Building or remodeling a home is usually based on space needs and aesthetics. One of the most public decisions regarding appearance is surely your choice of siding material. But I encourage you to also consider other factors when choosing this all-important material, especially factors like protection, durability and, realistically, how willing you are to maintain it. Also, if you have a homeowners association, your selection may require its approval. Following are more specific considerations, alphabetized by type of material:
BRICK Nothing says “built-to-last” like brick. In our area, many of the middle-century ranch homes, as well as Colonial- and Tudor-style homes, are clad in brick or brick veneer. The latter requires a moisture barrier between the veneer and the home’s wooden frame. Bricks, which are made from fired clay, come in a wide range of rich and subtle colors, but they are labor-intensive to install – and they can be more difficult to match if you ever add on – so be sure to include that installation cost in your tally.
FIBER-CEMENT SIDING Fiber-cement siding may be the best option for many homeowners. Not only does its natural look mimic masonry, stucco or wood with less expense, but it is low maintenance while resisting flames and termites. Expert installation helps ensure you will encounter no moisture-related issues from this product, which is available in a spectrum of colors, styles and textures. Expect it to last from 25 to 50 years.
STONE Stone and natural or synthetic stone veneer (lighter weight and less expensive), if chosen with restraint – otherwise it can look gaudy – provides long-lasting natural beauty and durability. Texture and visual interest are its hallmarks, as is its cost. So stone may be a good choice to combine with another material, adding visual interest to selected architectural features, like around a front entrance.
STUCCO Stucco, familiar to most of us from Spanish Mission- and Mediterranean-style homes, is typically made of sand, Portland cement, lime and water. It requires a moisture barrier and galvanized metal screening underneath for protection. Installation is of paramount importance to prevent cracks from developing in this rigid material. Dryvit is a synthetic stucco-look material that was very popular in our area years back, but got a bad rap due to costly moisture problems resulting from improper installation. Exterior Insulation and Finish System, or EIFS (polystyrene panels with an acrylic coating), is the broader term for synthetic stucco, which is still a viable option, provided it is installed by professionals and maintained properly. The latter includes regular inspection of the surface for punctures, especially after a storm, and the caulked joints – which real stucco does not have – for damage. Other limitations include that EIFS siding should not touch the ground where it could potentially soak up ground water, nor should it have anything attached to it, like a mailbox or flag pole, that could puncture the surface.
VINYL SIDING Vinyl siding is the most popular choice, offering low cost of material and installation, versatility of colors and styles, low maintenance, durability and, should you be a DIYer, installation that you could potentially take on yourself. If you can get past its “plastic” appearance, it may be your best option.
WOOD For a rich, organic, authentic look, wood – available as clapboard or lap siding, shakes and shingles – is hard to beat. Especially appropriate for bungalow-, Cape Cod- and cottage-style homes, as we know from examples of historic architectures, wood is durable if it is maintained properly. And in our coastal climate, staying on top of that requires real commitment to painting and staining. Wood is also attractive to critters, but it can be treated for fire-retardance. Western red cedar and redwood are thought to offer the most visual appeal and durability. When figuring the cost, be sure to figure in more labor-intensive installation as well as finishing.