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Choosing Siding Materials

No other improvement can do as much for your home’s appearance and livability as a new exterior surface. Add new siding to create an entirely different appearance, or duplicate the old look using a low-maintenance product that won’t need repainting for decades. For a guide to the range of siding materials and styles available, see the chart below.

Before you choose a siding for your house, examine what’s underneath. Tightly interlocked new siding greatly reduces air infiltration through exterior walls. It won’t make up for lack of insulation and sheathing, however. If you’re looking for energy savings, you might be wise to strip walls to their sheathing or studs and upgrade the R-value with insulation. Or perhaps the answer is to beef up existing insulation with a polystyrene backing that’s available with some manufactured sidings. Carefully plan how the new siding will be covered with moldings. Adding a layer to the exterior may mean that window and door frames need to be extended outward by the thickness of the new siding. Of course, if you remove the old siding and install new siding of the same thickness, you won’t have that problem.

Choosing Siding

Material

Appearance

Features / Price

Durability

Wood, plywood

Widest range of styles, textures, and finishes; available preprimed or presealed

Difficult to apply over existing siding; prices vary according to the material; many types are naturally insulating

Depends upon species and pretreatment; plywood and sapwood must be well sealed

Hardboard

Lap and vertical panel styles with a variety of textures and prefinished colors; also available in preprimed form

No problems with grain, splitting, or knots; large panels mean fewer joints for easier installation and greater weather resistance; color selection limited; moderate price

Vinyl-clad types guaranteed up to 30 years; other types must be kept covered with paint or they will swell

Shingles and shakes

Shingles are smooth and can be cut into designs; shakes are rustic

Of some insulation value; pieces often get damaged but are easy to replace

Guaranteed up to 20 years, but appearance deteriorates

Aluminum

Mostly available as horizontal lap siding; vertical, shingle, and shake styles also available; broad selection of colors

Choice of finishes at prices ranging from moderate to high; lightweight, unaffected by fire and termites; drawbacks are that it dents easily, is noisy, conducts electricity

Guaranteed up to 35 years, easily cleaned; many types need to be repainted

Vinyl

Choice of lap and vertical styles; large selection of colors and textures

Impervious to most perils; color is impregnated all the way through; higher rate of expansion and contraction makes application critical; fairly expensive

Lifetime guarantees; cannot be repainted

 

Lap siding. Lap siding, also called clapboard, is applied horizontally, with boards lapped at least 1 inch. Rabbeted-bevel siding has a predetermined exposure. Straight-bevel siding can have an exposure of between 4 and 8 inches—the narrower the exposure, the classier the look and the thicker the coverage.

Shakes. Shakes are like shingles but are thicker and have an irregular, hand-split look. They’re more expensive than wood shingles.

Shiplap. Shiplap or channel-groove siding has rabbeted edges to interlock the boards. It can be installed either horizontally or vertically.

Board-and-batten. Board-and-batten siding is installed vertically, with gaps between the boards that are covered by the battens. With reverse board and batten, the battens are applied first.

Wood shingles. Shingles have a smooth appearance, adapt readily to misshapen walls, and are easy to apply. Creative carpenters can create an intricate “gingerbread” look by cutting shingles to various shapes and forming patterns.

Siding sheets. Often referred to as “Tl-11,” grooves give plywood siding sheets the appearance of boards. Various spacings of grooves are available. Joints may be shiplapped or covered with battens. All exposed edges must be well-covered and protected from the elements.

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