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A Guide For Exterior Siding


If you're thinking of new siding, you are making a big decision to upgrade in your home's exterior appearance. There are lots of options, and each has pro's and con's when it comes to cost, reliability, and maintenance.

Here's what you need to know about siding options:


Vinyl

Vinyl siding is durable and comes in a variety of colors/textures. Because the color is throughout the material, nicks and scratches don't show up. Vinyl is very good at mimicking wood boards, wood shingles and even stone.

It is lightweight and, in many instances, can be installed directly over existing materials. Vinyl can also be installed quickly, saving labor costs.

Upside: The material requires little to no maintenance. It has a low cost compared to other siding materials. And the best brands offer transferable lifetime warranties.

Downside: Because the standard panels are 12ft long, the ends of the panels overlap, creating noticeable seams. You can order extra-long panels that reduce the number of seams, but you'll pay a premium of about 30% more than standard-length boards.

Cost: Expect to pay $6,000-$13,000 to install vinyl siding on an average two-story house.


Wood

Wood has natural charm that makes it a great choice for a premium renovation project.

Wood siding comes in many species and grades. Using a clear sealer or semi-transparent stain highlights the grain. With maintenance, wood can last generations. Clear finishes should be reapplied every 2 years; semi-transparent stains every 3 years; and paints every 5 years.

Upside: It's a great-looking material prized for its natural beauty.

Downside: Better grades of wood can be pricey. Maintenance adds to the overall cost. Retrofitting with wood siding requires removing existing siding materials.

Cost: Clapboard siding: $5 to $8 per square foot, installed. Shingle siding: $6 to $9 per square foot, installed.


Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is known for stability and easy maintenance. It's made from a mix of wood pulp, cement, clay and sand, and it can be molded to mimic wood clapboard, shingles, stucco and masonry. It's easy to paint, and most manufacturers offer factory-applied finishes.

Upside: Fiber-cement siding resists expanding and contracting with changes in humidity and temperature. It's fire-resistant, termite-proof and it won't rot. A 30-year warranty is normal.

Downside: Fiber-cement siding is heavy, and installation requires special techniques and tools that add to the cost. Retrofits mean completely removing the old siding, adding about 5 percent to the overall cost.

Cost: Expect to pay $13,000 to $22,000 for an average two-story house.


Stucco

Stucco is a durable siding that pairs well with other siding materials. Stucco mixtures include epoxy, which prevents chipping and cracking. Well-maintained stucco lasts a lifetime.

Upside: Toners added to stucco mixtures result in beautiful, organic colors that go all the way through the material, making repainting unnecessary. Stucco is a low-maintenance material that's resistant to fire and insects.

Drawbacks: There's a lot of prep work required before stucco can be applied.

Cost: $6 to $9 per square foot, installed. Expect to pay $12,000 to $22,000 for an average two-story house.


Engineered Wood Siding

Engineered wood siding is made of wood fibers and exterior-grade resins. It's tough and can stand up to extreme weather conditions. It comes many styles and textures, including beaded lap, rough-sawn clapboard and look-alike wood shingles. It comes ready-to-paint, primed or with factory finishes.

Engineered wood siding is a cheaper alternative to fiber cement and real wood, but has similar durability. Some brands even provide 50-year warranties.

Upside: Engineered wood siding impervious to insects and is half the cost of real wood siding.

Downside: Although now backed by warranties, early versions of engineered wood siding experienced failures due to moisture problems. Newer varieties haven't been on the market long enough to prove their longevity claims.

Cost: $3 to $5 per square foot, installed. Expect to pay $7,000 to $12,000 to cover an average two-story house.


Synthetic Stone

Synthetic stone is made from a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate. Modern manufacturing techniques make the stone look realistic. It mimics many stone types, including granite and limestone, and the variety of shapes and styles includes split face, dry stacked and round river rock. Although it's not often used to cover entire houses, it's a popular choice as an accent, covering lower portions of walls or chimney exteriors.

Upside: The look of real stone at a fraction of the cost. Synthetic stone is fire and insect resistant.

Downside: Although it costs less than real stone, synthetic stone is still one of the more expensive siding options.

Cost: $12 to $25 per square foot, installed.

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