Different Types of Siding and Their Pros and Cons

If you are building a new home or need to replace the siding on your current home, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the number of choices you have. The material, the design, the color, the cost – these are just the basic features to consider when you’re deciding on what kind of siding to use. So, we’ve created this guide to help you understand what your choices are, the variables you might want to consider, and how to balance your different concerns.

We have put together this guide that rates the different qualities of the most common siding materials. The qualities we consider for each material are: how water resistant they are, how energy efficient they are, how versatile they are (ie, can you change the color?), how eco-friendly they are, how durable they are, and how much they cost comparatively. For each material, we’ve rated each quality between one (the lowest) or five (the highest). If keeping the cost as low as possible is the most important quality for you, look for materials that are rated a “one” in cost. If energy efficiency is important, look for a high energy-efficiency rating.

Vinyl

Vinyl is the most popular siding choice in the U.S. This is mostly because it is affordable, offers minimal upkeep, and gives homeowners plenty of color and even texture choices. But this doesn’t mean vinyl is the right choice for everyone. There are plenty of choices that are more resistant to damage – a baseball or a tree limb can easily mar your vinyl siding – and eco-friendly. In fact, if environmental friendliness is important to you, vinyl siding is one of the worst choices you can make because it is not recyclable. Also, there are siding choices that are far more fireproof than vinyl. In fact, if you light of hot grill next to an outdoor wall with vinyl siding, it will melt long before wood siding would catch flame. And when vinyl siding melts, it gives off toxic fumes.

Who needs vinyl siding: If you are looking for a range of choices in style, texture, and color, but want one of the most economical choices, vinyl siding is for you.

Water-Resistant: 4

Energy Efficiency: 3

Eco-Friendliness: 2

Lasting Power: 3

Up-Keep: 4

Fire-Resistant: 2

Insect-Proof: 4

Cost: 5

Metal (Steel)

Steel siding offers a number of positive features, but also has a very specific aesthetic. Homes with steel siding are generally very modern looking. Color choices are also limited with steel: gray and black are pretty much it. Steel is also moderately expensive, mainly because the heavy steel sheets take longer to install and therefore incur greater labor costs. That being said, properly installed steel is very water-resistant, pretty eco-friendly (sheets are cut to size so there is no excess and can steel can be recycled at the end of the life of the house), and is fireproof and insect proof.

Who needs steel siding: if you are designing a home with a sleek, modern look, steel siding is a great siding choice for you.

Water-Resistant: 5

Energy Efficiency: 3

Eco-Friendliness: 3

Lasting Power: 4

Up-Keep: 4

Fire-Resistant: 5

Insect-Proof: 5

Cost: 3

Metal (Aluminum)

Aluminum siding is another popular choice for many homeowners, even though it is pricier than vinyl siding. Like vinyl siding, aluminum offers plenty of color choices and, like other metal siding, it is fire-resistant and insect proof. However, aluminum is soft and, like vinyl, can be easily damaged. Worse than vinyl, if damage to aluminum is fixed in a timely manner, rust can form, and then you have a whole different set of problems. That being said, aluminum siding is easy to clean and, if kept in good condition, has great lasting power.

Who needs aluminum siding: You want aluminum siding if you want great color choices and an easy-to-clean, long lasting siding.

Water-Resistant: 5

Energy Efficiency: 3

Eco-Friendliness: 3

Lasting Power: 4

Up-Keep: 3

Fire-Resistant: 5

Insect-Proof: 5

Cost: 4

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is an increasingly popular choice for homeowners and is actually the second most common siding material, after vinyl. Fiber cement is a mixture of wood fibers, sand, and cement, and can be made to look like natural wood, without a lot of the downsides of natural wood. For instance, it is more insect proof and more fireproof than natural wood and will also not succumb to wood-rot in the same way natural wood can. In fact, even if you live near the ocean, fiber cement will hold up far longer than natural wood will in the salty, moist air. Further, fiber cement, while slightly more costly than vinyl siding, is still a very affordable siding choice. Many people like fiber cement because, as far as color choice goes, you are only limited by the color of the paint you use. Of course, because it is painted, chips need to be touched up and the color can fade and require re-painting over time.

Who needs fiber cement siding: If you want a natural wood look without the downsides of wood, and at a more affordable choice, fiber cement is the choice for you. Also, if you live near an ocean, fiber cement is a much better choice than natural wood, in terms of upkeep.

Water-Resistant: 4

Energy Efficiency: 3

Eco-Friendliness: 4

Lasting Power: 3

Up-Keep: 3

Fire-Resistant: 4

Insect-Proof: 4

Cost: 4

Wood

Wood siding is generally considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing siding choices. Natural materials add a certain warmth to a home and lends itself to plenty of different design aesthetics. Wood can be painted any color of the rainbow and is actually more fire-resistant than some other popular siding choices. But wood does come with a host of issues. Wood requires fairly consistent upkeep, whether it is re-painting faded or chipped paint or securing against insect and water damage. While the installation of wood siding is not necessarily cost-prohibitive, the upkeep adds to the long-term cost of wood siding. But one final upside of wood siding: it is one of the most environmentally friendly siding choices you can pick.

