Like many building products in existence, choosing the right siding for your home is never as easy as Eeny–meeny–miny-moe. Each material comes with its own set of pros and cons, based on price, climate appropriateness, aesthetics and sustainability, if that is an issue for you. The type of siding to be chosen is only one of the considerations when thinking about the exterior cladding of you home. In this article we will only consider this choice.
Wood is the real thing, the original authentic siding. Many consider wood the ultimate sustainable material and renewable resource. It has a long history as an exterior finish and has an established appeal. You cannot beat the look of real wood… when it is new. Unfortunately in our hot humid climate, it does not hold up so well. And, to make matters worse, modern, fast grown wood does not hold up as well as the wood of even 15 years ago. It rots easily and it does not hold paint well. But if you are a purist and insist on wood, there is a lot that can be done to give your siding a fighting chance. There are quite a few details involved doing wood siding properly that tend to get skipped. To start with the siding should be primed on all sides before installing. It is especially important to prime the grain at the ends of each piece of siding. It is also important to provide an air space behind the siding for proper drying.
Fiber cement has become our siding of choice, due to its durability and the fact that it replicates the look of wood but is easily maintained and holds paint well. Fiber cement siding and trim consists of cement, sand, and cellulose fiber. Also fiber cement is non-combustible and is resistant to rot and termites. Many types of fiber cement include warranties as long as fifty years and cost less than brick, wood or stucco. For the hot humid climate of the Brazos valley, fiber cement siding is our top choice.
Vinyl siding is often used for its affordability. There are few products that have made more dubious claims than vinyl siding. It was not supposed to crack, yet we have seen numerous homes with cracked vinyl siding. It was supposed to hold its color yet we see dingy faded vinyl siding frequently. It contracts and expands so much that we have seen it droop off the side of a house. The process of making polyvinyl chloride is very dirty and it releases dangerous materials when it ages and, worse, it releases dioxins when it burns. One positive attribute to vinyl siding is that it can be recycled. Though that, too, is a high energy and dirty process.
Brick attracts many home buyers for its aesthetics, low maintenance, and resale value. Brick can also be ground up for road base, landscaping or can be used as clean fill. For energy efficient building in hot humid climates brick should be used sparingly and only in well shaded areas or on the north side of a building. As a thermal mass, brick absorbs heat through the day. Because the nights do not cool down enough in a humid climate, most of that heat will eventually migrate into the building. For this reason we discourage the use of brick, stone and other thermal mass cladding on the outside of a home. Unfortunately more neighborhood require large amounts of masonry, which, more often than not, means brick.
Manufactured stone is a lightweight, lower-cost alternative to brick. The products are durable, offering long warranties similar to those of fiber cement. Like other cement based products, manufactured stone does require a higher amount of energy in production. At the end of life, manufactured stone can be grounded up and reused for roadways and sidewalks.
Most stucco today is made with Portland cement and sand, and, the surface is considered low maintenance, affordable, and durable. Stucco offers very versatile design options, a variety of color choices, and is very easily repairable. However, color matching the stucco can be difficult. In terms of energy efficiency stucco has less thermal mass than brick and is in this way preferable.
There are also artificial stuccos known as Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems (IEFS ) These systems have received a bad rap because they were the source of a lot of litigation. But these cases were brought due to a failure in the application of the material, not because the material is bad. If properly installed, EIFS can be a great choice. Unlike traditional stucco it does not transfer heat easily.
The siding on your home is like the skin on your body it is a large, vital organ that will help maintain the health of your home if properly cared for.