What are the differences in siding products?

Posted by Jesse Slone on Mar 12, 2019 11:59:55 AM
couple going through policy

Planning a siding project can be a time consuming process. There are so many different material and color options available, as well as the significant price point variances that exists within these options

To help with the process, I wanted to give our readers’ a general overview of the different products on the market, some of the pros and cons of each one, and the differences in the starting cost.

Before we begin, mentally establish your siding project starting point by answering these questions:

  1. What is my desired outcome? (i.e. “I want to update my home and give it some curb appeal,” or “I’m hoping to increase the energy efficiency of my home.”)

  2. "What is my budget?"

Having a good idea of the funds you are willing to allocate to your siding project, as well as your final outcome, will help narrow down your options and give you a good idea of the products you can aquire without breaking the bank.

Vinyl Siding from Then to Now

When siding was first invented, most of it was made from aluminum that was painted different colors. These pieces of aluminum were then cut in approximate twelve foot sections. As time advanced, vinyl siding was introduced. However, since this medium still came in specific lengths, they lined up on the house in an unpleasing pattern, and seams appeared where the box siding overlaps to the next panel. The seams became places where insects nested and water could penetrate. At times of strong wind, seams allowed wind to get in back of the panels and possibly be torn down.

Today’s technology has brought forth the latest in vinyl siding that has removed seams. Now, the outward appearance is much smoother and more pleasing to the eye. It’s maintained its advantages of no corrosion and high durability. Vinyl siding requires little maintenance and is available in a wide selection of finishes and colors.

Quality Vinyl Siding

Like most materials, vinyl siding is available in good (cheap), better and best (premium) categories. Listed below are a few characteristics of the better and best vinyl siding so you’ll know what to look for and what to expect in the product(s) you choose to clad your home.

It’s thick: This is the first way to separate the cheap from quality vinyl siding you should consider. Vinyl is measured in mils or thousandths of an inch:

  • .038” and .040” – Builders grades

  • .042” – Light residential grade

  • .044” – Standard residential grade

  • .046” and thicker – Premium residential grade

Thicker is better in every way, because it is more rigid, will prevent sagging, resists impact, and is generally more durable.

It’s hardened: The primary ingredient in vinyl siding is polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Better grades of material have acrylics added to the top layer, known as the cap stock, to make it very hard.

It fades very slowly: Fast-fading vinyl siding is pretty much a thing of the past. However, to ensure you get the most colorfast product, look for siding containing titanium dioxide which is proven to inhibit fading to the point you probably won’t notice it year to year. True colorfast siding is independently certified ASTM D6864, ASTM D7251 or ASTM D7856. Look for the certification on the siding box or ask a sales representative if you’re unsure.

Types of siding options you have with vinyl siding.

Solid Core Vinyl Siding

One of vinyl sidings biggest problems has been the fact that manufacturers have not been able to come up with a solution to its lack of rigidity. Normal vinyl siding never feels solid, and thin vinyl siding tend to follow every bump on the side of a building. Additionally, many kinds of vinyl siding that is made to look like real wood contains a curl.

To solve these issues, solid core vinyl siding was created. It’s just as low maintenance as its predecessor, but contains a core that makes the siding lay flat on an outside wall, and has a better insulation value than other siding. The reason behind this is that its foam core is attached to the back. They interlock during installation to make a solid wall around a home, slowing air infiltration and quieting outside noise. Solid core vinyl siding is also less vulnerable to damage caused from hail or other weather related damage. The outside foam corners are available in a number of attractive styles to add a nice curb appeal.

Vinyl Log Siding

Many people love the look of a log cabin. Since traditional wood may deteriorate, become infested with bugs, or suffer from mold, it is better to use vinyl.

Real logs let in large amounts of air since the spaces between them rarely lie flat, while vinyl log siding is often molded from real lumber that includes the knots and grains, but contains none of the maintenance or insulation issues. This type of siding gives a beautiful ‘log cabin’ appearance that fools many.

Vinyl Shake Siding

Another attractive way to deck the outside of a home is with cedar shakes. This is a very quaint way to side a home, but requires a lot of maintenance. Today, vinyl shake siding is readily available, and appears identical to real cedar shakes. It carries all of the benefits of traditional vinyl siding, looks very expensive, and comes in a vast array of colors.

