When you own a home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not being able to see the forest for the trees. That loose handle on the entry door to your house confronts you every day, for example, while weeks may pass before you notice a loose siding plank.

Even though your entire home is covered in siding of some sort, you probably don’t give it a good, hard look on a regular basis even though it’s one of the most important parts of your house.

And that’s OK! You’re certainly not alone.

But siding is important, and if yours needs to be repaired or replaced, you have a wealth of options to choose from. Wondering which one is the best type of siding for your house? Only you will be able to answer that for sure, but to help inform your siding search, we spoke with the pros at Brennan Enterprises in Dallas for an expert view on some of the most popular siding choices in today’s market.

Keep reading to learn more!

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Popular Siding Types

close-up image of popular siding types

Vinyl siding

Made from PVC, vinyl siding has been around since the early 1960s, and as of the 2010 census, it is the most commonly used siding in new, single-family homes. Historically, however, vinyl has gotten a bad rap, note the experts at Brennan. “In its early days, it was seen as just a cheap siding alternative. It’s got a stigma to overcome.” 

Early forms of vinyl siding were known to warp in extreme climates and to fade easily with prolonged exposure to the elements. So, though it was inexpensive to clad a home in vinyl siding, after a handful of years there was little choice but to invest in siding replacement in order to maintain the home’s visual appeal.

However, with advancements in the vinyl siding manufacturing process, the last decade has seen amazing strides in the quality and durability of the product, creating what the company calls a “resurgence of interest.” 

Careful design and engineering have produced vinyl siding that can perfectly mimic the look of many types of cladding and architectural accents, including wood, stone, and slate. In addition, modern vinyl siding has improved strength and weather resistance and comes in a broader selection of factory colors. 

Advantages

  • Durable
  • Widely available
  • Least expensive option
  • Many brands come with lifetime warranties

Disadvantages 

  • Repairs require replacement of entire sections
  • Style/color selection is not as wide as other types of siding
  • Cannot be painted
  • Flammable
  • Releases toxins if burned

Cleaning/maintenance 

  • Wash annually with soap and water (high-pressure washing is discouraged)

Green characteristics

  • Vinyl siding is an eco-friendly choice because of its production and recycling processes

Insulated siding

Insulated siding is a vinyl product with the added benefit of insulation. “It’s usually just included in the vinyl siding category,” the experts at Brennan agree. “The difference is that it has the insulation glued inside—the insulation is made to fit the profile of the vinyl siding, and the two are bonded together.” 

Another type of insulated siding has a similar backing, but the foam core, though still manufactured to fit the shape of the siding, is left unbonded as a separate piece. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is the most common insulation material used in insulated siding.

Since its inception in the late 1990s, insulated siding has gained significant recognition for providing increased energy efficiency due to its ability to counteract the “thermal bridging” effect in homes. 

Thermal bridging occurs where the interior and exterior of a home are connected, or bridged, by a material that doesn’t provide much insulation; an example of this kind of bridge would be the wall studs that interrupt the insulated stretches of a wall and allow heat to flow between the home’s interior and the outdoors. 

Insulated siding creates a barrier to prevent heat loss (or gain) at the points where the studs contact the outer wall of the house and at other areas where thermal bridging commonly occurs.

Advantages 

  • Creates straighter lines and lays flatter than conventional siding, making it more effective on irregular walls
  • Reduces outside noise
  • Reduces the amount of heat loss or gain from the house

Disadvantages 

  • Costs more than standard vinyl siding 

Cleaning/maintenance 

  • Wash annually with soap and water (high-pressure washing is discouraged)

Green characteristics 

  • Foam insulation increases the siding's R-value, which helps make a home more energy efficient.

Fiber cement siding

Fiber cement siding is made of wood fibers mixed with sand and cement. This siding type is much thicker than vinyl and has a better ability to withstand harsh weather such as strong wind or hail. The material is very stable and does not expand and contract at the same rate that real wood and vinyl siding do. 

