Different Types of Vinyl Siding, Style Options and Pros & Cons Vs Other Siding
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home siding option for US homeowners, and the current generation of products has been dispelling criticisms that are no longer valid.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.
If you think vinyl siding might be for you then you can also check out our guide to the best vinyl siding available and the average cost of buying and installing vinyl.
Let’s get started by defining exactly what vinyl siding is:
WHAT IS VINYL SIDING
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:
- Colorant used to create the wide spectrum of vinyl siding colors
- Lubricants to allow the material to pass easily through the extrusion equipment
- Acrylics and acrylate acrylonitrile added to the cap stock (also capstock) for durability, strength and fade resistance
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.
VINYL SIDING TYPES: HORIZONTAL, VERTICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL
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:
- Single 7” & 8”
- Double 4” (one piece of siding formed to appear as two 4-inch boards overlapped), 4.5”, 5”, 6” 7” & 8”
- Triple 3” & 6”
- Quad 4”
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.
- Double 4”, 4.5”, 5”
- Triple 4”
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:
- Single 12”
- Double 5”, 6” & 10”
- Triple 4”
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.
INSULATED VINYL SIDING
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.
PROS AND CONS OF VINYL SIDING
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.
- It is colorfast: Let’s address the biggest criticism of vinyl right off the bat. Today’s vinyl siding fades very little when compared with previous generations of vinyl. Sure, the older homeowner next door to you warns against vinyl siding because the siding he installed in 1980 faded from medium-green to sea foam green to a mottled greenish-yellow over the course of 10 or 15 years. However, beginning in about 2000, vinyl siding manufacturers began adding acrylic and acrylate styrene acrylonitrile that are much more effective in resisting the bleaching effects of the sun.
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.
- The product range is outstanding: You’ve got hundreds of combinations to peruse to find just the right mix of type, style and color for your home.
- Scratches aren’t as visible: If painted or stained wood siding is scratched, the damage will be evident when it penetrates through to unpainted/unstained wood. That is true of fiber cement and aluminum siding too. By contrast, colorants are added to the PVC or polymer mixtures, so that vinyl and polymer siding is consistent all the way through. Scratch the surface, and the same color is revealed.
- Maintenance is minimal: Cleaning the siding once or twice a year with mild detergent, a soft brush and a hose should keep it looking good. Painting isn’t required, but most vinyl can be painted if you desire. Painting might void the warranty, so research that issue before opening a paint can!
- It is durable: All certified vinyl siding has been demonstrated to withstand 110 mph winds, and most will stay in place in stronger winds when installed correctly. These products also expand and contract with changes in temperature without cracking or buckling when properly installed.
- It won’t rot: It’s made of plastic, so of course it won’t decay. This is worth keeping in mind when comparing this material to wood siding.
- Siding cleans up easily: Mild detergent and a brush are all that is needed to clean vinyl. Light power spraying might be another option, though not all vinyl siding manufacturers recommend it for their products.
- It adds an insulating layer and a noise barrier: These benefits are more significant if the siding is backed with a layer of insulation, but even non-insulated vinyl has some value in these areas.
- Vinyl is affordable: Vinyl siding offers excellent value in the first 25 years when compared with its chief competitors. Fiber cement siding is also good value, catching up to vinyl in about 25 years when vinyl has to be replaced and the fiber cement has another 10 to 25 years of life. Wood and cedar catch up between year 35-50 depending on the material used and the cost of frequent repainting or staining. Brick, stone and veneers become as affordable as vinyl at about 50 years when they’ve got at least half their life left and the siding is being replaced again.
Vinyl siding cons: Not everyone is enthusiastic about vinyl siding. Here is the other side of the debate.
- It looks out of place in some neighborhoods: Where most homes are sided with wood, stone or brick, a vinyl-sided home might be at a disadvantage in aesthetics and how appealing it is to buyers.
- High winds can wreak havoc: Despite wind-resistance certification, vinyl siding will give way in high winds before brick, stone, stucco or wood. This is especially true when it is not properly installed.
- Vinyl can melt or burn: Grilling or setting an outdoor fireplace very close to vinyl can cause warping or significant melting. Other heat culprits include fireworks, deck heaters and improperly vented wood stoves. In the event of a brush or forest fire, it doesn’t have as good a heat rating as fiber cement, metal siding, brick, stone or veneer.
- Large hail can damage it: It has to be pretty big hail, though. Hail that would damage vinyl would likely also damage metal siding and wood siding.
- Water can penetrate poorly installed siding: Water causes rot, mold and flooding.
- Bad installation leads to many problems: This disadvantage has been mentioned several times. The list of potential issues when the vinyl siding isn’t put on correctly begins with voiding of the warranty and goes downhill from there. If you choose siding, it is important to discuss the work with at least three experienced installers to find one you believe will do the work properly. Make sure the crew is experienced, not just the company owner or sales person who may or may not be providing oversight to the work being done on your home. Just like vinyl siding itself, many vinyl siding installers are now certified as well.
VINYL VS OTHER TYPES OF SIDING
How does vinyl siding compare with fiber cement and other popular siding types?
VINYL SIDING VS FIBER CEMENT
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:
- Vinyl siding is produced in many more types and styles than fiber cement
- Fiber cement is available pre-painted or ready to stain or paint; vinyl is produced in dozens of colorfast options
- Vinyl should last 20-30 years; fiber cement should last 30-50 years
- Vinyl is considered low maintenance because it only needs to be cleaned; fiber cement requires moderate maintenance because it must be caulked and painted at intervals based on the harshness of the climate
- Insulated vinyl siding is available; insulated fiber cement is not available
- Vinyl siding is made from virgin material but is recyclable; fiber cement is often made from recycled wood material, but it is not recyclable (though inert, so should not create issues when disposed of in a landfill)
- Vinyl siding is much lighter than fiber cement, so it is easier to work with
- A 2014 study shows the average cost of vinyl to be about $3 per square foot installed; fiber cement averages $4.50 installed
VINYL SIDING VS METAL SIDING (ALUMINUM AND STEEL)
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:
- Vinyl is offered in more types, styles and colors
- Metal siding has a powder coated finish that can wear off or fade, though it can be repainted
- Because of the paint issue, metal siding requires more maintenance over its lifespan
- Metal siding is slightly stronger than vinyl, and it won’t melt or burn as readily
- Metal siding lasts 30-35 years, slightly longer than vinyl’s 20-30 years
- The average cost for vinyl siding is about $3 per square foot installed; metal siding is about $1 more installed
- Vinyl is a better value over its lifespan when the cost of repainting metal siding periodically is considered
VINYL SIDING VS WOOD SIDING
Most vinyl siding products are made to mimic wood which makes for interesting comparisons between the two
- Wood has the edge in natural beauty
- Wood requires frequent painting and staining while vinyl is low-maintenance siding
- Wood siding is prone to damage from water, insects and woodpeckers
- Wood costs about $6 installed which is twice what vinyl costs installed, but with maintenance, wood can last more than 50 years
Learn more in our guides to cedar siding, cedar siding cost, engineered wood siding and log siding.
VINYL SIDING VS BRICK, STONE OR BRICK/STONE VENEER
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:
- Brick and stone siding produce a more traditional, elegant look
- They provide better insulation and resistance to sound from outside
- Brick and stone hold up very well to wind, flying debris, hail and other objects
- These materials won’t burn readily and will produce lower insurance rates than a house sided in vinyl valued at the same price
Be sure to check out our guides to stone veneer and brick veneer siding.
VINYL SIDING VS STUCCO
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.