Home Siding: A Succinct, yet Comprehensive Guide

Home Siding

*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

When it comes to renovating the exterior of your house, once you’ve done the landscape work, you are left with only two choices for the house: paint or siding. The huge variety of materials for exterior siding makes it a logical choice for many homeowners. Keep reading for more information about exterior siding and your home.

Types of Siding

When you decide to put siding on your home, or having your home built with siding, you can choose from many options.


Aluminum siding comes in various textures and patterns, some with the look of wood. You can purchase it with the color baked in or paint it any color you choose. Like regular wood siding, the painting may have to be re-done every few years. You have the freedom of choosing vertical or horizontal panels of aluminum siding.

For homes located in areas with a lot of moisture or salty air, aluminum siding is an excellent choice. The waterproof metal withstands corrosion and mildew. It is also a great choice for areas that experience extreme cold, as the temperatures will not cause the siding to become brittle or crack.  Also, the insulation provided by aluminum siding can help provide savings on heating and cooling expenses.

Like most siding options, maintenance is a breeze. Aluminum siding can be hosed off or wiped down. If you choose to paint the siding, the paint will usually hold up for ten to twelve years.

There are some disadvantages to aluminum siding. The metal does dent, although it doesn’t rust. Replacing a single panel or section is more difficult than replacing a section of vinyl siding. Another concern is the noises or “pings” that come from the expansion and contraction of aluminum in heat or high winds.

Vinyl Siding

Exterior vinyl siding is the most popular siding used in home building and renovating today.  It makes up a third of the siding used on new and existing homes. One reason for the popularity is the variety of colors and patterns. Vinyl siding can be purchased in almost any color of the rainbow. The textures and patterns are much more advanced than they were ten or fifteen years ago, and the vinyl that mimics wood is much more realistic looking.

Vinyl is one of the least expensive sidings available. With its 40 year life, it is a good investment for a lot of homeowners. This siding is also compatible with any climate, protecting the structure of the home as well as an additional layer of insulation. Vinyl siding comes in different thicknesses, and you should choose the thickest for the most durability and longevity.

Maintenance of vinyl siding is as simple as washing the exterior at least once a year. To keep colors fresh, especially bright colors, consider painting the siding every eight to ten years.

Vinyl siding also has some disadvantages. The siding can be dented, and the siding can be melted by temperatures as low as 165 degrees. Keep grills away from the vinyl siding, and be aware that sun reflected by windows can also cause melting. Replacement of vinyl siding sections is a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. Extreme cold temperatures can cause vinyl to become brittle and crack.

Wood Siding

Every type of siding out there attempts to look like wood siding. Wood siding has the most natural appearance and it seems to appeal to all of us. Wood siding can be painted any color, comes in a variety of types of wood with as many styles. Wood siding is the most user-friendly for do-it-yourself homeowners. Installation requires only limited carpentry skills.

The ease of DIY installation helps ease the cost of wood siding. In addition, the environmental benefits of this natural siding sway many homeowners.  The wood does require paint, varnish, or stain to protect it from the elements and requires regular re-painting or staining.

The maintenance of wood siding is one of its disadvantages. Regular maintenance includes painting or staining, which must be done every few years. The wood must be treated to protect it from insects and water.

Another disadvantage to wood siding is its vulnerability to insects and weather. If the wood siding is not properly and regularly treated, it can become infested with insects—the most damaging ones are termites. Weather and water damage can cause wood to rot or warp, allowing water deeper into the foundation and structure of the home. Further, wood is susceptible to fire.

Some of these disadvantages can be lessened by the type of wood used in the siding. Cedar and redwood are both insect resistant and more likely to hold up under severe weather conditions.

Exterior plywood siding is a lower cost wood siding alternative. Plywood is made of thin layers of wood held together by glue. This construction provides more durability and strength than regular wood.

Cement Board Siding

A final option for siding type is fiber-cement boards.  This siding is available in shingles that mimic cedar shake, as well as vertical and horizontal panels. There are only a couple makers of this kind of siding, one of which is James Hardie Industries. Hardie has been making cement-fiber siding and shingles for so long that the name Hardie-board has become the generic name for all brands of cement-fiber—much like Kleenex has become the name any paper tissue.  

Cement-fiber siding is as close to fireproof as is possible. More than 90% of the materials used to make it will not burn. It stands up to all kinds of harsh weather, including hurricane force winds and salt air. It is impervious to insects and water damage.

While there are no special maintenance requirements for cement-fiber board siding, it does require painting.  A paint job usually lasts around fifteen years, three times the life of paint on wooden exteriors.

The biggest (and perhaps, only) disadvantage to cement-fiber siding is the cost. Cement-fiber siding is expensive. It requires professional and expert installation, and labor costs can be twice the cost of vinyl or aluminum siding. However, these costs may be offset by the longevity and durability of the siding. It can last for decades.

Benefits of Exterior Siding Panels

Exterior siding panels can increase the value and visual appeal of your home. They are easy to maintain with yearly washing and occasional painting. Most siding types have the option of a wood-look and are easier to maintain than natural wood. In most cases, exterior siding increases the insulation of your home and provides an additional barrier from the elements of nature.

Each type of siding has its drawbacks, and only you can decide which siding to choose. There is a bigger decision to be made before selecting the type of siding for your home.

To Side or Not To Side

When it comes time to upgrade the exterior of your home, there are several things to consider in your decision to use exterior siding, of any type, on your home. The following considerations may help you in choosing between installing siding and repainting.

The architecture: if your home is a Victorian style home, with lots of detailed gingerbread work, siding may not be an option for you. The intricate details of these houses are best highlighted by paint rather than siding. Before painting, be sure to repair any damaged areas and sand everywhere.

The neighborhood: if you have an older home, in an older neighborhood, you might want to look at the homes around you. If few of them have siding, then siding may not be the most aesthetic choice for you.

The condition: if your existing wood exterior is peeling, has some rotten spots, or consists of asbestos shingles, then siding may be your best choice. You can apply the new siding right over the existing wooden siding. Old metal or vinyl siding will have to be replaced. Existing exterior defects would have to be repaired and the wood sanded before painting.

The weather: if your house needs additional insulation, you can add foam or other types of insulation underneath the siding. This provides an easy way to protect your home from the weather and may lower your heating and cooling expenses.

The environmental impact: of the siding options listed above, only wood siding will naturally decompose. Any other type of siding will fill landfills. There are also some concerns about the chemical composition of vinyl siding. Currently, there are only a few “green” options for siding.

Choosing to change the outer appearance of your home is a big decision. Your home is likely your biggest investment, so you want to make sure that you will be happy with any changes you make to how it looks. Curb appeal can make a home more marketable if you decide to sell the house. Siding, of any of the types described above, can help you to make your home more beautiful and more valuable.

Recent Posts