Fiber-Cement Siding

the four ingredients that make up the recipe for fiber cement sidingdPicking the right siding for your house is a delicate balancing act between good looks, durability, maintenance, and affordability. With wood, vinyl, stone, brick, or stucco, you might only choose two or three of these, but can get all four with fiber-cement siding, a resilient mix of wood pulp and portland cement. Fiber-cement siding is the only type of siding that combines the performance of masonry—minimal upkeep, rot-, fire-, and termite-proof, and is unaffected by wind or cold—with the look of painted wood clapboards, shingles, and even stone or brick. This option is also cheaper, going for just a fraction of the cost of these other materials.

All of this has happened in just 25 years when fiber-cement was first introduced. Now, architects regularly specify the siding, because it holds down costs without compromising aesthetics.

Shown: The siding on this Gothic Revigothic revival style home with fiber cement siding  painted to look like wood clapboarddata:text/mce-internal,zen_post_body,%3Cimg%20class%3D%22%20lazyloaded%22%20data-pin-media%3D%22https%3A//www.thisoldhouse.com/sites/default/files/migrated/images/2012_03_exterior-home-fiber-cement-sliding.jpg%22%20data-srcset%3D%22https%3A//www.thisoldhouse.com/sites/default/files/styles/content_box_n/public/migrated/images/2012_03_exterior-home-fiber-cement-sliding.jpg%3Fitok%3D2uzuvIqi%26amp%3Btimestamp%3D1550094769%26amp%3Bc%3D47f185f2c3becbab5b91b96baa0bf1dd%22%20alt%3D%22gothic%20revival%20style%20home%20with%20fiber%20cement%20siding%20%20painted%20to%20look%20like%20wood%20clapboard%22%20title%3D%22Wonder%20Siding%22%20srcset%3D%22https%3A//www.thisoldhouse.com/sites/default/files/styles/content_box_n/public/migrated/images/2012_03_exterior-home-fiber-cement-sliding.jpg%3Fitok%3D2uzuvIqi%26amp%3Btimestamp%3D1550094769%26amp%3Bc%3D47f185f2c3becbab5b91b96baa0bf1dd%22%3Eval-style home looks like wood clapboard, but is actually fiber cement painted a custom color.

Materials used include: 7¼-inch-wide smooth lap siding; primed; about $1.50 per square foot; CertainTeed


DIY: Fiber-Cement

Are you a DIY-er? Interested in taking on your siding project yourself? Fiber-cement may be an option for you. This very simple siding option has just four ingredients:

  1. Water: Dissolves the wood pulp; activates and hardens the cement.

  2. Wood pulp: Improves flexibility and resilience.

  3. Fly ash: Acts as a filler. (Some makers use silica sand instead.)

  4. Portland cement: Binds the ingredients. Made with limestone, clay, and iron.

After mixing these four ingredients together, the wood fibers strengthen the cement, forming a strong material optimal for building.

Siding Price Classifications

Similar to most home renovation projects, shopping around for quotes before deciding on what to buy is key. While browsing around for siding materials, keep these important price classifications in mind:

  • Economy siding prices can play a very important part in the price range of the siding installed on your home. This siding is geared for the price-conscious homeowner.

  • Standard vinyl siding is usually the cheapest that you can select for your home.

  • Premium siding prices will vary according to the type and texture of the siding. The thicker the siding, the more expensive it can get.

  • Super premium siding has the highest quality of installation, thickness, and durability. This is usually the most expensive vinyl siding on the market.

Verifying the Classifications for Vinyl Siding Prices

While it’s true that the classification of vinyl siding plays a very important part in the pricing, you still need to verify what you are getting when you plan on having it installed on your home. The price can range from $3.00 to $5.00 a square foot depending on the classification that you select for your home. Unfortunately, this price does not figure in the cost of installation and the necessary accessories need to do the job. You must remember that the contractor cannot just stick it to the side of the house, but rather install it, which constitutes an expense for removing old siding, labor, and the items needed to put on the new siding.

It’s very important for you to decide the classification of the siding you want on your home, so you can calculate how much it will cost before you decide to have the project started. Additionally, the type and size of your home will also determine vinyl siding prices. Those who don’t have installation will want a siding that is thicker and provides the home with much needed insulation. While this may cost more now, it will save you in energy costs for many years to come.


Topics: Siding, Fiber Cement, composit siding

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