How to Make the Big Decisions for Your New Siding


by Marcus Pickett

Whether it's putting the house on the market, giving people directions, or simply for your own residential pride, no other feature is as readily identifiable and central to a home's curb appeal as the siding. Thus, when you decide it's time to get rid of your faded vinyl siding, dented aluminum siding, or peeling wood siding, the decisions can feel overwhelming. Here's a rundown of the most popular siding materials for retrofitting an older home, as well as other general considerations to guide you through your siding project.

Pros & Cons for Popular Siding Materials

Vinyl: The most trusted and time-tested siding material out there has gotten better within the last decade or two. Baked-on coatings confer greater durability and resistance to extreme temperatures. These coatings will substantially reduce fading over time, allowing manufacturers to offer a much wider range of colors and textures. Foam-backing increases insulating qualities, cutting your monthly heating and cooling bills. On the other hand, these improvements also raise the cost of vinyl siding closer and closer to premium materials, without delivering the same aesthetic appeal to homeowners.

Fiber-Cement: Also known as Hardie Siding after its biggest manufacturer, this material revolutionized the siding industry in the last 20 to 30 years and hasn't looked back. It's strong enough for high winds and extreme weather. Made from cement, water, sand, and wood pulp, it's a speculator approximation of wood siding in terms of visual appeal, and it's a great compromise for homeowners who want to upgrade from vinyl siding but can't afford truly premium siding materials. The one Achilles Heel for fiber-cement siding is the need to repaint the siding every seven to 10 years or so. These maintenance costs do put a dent in the long-term cost effectiveness of this siding, but it will also keep your siding looking new for a generation or more. Read more about fiber-cement siding.

Stucco: This siding is associated with the American Southwest, but stucco can be great for any number of locations. With superior insulating qualities, this siding should cut your monthly utility bills whether you live in a hot or cold climate. More expensive than fiber-cement, but still not as expensive as brick or stone homes, stucco requires virtually no maintenance, making it reasonably cost effective in the long run. There is also a considerable amount of variation between different stucco systems. Traditional stucco is stronger, less susceptible to moisture damage, and slightly less expensive. Synthetic stucco is easier to work with, less susceptible to fading over time, and an even better insulator than traditional stucco.

Steel: Naturally, this is as tough as it gets. With a few technological innovations, dents, scratches, and noise are non-issues. With a galvanizing treatment, rust isn't a problem, either. Better yet, steel siding doesn't have to look anything like steel - or any metal for that matter. You can find steel siding products with any number of vibrant colors. Comparable to stucco in price, premium steel siding is usually more expensive than vinyl or fiber-cement, though usually less expensive than stone or brick homes.

Additional Tips for Siding Decisions

  • Look for someone with extensive experience working with your specific siding material. There's a big difference between installing vinyl and fiber-cement siding.
  • Make sure your contractor is able and willing to install the siding to exact manufacturer specifications. Otherwise, you may invalidate warranties offered with the product.
  • To compare the performance of various siding products, look at both wind load rating and insulating values.
  • Don't become hyper-focused on upfront costs. Like most home improvements, ongoing maintenance costs and added property value are important factors when calculating overall cost effectiveness.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of texture and presentation. Shingles, boards, and planks with horizontal or vertical orientation can create dramatically different visual effects.

-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.