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All About Siding.

Like the bark on a tree or the skin on your body, siding is a home’s front line of protection against the elements.

To do its job, siding must be sun- and water-resistant, able to withstand extremes in temperature, and stay in place when the wind blows too hard. It’s a part of your house that’s relatively easy to install, and one that will eventually need to be renewed, repair or replaced, some types sooner than others.

Siding also plays a big part in the overall scheme of a home’s appearance, so certain types of siding are associated with distinct architectural styles – clapboards (Federal Colonial), brick (Georgian), Shingle-style, etc. In addition to the historically traditional varieties of siding (wood, stone, stucco, etc.) there are types made of more modern materials such as vinyl, aluminum, concrete, and engineered wood.

Even textured plywood, known as T-111, has been used as an economical siding material. Siding repairs and upkeep, especially those in wood products, can be DYI-friendly, but whole-house siding projects are often best installed by professionals who have the experience and the equipment to tackle a multi-level job. Siding is usually estimated by the square (one hundred square feet of area). Installation costs vary according to the desired type of siding and the region where you live.

Be sure to check references and get a written estimate from contractors before starting a project.

Types of Wood Siding

Sold as clapboards (also known as beveled siding), shingles (or shakes), paneling, board and batten, or vertical siding comprised of tongue-and-grooved boards. Relatively long-lasting (especially cedar products), wood siding should be painted or treated with preservatives to prevent rot and/or insect damage.

Stone or Brick Siding Choices

Once used to provide structure for an entire house, stone and brick are now typically installed as a decorative (and protective) veneer installed over a wood-frame. The materials themselves won’t rot, are fire- and insect-proof and will last for decades, if not centuries. Installation tends to be the most expensive of any residential siding. Maintenance consists of periodic cleaning and, every 60-70 years, re-pointing (repairing) the mortar.

Vinyl Siding

Popularly known for the panels made to resemble clapboards, you can also find vinyl that’s made to look like shakes, brick, or even stone. Vinyl siding is popular because it’s economical, sturdy, and is relatively maintenance-free.It can be power-washed, as long as the spray is directed downwards, away from the seams, which will let in water. It is not fire-proof, and tends to fade after years of exposure. It is fairly easy to repair, and certainly easy to find at most home centers.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement siding products are made from a mixture of wood pulp, fly ash (a by-product of burning coal), and Portland cement. It’s really tough, long-lasting, holds paint well, won’t burn, can’t be eaten by insects, and is installed, like wood products, by nailing it onto the house’s sheathing. It’s also heavy, somewhat brittle, and because of its cementitious make-up, requires special saw blades to cut it.

Engineered Wood

These days, a great many successful building products such as sheathing panels and structural lumber are made from the byproducts of milling lumber. They are dimensionally stable and are stronger than solid wood. Previous attempts at engineered siding products haven’t been as successful, until recently.

Made of processed wood chips combined with resins and treated with zinc borate (to repel insects) and wax (to repel water), the mix is formed into siding products—clapboards, shingles, panels, and fascia/soffit material – and comes pre-primed.


An exterior treatment commonly associated with dry climates like the American West, traditional stucco is a mix of Portland cement and sand that’s applied in three coats over a substrate of wire lath. Stucco is an extremely durable material, but must be detailed carefully during installation to prevent water intrusion and cracks.

Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS)

Also known, mistakenly, as synthetic stucco, EIFS consists of a layer of high-density foam insulation that’s applied to the exterior of a house and coated with a protective textured finish. Initially used in commercial construction, EIFS has migrated into the residential market, in part because it can substantially increase a home’s energy efficiency.

Similar to traditional stucco, it must be installed very carefully to avoid water damage. Contractors who are well-versed in the installation of EIFS may be harder to find, as it’s still predominately used in commercial construction. Material costs are $1 - $3/sq. ft.


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