How to Choose the Right Siding for Your House
Learn about the costs, pros, and cons of the 3 most common siding materials: wood, fiber cement, and vinyl.
Synopsis: While the exterior of a house can be clad with any number of materials, most houses in the United States sport one of three popular types of siding. In this article, FHB contributing writer Scott Gibson takes a look at those three products: fiber cement, vinyl, and wood.
Wood is the traditional choice in this category, but its market share is shrinking. Wood siding is made either from solid material ,or short scraps or offcuts glued together with finger joints. Wood has a classic look and is available in many forms, including shingles, shakes, clapboards, and planks. Wood can be expensive, and even when properly installed, wood requires a fair amount of maintenance. Installation is usually relatively easy.
A mixture of sand, cellulose fiber, and portland cement, fiber cement looks like wood but is noncombustible, won’t rot, and is impervious to wood-boring insects. With its woodlike appearance, fiber cement is available primed, unprimed, or factory-finished and requires minimal maintenance. Fiber cement is pricey both in terms of product cost and installation. Because it can create silica dust when cut, the material also requires safety precautions such as vacuum-equipped saws or shears.
Vinyl combines low price and a long life, two qualities that have made vinyl the dominant siding material used today. Vinyl can be made in a variety of profiles meant to resemble traditional wood siding, is available in hundreds of colors, and is available in insulated styles. Some types of vinyl siding are capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds. While there is no formal grading system for vinyl siding, a general rule of thumb is that expensive products tend to perform better than less pricey types. This article has several sidebars, covering topics including a consideration of vinyl as a green option; a brief look at engineered siding options; and a look at rain screens for fiber cement and wood. Additionally, this article includes a decision tree to guide you through the process of choosing the right siding for your house.
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