The Good the Bad and the Ugly in Siding Choices

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DSCN0910

In the south, we love brick and rock façade homes. In fact, many neighborhoods require a large percentage of it on their homes.  This is a shame because not only can siding be beautiful, it is also a much more energy efficient choice for our climate.  Rock and stone provide a thermal mass that act as a significant solar collector gathering heat and dissipating it to the home throughout our long summers. One of the likely reasons that neighborhoods tend to require lots of masonry is because we so often get siding wrong.  Here is a look at a range of common choices.

The Ugly

Vinyl – Though this is a very common siding material, it is, in our opinion, one of the worst.  Generally speaking, vinyl is an especially bad building material in most applications.  There are a few exceptions to this such as Andersen 100 windows; which include fiber in the vinyl to help stabilize it. One of vinyl’s many problems is that it expands and contracts rather drastically with changes in temperature.  In fact, we have seen the reflection off of nearby windows melt vinyl siding. We have always been told that the UV inhibitors in vinyl keep it from cracking. Nonetheless we have seen large sections of wall rot behind vinyl siding that had cracked. The cracks were not easily seen and the wall rotted without the homeowners even knowing that it was happening; at least until the siding started to fall off the house. But the most frequent failure we see with vinyl siding has nothing to do with the vinyl but with the aluminum trim that is applied on Fascia and othr trim.  In very many, perhaps most cases, water is able to get behind this metal and it cannot escape.  As a result, the rot cannot be seen and is not realized until it is too late.  This also happens with aluminum siding but because we do not see all that much of this siding in our area we have left it off of our list.

Hardboard - This material is often referred to generically as Masonite, who was an early manufacture of the product.  In 1996 the maker of Masonite Siding lost a large class action suite because the material was unfit for exterior use.  Today, Masonite no longer makes siding.  However, much of the siding remains in place and there are other similar products on the market. A few years back, when there was more of this product still around, we may have put this above vinyl as our least liked siding.

The Bad

Engineered Siding – This is a large group that includes plywood’s and composite woods; such as Smart Siding.  Our hot, humid climate is hard on these products.  More often than not, failures are more a product of poor installation than anything else. Commonly this siding is run closer to the ground than it should be because our slab foundations are built too low to the ground.  In addition, they are often improperly flashed to protect them from water infiltration.

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Pictures 003

Wood – This is difficult – we love wood siding. It is the real thing.  Nevertheless, for several reasons, it is not a great choice for our hot, humid climate.  Over the years, as we have grown wood faster and faster, it has lost a lot of the durability that it once had. But even well-cured, old growth wood has a tough time in our climate.  Nonetheless, we feel that for the well-informed and motivated client, it can be a great choice.  There is a lot that can be done that goes above and beyond a typical application to give wood siding a fighting chance.  This includes making sure that protective coating goes on every surface; especially end grain which is most vulnerable to rot and most often left unprotected. Though we almost never see it in our area, a rain channel behind the siding is also crucial to making wood siding durable.  Furthermore, proper window and trim details are also rare but important to maintaining wood siding.

The Good

A great siding choice for our climate is fiber cement siding. It is stable and rot proof. It also holds paint very well and is fire proof.

At Stearns Design Build, we specialize in wood and fiber cement sidings because we feel that they are the best choices for our climate.

To schedule a free siding or trim inspection, give us a call 979-696-0524 or your can arrange to have us call you.