Exterior House Siding Options
February 28, 2023
Choosing the Right Siding Materials for your Budget, Neighborhood and Climate
Choosing the right siding options for your home can be a daunting process because there are so many great choices to consider. It’s not a decision to take lightly because you’ll have to live with it for many years to come (or try to sell your home with it), to say nothing of the considerable financial investment you’ll be making.
With that in mind, this RenoCompare starter guide will help you to narrow down your siding choices from the many options available and leave you with a shortlist that you can research further. Follow the links for a wealth of additional information about each specific home siding option including styles & profiles available, pros & cons and the cost for the material and installation.
There are several key factors to consider before even looking at your house siding options. Let’s explore these factors first and see how they can assist in pointing you in the right direction.
SIDING THAT FITS YOUR BUDGET
What can you afford to pay for exterior siding? If it’s a tight budget, then basic vinyl siding is the most affordable option. Cheaper grades of wood, metal and fiber cement siding are good choices too. When there’s more room in the budget, premium vinyl siding, stone or stone veneer, brick or brick veneer and better grades of other types of siding become possibilities. Check out our siding guides to compare prices of different siding materials.
There are a couple of reasons to choose home siding options that fit the neighborhood. First, if you choose a siding material considered nicer than the siding type typical on your street, you won’t get a good return for your siding investment if and when you sell your home. Most people won’t pay a premium for quality wood siding or brick, for example, when the surrounding homes are sided with vinyl. On the other hand, if most homes near you feature luxury siding, and you choose something affordable, then it might hinder the sale of your home later because it will look out of place.
By the way, if your neighborhood has a homeowners association, be sure find out if it has rules for which house siding options are acceptable.
THE ISSUE OF MAINTENANCE
How much maintenance are you willing to do yourself or to pay to have done? Wood siding options require painting every few years. Stucco holds paint better, but will need painting every five to ten years based on your climate, if the stucco is painted at all. And, it occasionally cracks and requires repair. Fiber cement’s factory paint often lasts a decade or more, but it will have to be painted more often after that.
Brick, brick veneer, stone and manufactured stone exterior siding options don’t require a lot of maintenance, but they need to be checked annually for things like cracked mortar, loose caulk or loose flashing. Repairs must be made promptly to prevent moisture from getting into the home’s framing.
Vinyl, steel and aluminum siding are the lowest-maintenance siding choices. They’re nearly maintenance-free options that simply need to be inspected yearly for loose siding, cracks or other issues and washed as needed.
Vinyl siding handles all climates well, though it can buckle or crack if nailed on too tightly in either very warm or very cold climates. Years ago, vinyl was prone to fade in intense sun. However, with the UV-resistant colorants now in use, vinyl siding fades very little over time, even in sunny climates.
Wood is a versatile house siding option too. Cedar siding, with its natural water-resistant quality, is acceptable even in wet climates like the Northwest. Other types of wood are best used in dry to moderate climates, and maintenance of them there will have to be more meticulous to keep moisture (and eventually mold and rot) out of the wood. All wood needs to be sealed regularly with a quality wood stain or paint.
Frost is the enemy of fiber cement board and brick/stone siding. When the products age, they develop minor cracks in the material or the mortar. Water enters the cracks, freezes and expands. This freeze/thaw/freeze cycle will slowly but surely destroy the material. This can be true of stucco too.
Speaking of stucco, it absorbs moisture, so it isn’t the best option for climates with lots of rain or consistently high humidity. It’s perfect for regions that are warm and dry.
Fore more on siding vs climate click here.
Have you crossed a few siding possibilities off your list and started to hone in on a couple of favorites? Here’s an overview of each of your siding options with links to the full guides for each.
VINYL SIDING OPTIONS
Still the most popular of siding choices in the US, vinyl siding is an affordable option and is produced in a wide range of colors, styles and accessories. As we’ve noted, it is suitable in any climate, though it needs to be properly installed to allow for expansion, contraction and water drainage. You can compare it to other types of siding here.
Extruded vinyl strips are the most common type produced, but vinyl shakes and shingles, often manufactured in panels, are available for accents or to side an entire home. Vinyl siding can be expected to last from 15 to 25 years based on its quality and climate conditions where it is installed. Check out our reviews of vinyl siding manufacturers.
Insulated vinyl siding is an option for homes that don’t have adequate insulation in the walls. Most of it employs a thin layer of foam applied to the back of the siding to produce an R-value of R-2.0 to R-2.7. At least one brand has insulation nearly an inch thick to provide an R-value of 5.0. There is debate about the whether the energy saving achieved by the product is worth the extra expense. Insulated vinyl siding is available in fewer colors and styles than standard siding.
FIBER CEMENT SIDING OPTIONS
Fiber cement siding has been taking market share from vinyl siding for more than a decade. The increased popularity of this home siding option is its affordability, ease of installation, range of styles offered and the fairly low maintenance required. Fiber cement is also resistant to fire, pests and mold. Hardie still leads the fiber cement siding market, but other manufacturers are providing competition which is keeping prices stable while creating more product options. Fiber cement siding lasts 30-50 years and possibly longer when it is maintained with care.
