came before it. Here are key comparisons to consider:
These materials are similar in weight, how easy they are to work with and that they can both be recycled. Let’s emphasize some key differences:
Most vinyl siding products are made to mimic wood which makes for interesting comparisons between the two
These siding options are both low-maintenance choices. The primary advantage of vinyl is the low cost, at least over the lifespan of the initial material. Every time the vinyl is replaced while the brick or stone remain in place means the value advantage of vinyl is reduced.
Vinyl costs about $3 installed. Veneer’s installed cost is about $5 per square foot. The cost of full brick is about $9 per square foot while stone costs about $16 per square foot installed.
Here are the advantages enjoyed by brick, stone and brick or stone veneer:
Stucco has all the advantages of brick and stone except that it has to be painted and occasionally patched. Average cost for stucco installation is about $9 per square foot compared with $3 for vinyl, but when maintained, stucco will last many times longer.