My Home Needs New Siding, but What Product is Right for Me?

Almost nothing else can change the appearance of your home as dramatically as new siding. But when you look into making this investment it can be easy to become overwhelmed with colors, styles and other choices available in this competitive market. The most basic of these is, what siding material do I want installed on my home?

The fact is, there are a few great options out there and each one is going to have its own advantages and disadvantages. You may want to consult with your contractor or a professional designer to see what is popular or trending in your neighborhood, but in the end you will need to decide what makes the most sense for you, your home and your budget. 

What we will try to do here is spell out the features and benefits as well as some of the drawbacks of a few of the most popular products on the market to help you begin to make that important decision.

We’ll start with a couple of the most popular premium products on the market. The fact is, these two, while very similar in many ways, are in such fierce competition with each other that almost any comparison you see is against the other product and not against any of the other siding materials.

Fiber Cement Siding (e.g. James Hardie)

Advantages: Fiber cement siding mimics the look and texture of wood without the wood siding problems of decay, insect infestation and warping. It stands up well to the elements and is not flammable. Fiber cement siding is designed to be painted so, while you can get a great warranty on the finish of your product initially, you still have the option to change the color down the road. Fiber cement siding has been around for quite a while and is widely regarded as a premium product that can add resale value to your home.

Disadvantages: It’s not going to be as impact resistant as some of the other products and may require a fresh paint job in 15 years. 

Engineered Wood (e.g. LP Smartside)

Advantages: Similar to fiber cement siding, engineered wood attempts to mimic the appearance and texture of natural wood. Because of the inclusion of resins and insecticides in the wood fibers it also resists rot and bugs. Like fiber cement it is designed to be painted, can come with a prefinished coat that provides an impressive warranty but allows for the option of changing the color later. Despite the fact that it has been on the market for almost 20 years LP Smartside is seen as the ‘up and coming’ product in many markets and is becoming recognized as ‘the other’ high-end, premium siding product.

Disadvantages: Because it is made of wood fibers it does not have fiber cement’s fire protection rating and because it is more rigid it may show any ‘waviness’ in your walls more than fiber cement. Like fiber cement, engineered wood will require repainting at some point.

Vinyl Siding

Advantages: Vinyl siding is almost always going to be your most affordable choice. It is available in a wide variety of colors and profiles. Vinyl siding requires little to no maintenance and can be extremely durable. It is easy to install and easy to repair. One knock that used to be an issue with vinyl was that it tended to fade, but the acrylics used in modern vinyl siding have greatly reduced this problem.

Disadvantages: Vinyl siding is seen as an ‘economy’ product by many people and, while widely used in many areas, may be seen as ‘low-brow’ in high-end neighborhoods. Most vinyl products are not meant to be painted, so when making your color choice you need to be prepared to live with it for the life of the siding. Vinyl siding can crack, chip and may melt if you push your BBQ grill too close to it.

Steel Panel Siding

Advantages: Steel siding is incredibly durable, inflammable, resistant to the elements and is impervious to insects. If properly installed it requires little to no maintenance . Steel has a long life expectancy and when it is time to replace it, steel siding can be recycled where many other products end up in a landfill.

Disadvantages: Repairs to steel siding can be expensive because you can’t just pull one panel out of the middle of a wall. Steel can be dented and un-repaired damaged areas can rust over time.

The Combo Platter

One other thing I will mention, that is becoming more popular these days, is to combine materials to achieve a desired look and/or to keep costs down. People may do a more expensive product on the front of the home and a less expensive one on the back and sides. Also, some people may like the look of the panels of one material for their walls, but may prefer another for the shake in the gables.

Less Popular Options

Some other products you might hear about so I’ll mention here are; natural wood, hardboard and aluminum; but only to note that they are becoming less and less popular. They each have their own problems and I wouldn’t consider them for my own home so I wouldn’t recommend them to you. 

PS. If you’re curious, I have vinyl siding; mainly because that was what was on the house when I bought it.