WOOD SIDING OPTIONS
Wood siding options are beloved for there natural appeal and classic good looks, though wood frustrates some homeowners with its high maintenance requirements. It is available in a host of styles including vertical and horizontal planks and large panels. Several wood types are used including cedar, engineered wood and log siding.
Cedar is an excellent wood siding option for its resistance to moisture and insects. It can be painted, but most often it is sealed or stained with deep-penetrating stain that contains sealer too. This allows the attractive grain to be displayed. It’s a versatile choice for any climate and can last for 100+ years with proper care. Click here for cedar siding prices and installation costs.
Engineered wood siding, often simply referred to as engineered siding, is an exterior siding option made from wood strands or wood composite that is treated with a resin binder to improve strength and resistance to insect infestation and rot. The surface is coated with a resin product that is typically embossed with a wood-grain pattern to look authentic. While it isn’t the genuine article some homeowners want, it is lighter, installs faster and requires significantly less maintenance than genuine wood siding.
Log siding options, or log cabin siding, gives any dwelling a rustic appearance, and it works on large buildings as well as cozy cabins. It comes in a variety of heights and thicknesses to give you the look and performance you desire. Several woods including cedar, fir and pine are used to manufacture log siding.
METAL SIDING OPTIONS
A new generation of metal siding is available today, and it offers competitive pricing, attractive good looks and durability. Plus, it is resistant to pests and fire.
In its heyday, aluminum siding was one of the most popular house siding options. It nearly vanished with the rise of vinyl siding, but has made a comeback in the last decade or so. This siding option is lightweight, durable and quite affordable. New coatings have vastly reduced or eliminated the chalking that was so common with aluminum siding of a couple decades ago. It’s available in a decent range of products, and you can expect 20-40 years of use from aluminum siding.
Lightweight steel siding is made from tough, galvanized steel with a baked-on topcoat of PVC or similar material infused with colorfast pigments and UV inhibitors. The result is a product that resists fading and chalking for 15-30 years depending on the quality of the coating. It doesn’t easily chip or scratch. The siding is quite affordable and is available in a limited number of styles and colors with accessories to finish the home’s exterior. Steel siding will last 25-40 years, though it will need to be painted at some point if it is in use beyond 15 years.
Copper siding can be used to cover an entire dwelling or used as an accent siding in gables and elsewhere, often with copper gutters and downspouts. The price isn’t as prohibitive as you might think. Copper is a very durable option, though if you want to keep it shiny, you’ll need to polish it to prevent the natural patina that develops when left untreated. Sealing the copper will slow the patina but can’t eliminate it. Copper siding will last for a century or more.
STONE & STONE VENEER SIDING OPTIONS
Your home siding options for stone include full stone, thin-cut genuine stone veneer and manufactured stone veneer. Since siding with full stone is very rare these days, let’s focus on the other two.
Thin-cut stone veneer is just what it sounds like. Genuine stones are cut to a thickness of about one inch. Depending on the stone type, and there are many types, it might require mortar between the stones. Stacked stone does not use mortar to hold the stones to one another, but they must be attached to the dwelling. Thin-cut stone is quite heavy and requires a footing below grade to support it and prevent it from settling (and thereby cracking). Thin-cut stone will last 50+ years when the mortar is maintained.
Manufactured stone veneer is made from a base of cement or clay and pressed into molds shaped from genuine stone. The material is pigmented or painted to look like real stone. Individual pieces and veneer panels with multiple courses of veneer are both available. A decade and more ago, faux stone veneer was easy to spot as fake. Today, an untrained eye won’t discern the difference between these two siding options. Manufactured stone veneer is light enough that it does not require a footing. Faux stone veneer siding can be expected to look good for 25-50 years depending on the quality of the materials and manufacturing. Check out our full stone veneer buying guide.
SOLID BRICK & BRICK VENEER SIDING OPTIONS
New constructions are the best type of dwelling for solid brick because the brick requires a footing in order to support it. The building’s foundation can be extended outward to provide the footing for the brick too. Genuine brick is costly for both material and installation. When adding a footing is required, the price goes up significantly. Brick lasts for hundreds of years with maintenance. A cheaper siding option is brick veneer.
There are two types of brick veneer. First, bricks are cut to pieces one-inch thick to use as veneer. These veneer bricks are installed individually with mortar behind and around them. The bricks used are often reclaimed bricks. Thin-cut brick veneer can last more than 50 years.
The second type of brick veneer is made from clay or cement poured into a mold to create a panel of veneer. The panels feature four or five courses of bricks with faux mortar already in place. Brick veneer panels are available in an excellent range of colors and color blends. This is a siding that lasts 30-50 years depending on quality.
This classic siding option is still popular in parts of the country with warm, dry climates. It stands up very well to weather and pests while giving the home a classic appearance. The installation process is quite extensive and can be expensive while the material is relatively affordable. Today’s stucco is formulated to be more durable than ever before, and coatings resist fading and cracking. Stucco lasts indefinitely with standard maintenance. You may be surprised by the large choice of finishes and textures.