If you're thinking of new siding, you're in for a treat — and a conundrum. Your choice will likely be a major upgrade in your home's appearance — that's the fun part. On the flip side, it's not an easy decision to make. There are lots of siding options, and each presents a mixed bag of cost, reliability, ongoing maintenance and environmental responsibility.
Here's what you need to know about options for new siding:
Vinyl siding is tough and comes in a boatload of colors and textures. Because the color is throughout the material, nicks and scratches don't show up. Sophisticated manufacturing techniques create products that do a surprisingly fine job of mimicking wood-grain lap siding, wood shingles and even stone.
Vinyl siding is lightweight and, in many instances, can be installed directly over existing materials, so it's a good retrofit option. Because it's easy to handle, vinyl installation can be installed quickly, saving labor costs.
Relatively new to the market, insulated vinyl siding features a layer of expanded polystyrene foam, providing an insulating value of R-2 to R-6. Insulated vinyl is on the checklist of items that can help a house achieve Energy Star qualification. Expect to pay about 15 percent more for insulated versions of vinyl siding than regular.
Upside: The material requires little or no maintenance, and dirt simply washes off. Never needs repainting. Vinyl has relatively low cost compared to other siding materials. The best brands offer transferable lifetime warranties.
Downside: Because the standard panels are 12 feet long, the ends of the panels must be overlapped, creating noticeable seams. You can order extra-long panels that reduce the number of seams, but you'll pay a premium of about 30 percent more than standard-length vinyl.
Green meter: The same stuff that makes vinyl so tough — polyvinyl chloride or PVC — lasts for decades (if not centuries) in landfills. Although many vinyl manufacturers claim that the material is readily recycled, not many contractors take the time to remove and recycle used vinyl siding. Manufacturing PVC can produce dioxin and other toxins.
Cost: $2 to $7 per square foot, installed. Expect to pay $6, 000 to $13, 000 to install vinyl siding on an average two-story house.
Image courtesy of Bear Creek
Few building materials have the natural charm and beauty of wood clapboard and shingle siding. Prized for its warmth and workability, wood siding is the choice for a premium renovation project.
Wood siding comes in many species and grades. What you choose usually depends on how you plan to finish the siding. Using a clear sealer or semi-transparent stain highlights the grain, but you'll need to select more expensive grades of wood that are free of knots and other blemishes. Choose less-expensive grades for use with paint or opaque stains.
With dedicated maintenance, wood can last generations. Clear finishes should be reapplied every two years; semi-transparent stains every three years; and paints every five years. That kind of diligence adds up — a complete refinishing job is $2, 000 to $5, 000.
Upside: Wood is easy to cut and shape, and can be installed by reasonably skilled DIYers. It's a great-looking material prized by architects, designers and homeowners for its natural beauty.
Downside: Better grades of wood can be pricey. Diligent maintenance adds to the overall cost. Retrofitting with wood siding requires removing existing siding materials.