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House Siding Buying Guide

An image of a couple sitting on a porch outside a house with gray siding.

Updated May 14, 2021

Brian G.

By Brian G.

Are you ready to improve your home's curb appeal with new siding? This buying guide details what you should know about choosing the best siding for your home.

Adding Siding to Your Home

Installing house siding isn't just about increasing your curb appeal. Siding also protects your home from the elements. There are a few things to consider if you're interested in replacing or upgrading your siding. Different types of siding respond differently to hot and cold temperatures, wind and other elements over time.

A chart showing different siding types and their resistence level to the elements.

Other factors that might influence your house siding selection include energy efficiency, ease of installation and versatility. 

Energy Efficiency 

Regardless of the type or shape of the siding, using it alone won’t insulate your home well. Consider purchasing siding insulation or an insulated version of your desired siding to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

Installation 

The ease of installation varies for each type of house siding. Vinyl and wood siding are lightweight, and the installation process is straightforward. Installing fiber cement siding is similar to installing engineered wood siding, but it needs to be handled with more care because it's heavier and can crack if mishandled. 

Versatility 

Vinyl, engineered wood and fiber cement siding are available for horizontal or vertical installation.

Tip

Always follow the siding manufacturer's instructions for installation, painting, staining, maintenance and repair. Check your siding warranty before beginning any work. If you choose to make modifications to or repair your siding, the work may void the product warranty. Contact the siding manufacturer if you have any questions.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is one of the most affordable siding options. Durable and low maintenance, it can be applied over existing masonry or wood siding to transform the look of your home. 

Vinyl siding is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and requires no painting or caulking. It comes in a variety of colors and textures. Manufacturers carry vinyl siding and accessories to mimic the look of wood, stone and other natural siding materials, allowing you to create an authentic look that's all your own.

Vinyl Siding Maintenance, Painting and Repair 

You can wash your vinyl siding with a garden hose to handle most of the cleaning. Avoid spraying water into cracks or under the siding. You can use a long-handled car-washing brush and a mild detergent when necessary. If you pressure wash the siding, set the pressure between 1500 and 2400 pounds per square inch (PSI). Use a 40-degree tip at a minimum of 12 inches from the siding. Keep the spray at eye level. Some manufacturers specify that you shouldn't pressure wash their products. 

Painting vinyl-siding is possible with the right preparation, paint and technique. If you decide to paint your siding, select an exterior latex paint labeled for use on vinyl siding. Choose a color no darker than that of your siding (darker shades absorb more heat, which can warp the siding) and follow the instructions for surface prep. Make sure the siding is thoroughly clean and dry. If the surface is pitted or damaged, you may need to apply a vinyl-safe primer. Use a brush or paint sprayer and paint from the top of the house to the bottom using side-to-side strokes. 

Repairing broken or melted siding usually requires replacing the affected panels. A vinyl unlocking tool (also known as a zip-lock tool) lets you easily separate and attach adjacent vinyl panels. Install the new panel according to the product instructions. You may also be able to cut away only the damaged portion of the siding and install a patch piece, rather than replacing the entire panel. 

There are various types of vinyl sidings. Board and batten siding is installed vertically and uses wide boards with thinner strips (battens) to cover the seams.

Wood Siding

An image of a beige wood siding panel.

Available in panels and shingles, wood siding gives your house the look of authentic wood. Wood siding is available in several types of treatments and finishes. You can also paint or stain it after installation. Natural wood siding with an exterior-grade panel is suitable for long-term exposure to weather and can withstand repeated wetting and drying. 

Engineered Wood Siding 

Engineered wood, or wood composite siding, offers the same authentic look of wood siding, but it's lighter and more durable. It's made from a sturdy combination of wood byproducts and a resin binder and can be nailed directly to the stud. It can also be painted or stained in a variety of colors. Wood composite siding is easy to maintain. 

