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Siding Choices

Siding is the exterior covering of a home, often a prefabricated material that is applied in pieces, such as laps or panels, over sheathing. Manufactured sidings can be installed more quickly and easily, therefore less expensively than natural materials such as brick or stone. Most sidings are relatively lightweight, hold up to extreme weather conditions, and come in a variety of colors and textures. The most common and practical materials are wood, wood byproducts, vinyl and metal siding. These are sold in packages that include installation and extended warranties. Find out exactly what a manufacturer's package includes before making a commitment.

Types of Siding

Your decision as to what type of siding to use is a critical one. It will have a profound effect on not only the final appearance of your home, but also on your building and energy budgets. As you make exterior decision, keep these factors in mind: price, resale value, appearance, sound insulations, repair, maintenance, and combustibility.

Wood sidings, whether horizontal, vertical or diagonal, are among the most popular choices for homes today. You will find wood siding as shingles or hand-split shakes and boards, which are available in beveled, also known as clapboard, and tongue-and-groove or shiplap designs.

Wood siding is easy to install, reasonably priced, and with proper care and maintenance, has a life span of 30 to 50 years. Warranties on wood siding are not as extensive as those for vinyl and metal. It requires paint or stain to protect its finish.

Wood Board siding is often milled from pine, fir, cypress, and redwood. The boards are usually ¾ inch thick, 4 to 12 inches wide and up to 20 feet long. The boards can run horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The main consideration is the looks of the house. Running the boards vertically will give the house a greater sense of height; running them horizontally will tie the house more into the ground plane.

Wood shake and shingle siding tend to make an architectural statement and correspondingly are the most time consuming of these sidings to install. It is best applied to Queen Anne, Craftsman or vacation homes. While cedar shingles are relatively inexpensive as a product, the volume required to finish an entire house is often prohibitive. To make cedar shingles more affordable, some manufacturers pre-apply them onto plywood panels that attach to the exterior walls. Cedar shingles are used primarily as an accent or decoration on a facade.

Wood byproducts, such as plywood and hardboard, are designed to look like real wood boards or even stucco. Plywood is made from bonding thin layers of wood with waterproof glue. Hardboard consists of wood fiber combined under high heat and pressure.

The advantage of plywood siding is that it applies faster than individual wood or composite finishes and is far cheaper than wood siding, making it attractive for affordable housing projects. The greatest drawback is that the boards can delaminate over time, giving the appearance of being flat or dull.

Vinyl siding requires little or no maintenance aside from an occasional hosing down with soap and water. The cost of vinyl varies according to thickness and color, but it is relatively inexpensive. Vinyl is long lasting but its colors can fade, and it cannot be re-coated. Warranties against blistering, cracking, chipping and other damage can extend up to 50 years.

Aluminum and steel siding is sold in interlocking strips to give the appearance of clapboard. They are easy to install, lightweight, fire resistant, rot and insect resistant. The cost of aluminum siding can vary according to thickness, pattern, length and finish. Hail and oxidation can affect its surface. Vinyl-coated aluminum resists impact, but it is not practical to recoat. It is durable and can have extended warranties.

Brick is an exterior finish applied as a veneer or full-brick front. This type of finish is popular for its superior durability and long-term beauty. It makes a house appear more solid and well built. These qualities also give brick a premium price as an optional upgrade or as the signature feature of a house. The main complaint is cost. Full bricks are among the most expensive exterior finish materials, and masonry is a highly paid skill. Many homes use brick as an accent material. Many people believe that brick is used as one of the structural components of the house. Actually, the bricks are not structural and bear no load; they simply are a veneer. If you plan on building with brick the foundation must be adapted to support the brick as well as the house. Using a 12-inch wide concrete block with 4 inches of it extending outside of the wall line to support the 4-inch-wide bricks often does this.

Stone siding is making a comeback, primarily as an exterior trim or accent for clapboard or stucco homes. Stone is available as true stones or synthetic veneer replica. As manufacturers improve their rock design, textures and colors, homeowners are looking to replace real stone, which is expensive and difficult to apply, with synthetics. Stone siding, whether real or not, is time consuming and expensive.

Stucco is another increasingly popular siding option. Stucco is durable, weather-resistant, and can be tinted or painted. Stucco is a cement or mortar type material made from 3 parts fine sand and one part cement and water. Stucco is mostly found in temperate climates, because in areas where there is freezing weather, any water in the wall will freeze and cause the stucco to crack.

How to Select Your Siding

As with so many aspects of building a home, selecting the outside finish will greatly influence the feel and style of your home. From cedar wood shingles to aluminum siding, the choices are many, and the prices are varied.

The first consideration is the cost of the overall siding. But, the cost to install the siding must also be taken into consideration. It is possible, for example, that an inexpensive siding will be difficult and labor-intensive to install, bringing up the overall costs. Professional builders are more likely to choose a combination of price and installation to strike a balance. Other considerations are long-term value and performance, which will also factor into a product's warranty and can save time and money after the home is completed. A finish product's appearance is often the last consideration in the equation.

The following is a list of items to consider when choosing the type, color and style of your siding:

  • Look around the neighborhood in which you are building your home to see what types of styles and colors are popular. Pay particular attention to colors, textures and trim details. Then decide if you want your new home to blend in or stand out.
  • Research books, magazines and manufacturers' pamphlets for home exterior ideas.
  • Dark colors make a home look smaller, while lighter colors make it look larger.
  • Choose the type and color of trim details at the same time as the overall color. They add visual appeal without a significant increase in cost.
  • Obtain samples of siding to help visualize how your home will look.
  • Rely on your builder or contractor for advice about exterior options.
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