Dissecting a Home’s Exterior
Learn about the pros and cons to the most common forms of siding on homes today.
What’s on the Outside Counts- A home’s exterior is the first impression that can beckon buyers to the front door. Attractiveness aside, the siding materials used also can serve as an important detail in judging upkeep and extra costs down the road. Here are some of the most common home exteriors and the pros and cons associated with each.
Stucco siding can be spotted on Spanish- and Mediterranean-style homes. You can identify it by its flat, smooth, concrete look. It’s composed of cement, water, and materials such as sand and lime. Many homes built after the 1950s use a lighter synthetic material that resembles stucco. To tell whether the home is made of genuine stucco, tap the walls: If you hear a solid sound, it’s likely real.
Pros: Durable, fire-resistant, and a good insulator. Rarely needs to be repainted; works best in dry climates.
Cons: Not ideal for wet climates; some forms of synthetic stucco have been associated with moisture problems.
Stone and Cultured Stone
Stone exteriors, made of actual rocks or stones, are known for being able to withstand extreme weather conditions, but their extra durability can come at an increased cost. Stone veneers can be one way to cut costs and still achieve the high-end look. Stones used on homes are often used as an accent and to add depth in highlighting one wall or section of the exterior.
Pros: Known as the most durable of all building materials, it can withstand severe weather. Low maintenance.
Cons: Very expensive.
Wood Clapboard Siding
Wood, one of the oldest types of siding, is often used on historic houses. There are several options available for wood clapboard, including cedar, spruce, redwood, cypress, and pine. The cost depends on which type of wood is used (e.g., redwood and cedar tend to be more expensive than pine and spruce).
Pro: A renewable material known to be energy-efficient. Can be painted nearly any color.
Con: High maintenance, requiring repainting about every seven years or so; regularly needs to be power-washed, stained, and sealed. Also requires caulking to prevent water damage. Can be susceptible to rot and termites.
Cement Fiber Siding
One of the latest developments in residential siding, cement fiber siding is known as a “green” material and can be made from recyclable materials. It comes in a variety of finishes and can be made to resemble wood or stucco. It’s made of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. This is a popular choice here in the LowCountry.
Pros: More durable than wood or stucco; low maintenance, fire-proof, and water-resistant. Won’t rot or be prone to insect damage.
Cons: Requires painting (but not for at least 10-15 years) and could potentially hold moisture if it isn’t painted correctly. Also a very heavy material that needs significant structural support.
Brick, a mainstay for centuries, tends to be a favorite among home owners. The brick is usually laid outside of a wooden frame of a house. Brick can last a lifetime, very rarely requiring any patching or repairs and looking the same as it ages for years to come.
Pros: Tough, durable, and low-maintenance; doesn’t rot or fade.
Cons: Expensive due to the high cost of materials and installation.
Cedar Shingle Siding
Also called “shakes,” cedar shingle siding is usually found in the New England area among Cape Cod homes. The cedar shingles can be stained in a variety of earth-tone colors.
Pros: Can last up to 30 years; doesn’t buckle or curl.
Cons: Often viewed as high-maintenance since shingles need treatment about every five years to prevent rot or mildew; not the best choice for regions where fires are more common.
This is the most widely used siding today and one of the most affordable options. Vinyl siding is made from a durable plastic and is known as low-maintenance, although it benefits from being power-washed at least once a year. There are abundant vinyl siding options to choose from, and some even resemble cedar shakes or wood clapboard siding.
Pros: Doesn’t require painting; can withstand many weather extremes.
Cons: Siding could warp or buckle if not properly installed; any damage will require the entire panel to be replaced. Sometimes traps moisture, which can lead to mildew.
Aluminum siding can look very similar to vinyl. You can tell whether a home has vinyl or aluminum by tapping on the siding — aluminum has a hollow, metallic sound. It can come in a variety of textures, such as wood shake and shingle style. It’s widely used today, often for trim pieces along the exterior since it’s a flexible building material.
Pros: Easy to maintain; durable, fireproof, and low-maintenance. Usually low to moderate in price. Termite-proof, rust-proof, and waterproof.
Cons: Denting is a common problem, and it can be difficult to repair or replace. Noisy, particularly when raining or hailing. Scratches may reveal the metal surface under the paint.