Wood Siding Maintenance and Repair 

Cleaning most wood siding requires only a mild detergent and a soft brush or sponge. For some types, you can use a pressure washer to clean tougher dirt and grime. Check the manufacturer's information to make sure your siding is suitable for power washing. 

Check regularly for damaged or missing sealant at gaps and joints. Remove and reapply as needed. Depending on the finish and weather conditions, you may need to re-stain wood siding every three to five years. Paint may last for up to 10 years. Make sure the finish is suitable for your type of wood or engineered wood. For example, some engineered wood siding isn't suitable for stain. 

If you choose to repair damaged siding yourself, you may be able to cut away the affected area and size a replacement piece to fit. If you have damaged wood shingles, it may be possible to seal small cracks (less than 1/16 inch) with a flexible, exterior-grade, paintable caulk and paint it to match your siding. Shingles with greater damage require removal and replacement. When making repairs to wood siding, properly seal the replacement siding and any joints as needed.

Fiber Cement Siding

This siding method is typically low maintenance, requiring only water, a soft-bristle brush, and if necessary, a mild detergent. If you use a pressure washer, operate it below 1500 PSI. Use only a wide fan tip at a distance of at least 6 feet from the siding. If any caulking is worn or damaged, re-caulk it to help prevent moisture damage. You'll need to repaint the siding periodically. 

Fiber Cement Maintenance and Repair 

Some manufacturers offer touch-up kits to cover nail heads and minor damage such as cuts, scrapes and small holes. You can repair small cracks and dents with a cementitious patching product labeled as compatible with fiber cement. Large damaged areas may require removal and replacement of the damaged panel.

Siding Calculator

For panels and clapboards, measure your home's exterior walls, including the doors and windows. Note the size of one piece of siding. Divide the total exterior wall measurement by the size of one piece of siding to determine how many pieces you'll need. Include doors and windows in the total measurement to ensure you have replacement pieces available if they're needed.

If you're installing siding yourself, you'll need to cut it to properly cover your home. Make sure you have access to an appropriate saw and blade.

Stone Veneer

A closeup image of textured stone veneer siding.

If you’re looking for a solid, natural look to complement your siding, stone veneer might be the answer. Stone veneer is a long-lasting addition that provides the appearance of natural stone in a thinner, more lightweight material. Stone veneer is more economical than natural stone and easier to install. It’s available in panels for quick installation or in individual pieces that allow you to create your own varied patterns. Maintaining an exterior stone veneer usually requires only a wash-down with a hose or a scrub with a soft brush. 

Manufactured stone veneer, sometimes called architectural stone or cast stone, is made from concrete. Faux stone veneer is made from high-density polyurethane. Many types of stone veneer work for both interior and exterior applications and are installed with adhesive, mortar or screws. You may need to install the stone veneer on a base material such as plywood, furring strips or lathing. Depending on the installation location, you may also need building paper or house wrap.

Brick Veneer

If you want a beautifully classic look, brick veneer siding is a great choice. Brick veneer can be used on its own, or you can pair it with wood, stucco or vinyl siding to create a unique look. This siding is usually sealed to prevent moisture from seeping in, which can eventually cause corrosion of the material. Brick is highly durable and is long-lasting. It is resistant to weather, pests and fire.

Siding Styles

Installing siding protects your home's exterior and helps with insulation, but the style of siding you choose also influences your home's aesthetic. Lap siding is the most commonly installed siding. The term "lap" refers to the way in which the planks overlap, and it comes in several styles.

  • Board and batten siding are vertical boards joined together with thin strips to cover seams.
  • Dutch lap vinyl board (also called horizontal lap siding) has lap panels characterized by a sharp bevel, creating contrast between the planks.
  • Clapboard siding lays horizontally where each piece is shaped like a wedge. Clapboard is widely seen in New England, but it's gaining popularity in other areas. 

With so many types and styles of siding to choose from, it's easier than you think to change the look of your home. Whether you choose to use a simple, traditional vinyl siding or mix things up with several different styles, you can be sure you'll create a customized look that'll be a stand-out in your neighborhood.

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