This stability allows paint to last longer on its surface, so it does not require refreshing as often as wood siding. In addition, most fiber cement brands can be painted, so homeowners can change their design plans down the road without having to replace the siding itself.

Fiber cement siding has a great reputation for quality and durability,” the company says. “These products have long warranties, and they’re very visually appealing. There are some cities around the country that require the use of fiber cement if you install replacement siding.

The low maintenance requirements for fiber cement coupled with its weather resistance have many homeowners happy to make the investment in this type of cladding for their home.

Advantages 

  • Not susceptible to termites
  • Highly water resistant
  • Incombustible
  • Holds paint well
  • Lots of options in texture and color

Disadvantages 

  • Installation is more complicated as the product is heavy
  • Costlier than most types of vinyl siding

Cleaning/maintenance 

  • Mostly maintenance-free; must be repainted periodically (recommended every 15 to 20 years)

Green characteristics 

  • Most brands contain at least 10 to 20 percent recycled materials

Engineered wood siding

“The newest thing on the market is engineered wood siding, and we at Brennan Enterprises are now offering the product,” the company notes. Engineered wood siding is manufactured by combining wood byproducts like sawdust and wood shavings with bonding agents.

The result is a material that has many of the aesthetic features of real wood siding but is stronger than wood and can be factory painted, giving the product and paint a much longer life expectancy than that of natural wood. 

Some moisture-related siding failures have been noted in older product formulations; however, the majority of those problems seem to be associated with improper initial installation, which is why it’s important to hire a quality contractor.

Engineered wood siding will require painting every five to ten years to maintain its integrity. The siding can also be bought with primer or color already applied. “The manufacturers have a whole rainbow of color choices; they’ll even do custom colors,” advises Brennan Enterprises. “It has a 50-year manufacturer’s warranty against rotting or defects, so we’re going to start seeing more of this product in use.”

Advantages 

  • Lighter weight provides an easy installation
  • Sold pre-primed or painted
  • Custom colors available
  • Takes less lumber to manufacture than traditional wood siding
  • Infused resins make material resistant to insect damage

Disadvantages 

  • Susceptible to moisture-related problems unless properly installed and maintained

Cleaning/maintenance 

  • Must be painted for weatherproofing purposes
  • Periodic maintenance required—pre-treat with bleach or vinegar solution and wash with mild detergent solution
  • Sand lightly to remove stains

Green characteristics 

  • Made primarily from recycled wood, waste wood, and wood from smaller, quick-growth trees

Maintenance-Free Siding

Metal ladder with work gloves and yellow hard hat leaning against white vinyl siding

Before you get all excited, let me clarify: A 100 percent hands-off, completely maintenance-free siding product does not exist (yet).

But, some siding types require less maintenance than others. A general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that synthetic materials are easier to care for than natural materials.

Natural wood siding—cedar, redwood, or pine, in most cases—is gorgeous, but it will deteriorate quickly if it isn’t painted or stained on a regular basis. If you opt for a stain, plan to have it reapplied every two years. If you go with traditional exterior paint, get your local Best Pick house painter on a five-year schedule.

If that level of maintenance doesn’t fit with your lifestyle (or your budget), natural wood siding probably isn’t the best siding choice for you. Luckily, there are plenty of awesome options to consider—including ones that will give you the timeless look of natural wood.

Vinyl and fiber cement siding are your best options if a low-maintenance product is your top requirement. Keep an eye out for discolorations and mildew growth, which can usually be removed with a gentle dish soap and water from your garden hose. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

The Bottom Line

Exterior home improvement projects usually represent a significant financial investment, so they’re not decisions to make on the fly. Brennan’s main advice is for homeowners to weigh all options and choose carefully. “Siding is a product you’re going to live with for a long while. If you are trying to really beautify your home, take your time. 

Spend an appropriate amount of effort and time up front, and draw out or design in your head the look you want. And finally, do your homework on the product selections, because there are just so many of them out there today.”

The best type of siding for your home will depend on several factors, so make sure you work with a reputable, high-quality company that will steer you in the right direction.

This article was crafted with the help of Brennan Enterprises.

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