Best Types of House Siding: Pros & Cons
We’ve put together a comprehensive residential siding guide to assist you in researching your options for replacement and new construction projects.
What’s Included: Seven possibilities ranging from affordable to upscale – Vinyl, steel & aluminum, fiber cement & composite, genuine wood, stucco, brick & stone, and faux stone.
Note: Each siding type is normally available in a wide range of quality and style options that affect material costs. Installation ranges from easy to difficult due to onsite factors that affect installation cost. Your project’s geography and the local economy will also have a major impact on costs.
Types of Siding Material
This table summarizes the information in this section:
Aluminum & Steel
Brick & Stone
The next section provides more details for each siding type, including its options and pros and cons.
This is an extruded plastic material made from PVC resin for durability and resistance to the elements. The material is tinted in the production process, so the color goes all the way through.
There are three appearance options: Horizontal, vertical and shingle/shake panels.
Horizontal siding comes in Dutch lap, smooth and beaded styles. Panels are typically formed into single, double and triple board profiles.
Vertical siding in board & batten, cedar plank, beaded and additional styles are produced in a more limited range of options.
Vinyl shake and shingle panels feature 2 or 3 rows with up to 6 shakes or shingles per row. These panels are used either as the primary siding or accent siding in gables or above brick or stone.
Shake & Shingle Polymer Vinyl Siding Cedar Shake Impressions via CertainTeed
You have a wide array of colors to consider from white and light shades to deep reds, greens, blues and charcoals. Complimentary trim colors allow you to customize the look you want for your home.
Pros and Cons
The appeal of vinyl siding is its relatively affordable cost and low maintenance.
Pluses of Vinyl Siding:
Style and color options
Moisture and insect resistance
Good fire rating, though it will melt in high heat
Reduced fading with new color technology
Very low maintenance
Insulated (R2 to R3) options, though not a good value compared to attaching siding to wall sheathing beneath the siding
Minuses of Vinyl Siding:
Shingle and shake styles cost up to 100% more than panels
Brittleness and cracking with age/impact
Falls short of “genuine wood” look
Potential leaks, buckling and cracking with faulty installation
Warranties of 25 years to “lifetime,” but expected longevity of 18 to 30 years
Recyclable – but few locations accept it
Top Brands: CertainTeed, Georgia Pacific (GP), Alside / ABTCO, Kaycan, Mastic, Mitten, Timbercrest
Metal Siding – Steel and Aluminum
After being pushed out of the market by vinyl a few decades ago, aluminum is making a comeback and bringing with it steel siding in several interesting styles. Various coatings including Kynar, Galvalume, PVC and zinc help prevent corrosion of steel siding and eliminate the chalking common to the last generation of aluminum siding.
There are three styles/types of aluminum and steel siding:
Horizontal siding mimics traditional wood siding. You have good color and style options, though not as many as with vinyl.
Vertical steel and aluminum siding are produced in board & batten styles for a traditional look. Vertical grooved panels, usually steel, have a modern appearance. Standing seam metal wall panels
Steel shingles have a genuine wood appearance with a high profile.
Pros and Cons
The appeal of aluminum and steel siding is that it is easier to maintain than wood siding and is more durable than most vinyl.
More affordable than wood
Very low maintenance
Resists fire, insects, weather, mold
Improved coating technology to eliminate chalking
DIY-friendly installation but heavier than vinyl
Green building material
Help keep homes cool
Shingle styles cost 50% to 80% more than standard panels
Steel siding will rust if scratched and not touched up
Louder than vinyl or wood in rain or hail
Higher installation cost than vinyl
Some finishes may fade
Susceptible to dents
Top Brands: Mastic, Rollex, Revere, BridgerSteel, TruCedar, Gentek, EDCO, ALSCO, Reinke Shakes
Fiber Cement and Wood Composite
The use of wood fiber is common to these materials. The fibers are mixed with cement materials to form fiber cement brands like James Hardie. Fibers are coated with wax and blended with resin to create wood composite like LP SmartSide. Both siding types are sold either primed for paint or prefinished. Lap, vertical, panel and shingle siding is available in a good range of colors and styles with matching trim.