Who needs wood siding: If you are striving for a warm and friendly aesthetic and a natural look, and you’re willing to put in the upkeep effort that wood requires, wood siding can add a beautiful finish to your home.

Water-Resistant: 1

Energy Efficiency: 4

Eco-Friendliness: 5*

Lasting Power: 2

Up-Keep: 2

Fire-Resistant: 3

Insect-Proof: 1

Cost: 3

*The eco-friendliness of wood is highly debated. On one hand, using wood requires destroying trees, a big no-no for most people who care about the environment. However, you can find wood siding suppliers who source their materials from environmentally friendly companies (usually companies that plant trees, in addition to destroying them). But, the main value of wood’s eco-friendliness can come at the end of the home’s life. Wood can be recycled or, if not usable, can be burned, with little environmental impact.

Brick

If cost isn’t a huge issue for you, you may be in the market for brick. Brick can be used as the structural material for the exterior of your home but it can also be placed over the structure, as a façade. The second option looks almost identical to the first, but is substantially less expensive because it uses less brick. Brick is costlier in general mainly because it takes longer to install, and therefore incurs more labor costs. Next to wood, brick is one of the most popular aesthetic choices for a home façade. It gives your home a stately and permanent feel and its lasting power is no façade: properly installed brick can last over a hundred years, as you can see in many historical houses. Brick is highly fire-resistant and doesn’t attract insects and requires minimal upkeep over the years. Because of these qualities, many homeowners’ policies actually give credits for brick homes, so the cost of brick may be mitigated long term. Of course, once you select your brick color, there’s no changing it, unless you paint it, but most people who want a brick home are not concerned about a range of color choices anyway. Brick can be re-sold to be used in other projects so it is relatively eco-friendly and it provides good insulation, which can keep heating bills down in colder climates.

Who needs brick: If you want a long-lasting, stately looking home and are willing to put in the money up front, brick is a beautiful choice, whether you have a solid masonry home or a brick veneer on your wood frame home.

Water-Resistant: 5

Energy Efficiency: 5

Eco-Friendliness: 5

Lasting Power: 5

Up-Keep: 4

Fire-Resistant: 5

Insect-Proof: 5

Cost: 2

Stucco

Traditional stucco is a mixture of lime, sand, and cement but you can now also purchase synthetic stucco. When most people picture stucco, they imagine the typical stubby looking façade but stucco can actually be installed in a number of different textures. Stucco is one of the more popular siding choices in the U.S. because of its lasting power – it can last 50 – 100 years with minimal maintenance – and damage is relatively easily and cheaply repaired because small spots can be fixed, rather than having to replace whole pieces or even facades. It offers a wide variety of colors and essentially no insect or rot problems (unless you live in a very humid climate). There are two areas, however, where stucco probably isn’t the best choice: areas with earthquakes and areas with frequent heavy rainfall. Stucco can easily crack if the foundation of your home shifts even slightly and those cracks can allow moisture to creep behind the stucco and create mold. Similarly, stucco can dry quickly under normal rain conditions, but frequent heavy rains can soak stucco to the point that it fosters mold growth.

Who needs stucco: If you like stucco’s aesthetic, want a long-lasting façade for your home, and don’t live in an earthquake-prone or rain-soaked area, stucco is a great choice.

Water-Resistant: 3

Energy Efficiency: 3

Eco-Friendliness: 3

Lasting Power: 4

Up-Keep: 4

Fire-Resistant: 3

Insect-Proof: 5

Cost: 3

Stone

We’ve saved the best – and most costly – for last. Stone is not a popular choice for a home’s façade in the U.S., mostly due to the prohibitively expensive cost. If you’ve ever visited a Medieval castle in Europe, you already know one of the best features of natural stone: if installed properly, stone is nearly impenetrable and will last indefinitely, literally hundreds of years. It is resistant to fire, insects, moisture, and extreme temperatures and one of the best parts of stone is that it requires almost zero maintenance, other than perhaps an occasional scrub with a pressure cleaner. Part of the high cost of stone is due to the weight of stone and the time it takes to install properly. However, if you want the look of stone at possibly half the cost, a stone veneer can be installed, just like a brick veneer is installed: instead of providing the structure of your home, the stone is installed over the wood frame of the home. You do, unfortunately, lose a couple of stone perks with stone veneers versus stone masonry: stone veneers share moisture issues with stucco and a stone veneer does not adapt to temperature extremes the same way stone masonry does.

Who needs natural stone: If you happen to be a king or a queen, or even a prince or a duchess, stone is the way to go. For the rest of us regular folks, stone is great for its particular aesthetic and to build a home for the ages.

Water-Resistant: 5

Energy Efficiency: 5

Eco-Friendliness: 5

Lasting Power: 5

Up-Keep: 5

Fire-Resistant: 5

Insect-Proof: 5

Cost: 1

So what siding is going to beautify your home? We’d love to help you make the choice that is right for you, your home, and your budget. Read more about Apex Exterior’s siding services or call us at 847-453-3471 for a free estimate.

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