If you’re thinking of new siding, you’re in for a treat — and a conundrum. Your choice will likely be a major upgrade in your home’s appearance — that’s the fun part. On the flip side, it’s not an easy decision to make. There are lots of siding options, and each presents a mixed bag of cost, reliability, ongoing maintenance and environmental responsibility.
Here’s what you need to know about options for new siding:
Vinyl siding is tough and comes in a boatload of colors and textures. Because the color is throughout the material, nicks and scratches don’t show up. Sophisticated manufacturing techniques create products that do a surprisingly fine job of mimicking wood-grain lap siding, wood shingles and even stone.
Vinyl siding is lightweight and, in many instances, can be installed directly over existing materials, so it’s a good retrofit option. Because it’s easy to handle, vinyl installation can be installed quickly, saving labor costs.
Relatively new to the market, insulated vinyl siding features a layer of expanded polystyrene foam, providing an insulating value of R-2 to R-6. Insulated vinyl is on the checklist of items that can help a house achieve Energy Star qualification. Expect to pay about 15 percent more for insulated versions of vinyl siding than regular.
Few building materials have the natural charm and beauty of wood clapboard and shingle siding. Prized for its warmth and workability, wood siding is the choice for a premium renovation project.
Wood siding comes in many species and grades. What you choose usually depends on how you plan to finish the siding. Using a clear sealer or semi-transparent stain highlights the grain, but you’ll need to select more expensive grades of wood that are free of knots and other blemishes. Choose less-expensive grades for use with paint or opaque stains.
With dedicated maintenance, wood can last generations. Clear finishes should be reapplied every two years; semi-transparent stains every three years; and paints every five years. That kind of diligence adds up — a complete refinishing job is $2,000 to $5,000.
The current darling of the siding industry, fiber cement has earned a reputation for stability and low maintenance. It’s made from a mix of wood pulp, cement, clay and sand, and it can be molded to mimic wood clapboard, shingles, stucco and masonry. It readily accepts paint, and most manufacturers offer an array of factory-applied finishes.
Stucco is an extremely durable siding material that pairs well with other siding materials and adds a bit of architectural panache to a retrofit job. Today’s stucco mixtures include epoxy, which prevents chipping and cracking, but installation isn’t a DIY job — you’ll need to look for an experienced stucco installer. Well-maintained stucco will last a lifetime.
Engineered Wood Siding
Engineered wood siding is made of wood fibers and exterior-grade resins. It’s tough, strong and can stand up to extreme weather conditions. It comes in a variety of styles and textures, including beaded lap, rough-sawn clapboard and look-alike wood shingles. It comes ready-to-paint, primed or with factory finishes.
Engineered wood siding positions itself as a cheaper alternative to fiber cement and real wood, but with similar durability. Some brands provide 50-year warranties.
Synthetic stone is made in molds from a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate. Modern manufacturing techniques ensure that the final product looks realistic. It mimics any number of stone types — including granite and limestone — and the variety of shapes and styles includes split face, dry stacked and round river rock.
Although it’s not often used to cover entire houses, it’s a popular choice as an accent, covering lower portions of walls or chimney exteriors