Pros and Cons
The appeal of fiber cement and composite siding is that it costs less than genuine wood and requires less maintenance, but it is an upgrade in quality and looks from vinyl.
Designed to last up to 50 years, twice vinyl’s lifespan
The look of wood at a lower cost and with less maintenance
Class A fire rating
Resist insects, mold, and rot
A good range of style options, though not as wide as vinyl
Shingle and shake styles cost 25% to 50% more installed
Must be painted after 10-15 years and then every 3-10 years based on your climate
Will absorb moisture if scratched and wood fiber core is exposed
Fiber cement is hard to cut, and cutting creates hazardous dust
Will crack if improperly installed
Top Brands: James Hardie, LP SmartSide, GAF, Allura, Cemplank, Nichiha, MaxiTile.
There’s a reason so many siding types mimic genuine wood – the real thing has a beauty that is unsurpassed. Pine, spruce and fir, cedar and redwood are most common. Any of the woods can be finished with a clear sealer or with pigmented stain and sealer in one. Wood siding options include traditional clapboard in various widths from about 3” to 12”, vertical board & batten and wood shingle siding. Wood shake and shingle siding are available too, but at a significantly higher cost for materials and installation. There are many wood siding producers, most of them local or regional. With wood siding, the installing contractor is more important than the specific wood manufacturer.
Pros and Cons
The appeal of wood is that it is the real stuff with all its valued qualities. None of the faux woods have the look of sealed and stained wood siding.
Siding styles and stain/paint colors to customize the look of any home
Lifetime siding when maintained
Green and sustainable
Excellent curb appeal and good market value ROI
Must be painted or stained every 3-5 years ($1.50-$2.50/sq. ft.)
Susceptible to insects and moisture damage when not maintained
Poor fire rating
Top Brands: Cedar Creek, WoodTone
Choosing Your Siding Material
These buyer’s summaries are designed to pull the information together in succinct form to assist you in compiling a short list of options or to choose the one that is right for your home.
Vinyl siding: If the homes in your neighborhood are sided with vinyl and your goal is to freshen up your exterior, this is an affordable way to do it. Homeowners considering a move use vinyl to enhance curb appeal. Depending on your budget, you can choose all standard panel siding or mix in vinyl shake and shingle siding in gables or on an upper floor.
Aluminum and steel siding: Standard aluminum siding is considered a moderate upgrade from vinyl. Steel siding gives you enhanced durability and stylistic choices with low maintenance. Top-of-the-line steel will last 40+ years. It’s a greener choice since most contain recycled material and is more easily recycled than vinyl.
Fiber cement and composite siding: These materials are a good option in neighborhoods where homeowners’ association guidelines rule out vinyl and aluminum siding. Both fiber cement and composite siding offer better durability. Their firmness gives them a feeling of greater quality. Fiber cement and composite work well in a home exterior with wood, brick and stone veneer and faux stone.
Wood siding: This is the siding of choice for purists, though not recommended in dry areas prone to wildfire. Natural wood siding is ideal for homeowners who want the look, texture and aroma the wood offers and are willing to give it the maintenance it needs. Wood often works well in combination with stone and faux stone.
How to Save Money and Get Beautiful New Siding
The first tip is to consider the most affordable siding in the look you want – vinyl rather than steel, aluminum rather than wood or faux stone instead of genuine stone.
Secondly, as we’ve suggested, consider a combination of materials. Complement an expensive option with siding that is more affordable.
One path to saving money we don’t suggest you take is hiring the cheapest labor you can find.
You really do get the installation quality you pay for, and installation is the key to how good your siding looks and how well it performs. As you shop around for price, consider cost as secondary to the proven experience of the siding contractors.