The architectural landscape of American homes has dramatically changed in the last century. Wood shingles, clapboards, and gingerbread trim are becoming features of the past, as more and more homeowners opt for vinyl siding. Which raises the question: “Why are so many Americans choosing vinyl siding?”
As is often the case, cost is a determining factor. Vinyl siding looks like wood, but it is much less costly. In addition, ease of installation and breezy maintenance has made it popular with homeowners nationwide. All it takes is a bit of soapy water and the use of your everyday garden hose and voila – a clean and attractive facade!
Another benefit is durability. Vinyl siding is made from polyvinyl chloride, a material that is rigid, strong and resists damage. The color goes all the way through each piece, so if it chips or scratches, the damage is virtually undetectable. That is great news for homeowners, because vinyl siding never needs to be repainted.
Vinyl siding also allows you to add a bit of personality to your home. It is available in a wide array of colors and forms. Styles include scallops, shingles, and fish scales. Traditional or Dutch lap installations allow you to create the look of old-fashioned horizontal clapboard, or you can choose a vertical design for a more modern appearance.
It is important to do your homework when shopping for vinyl siding, as it is available in several different grades. This is one time you don’t want the bargain basement cost. It is well worth the investment to select a higher grade. Cheap vinyl siding does not offer the attractive appearance of higher grades, but more importantly, it does not hold up as well in windstorms and temperature changes. Another benefit of opting for a higher grade is that all important lifetime warranty. Lower grades are usually only available with a five-year warranty. A final thought: low-grade vinyl siding costs the same to install!
Despite your frequent trips to Home Depot and regular viewing of Trading Spaces, vinyl siding installation is not a do-it-yourself job. For proper installation, you will need to hire licensed industry experts. Keep in mind that, vinyl siding reacts by shifting to changes in temperatures. If it is not properly installed, it will develop blisters and waves.
When consulting with an industry expert, be sure to have these facts on hand. Vinyl does not have the insulating properties that wood, steel and aluminum provide. It should not be installed over old cladding without addressing any water damage or rot underneath. If you don’t fix those problems before installation, they will worsen over time. It is often better to remove old cladding, put down an insulation layer and then install your vinyl siding.
Despite the many benefits of vinyl siding, it is not the perfect choice for everyone. Wood remains a preference of architects and custom home builders, as well as those who own historic properties. Wood is considered more aesthetic, maintains the value of the home, and preserves the integrity of historic homes, while providing an insulation factor. In addition, people who are concerned about ecology prefer wood siding because vinyl siding is not biodegradable.
If you are considering wood, cedar and redwood shingles are beautiful choices. They are naturally resistant to insect and moisture damage and you can stain them in a variety of finishes. Just keep in mind that cedar shingles, in particular, are expensive to install because they have to be fastened individually.
You will also need to consider the maintenance involved with wood siding, as it will periodically require repainting. Before you repaint, you will need to wash and prime the surface. If you skip these steps or neglect taking the proper care of your wood siding, mold, insects, algae, and mildew, especially in a wet climate, could damage your house.
One additional problem with wood siding is that there is a shortage of wood in the United States. It is particularly hard to find suitable knot-free pieces. For this reason, many homeowners are turning to composite woods. Regardless of your choice, wood siding lasts for years and years and maintains a natural beauty.
Your siding options don’t end there! For those who can’t afford wood and don’t prefer vinyl, you may want to take a closer look at fiber cement. Fiber Cement is an old material that is made up of 90% sand and cement and 10% cellulose fiber. A major selling point is the ability to paint fiber cement siding any color – pink, turquoise, lime green, or chocolate brown – this material will certainly allow you to express yourself! However, we are sure your neighbors will appreciate a nice neutral beige.
One final note regarding fiber cement is that it is expensive to install due to the difficultly transporting this heavy material, and because you must caulk at the joints. If fiber cement siding is not properly installed, it can break and crack off.
Metal siding, either steel or aluminum, rounds out your final siding options. Metal siding is more expensive than vinyl but less costly than wood products. When considering metal siding options, you will want to keep your local climate in mind.
Steel siding holds up well in severe cold weather, hail and high winds. It can bend and nick, but typically does not break off. However, it can be costly to repair those scratches and nicks. If you are fortunate enough to live seaside, you will want to consider aluminum siding, which holds up very well in the salty air.
Metal siding can be painted a variety of colors, just ensure that you choose a paint specially formulated for this type of siding. One final consideration: metal siding conducts heat, so you must careful when installing over wood. Rotting can occur when heat causes water condensation to form, under the metal siding in contact with wood materials. A licensed expert can discuss your viable options regarding the installation of metal siding.
To ensure that you choose materials that will bring out the natural beauty of your home and best enhance its architectural style, take the time to consult with an architect. An architect will provide you with a good overview of what will and won’t work when re-cladding your home. Be sure to keep your porch, trim and windows in mind for an overall face-life, that you will enjoy for years! After all, its all about the details.