Do you know the pros and cons of brick, wood, wood alternatives (such as Hardie plank), stucco and stone?—BYHYU 024
What siding you choose for the exterior of your house will greatly influence the overall appearance and style of your home. More and more, people are choosing not just one type of siding, but several. It’s not unusual to see houses with a mixture of brick and stone, or stucco and stone, or even fiber cement siding with brick or stone.
While appearance is a very important consideration when choosing the type of siding, you should also consider the material's price, durability and maintenance. Siding is not simply an aesthetic feature, but it functions to protect your house from the elements. Before we talk about the most common siding options, let’s go over today''s pro term.
The Pro term is Board and Batten. Board and batten is an pattern of siding that’s sometimes used with wood and wood-like siding options. It's a pattern often seen on farmhouses, but it can also be used with other home styles. It consists of alternating wide boards and narrow battens, which cover the seams of the boards. Board and batten is usually installed vertically, but you can also choose a horizontal arrangement.
BOARD AND BATTEN
Now, let’s talk about some common siding options.
1. Vinyl siding
The low cost, versatility and easy maintenance of vinyl siding has helped it become the most popular siding choice in the United States. It accounts for about 30% of the residential market. Vinyl siding comes in a wide variety of colors and textures and it attempts to mimic horizontal or vertical wood siding, wood shingles and stone.
Insulated vinyl siding is relatively new to the market and features a layer of polystyrene foam. Insulated vinyl siding costs about 15% more than regular vinyl siding, but it has a insulating value of R-2 to R-6. Standard vinyl siding has an R value of 0.6. So, using insulated vinyl significantly increases the R value of your walls and can help you qualify for Energy Star certification.
Vinyl siding requires little to no maintenance. Dirt easily washes off of it and it is termite resistant. The better brands offer transferable 30 year to lifetime warranties. Vinyl siding is lightweight and easy to handle, so it can be installed quickly, which saves on labor costs.
Despite its popularity, many people dislike the "plastic look" of some vinyl products. In addition, standard panels are 12 feet long, so ends of the panels often overlap, creating noticeable seams. Extra-long panels create fewer seams, but they cost about 30% more than standard sized panels.
Unfortunately, vinyl siding is not a particularly sustainable option since it is not readily biodegradable. You can, however have the siding recycled through manufacturers if you can find a contractor who participates in a recycling program.
Although vinyl siding is water-resistant, it is not waterproof. And if it’s not installed properly, water can seep behind the panels and cause mold. Extremely hot and cold weather can cause vinyl siding to bend and warp. And hail and sports balls can leave gashes and dents in the siding.
Vinyl has a relatively low cost compared to other siding materials, ranging from $2 to $12 per square foot, installed.
2. Wood siding
Known for its warmth and classic beauty, wood siding is attractive, but durable, if properly maintained. Periodic maintenance on wood siding includes chalking plus repeat painting or staining to prevent weather damage. Depending on how diligent you are with maintenance, your wood siding can last from 10 years to sometimes 100 years.
Wood siding is most often seen as clapboard, also known as lap siding or bevel siding. Clapboard consists of overlapping, horizontal planks of wood, usually of western red cedar, fir, spruce or redwood. Wood siding also comes as shingles, shakes and in board and batten.
More expensive grades of wood, free of knots and blemishes, are needed if you want to use a clear sealer or semi-transparent stain to highlight the wood grain. If you want to paint the siding or use a dark stain, you can choose less-expensive grades of wood.
Wood stain should be reapplied every 2-3 years and paint every 4-5 years. That type of maintenance can cost several thousand dollars each time it's done.
In addition to being fairly high maintenance, other disadvantages of wood are that better grades of wood can be expensive and wood is susceptible to water, insect and rodent damage.
One advantage of wood siding is that it can be replaced in small sections if it ever gets damaged. With other types of siding, whole panels or whole sides must be replaced when damage occurs.
Wood siding is considered highly sustainable and easily breaks down in landfills. Many say it is the greenest choice of siding, especially when you choose varieties that are designated by the Forest Stewardship Council as being harvested from sustainable forests.
The cost of clapboard siding is $5 to $8 per square foot, installed. And shingle siding is $6 to $9 per square foot, installed. Those prices don’t include the cost of staining or painting. Since wood siding is fairly lightweight and easy to handle, it can be installed fairly quickly.
Wood siding has an R-Value around 0.8. I know that doesn’t sound very high, but most exterior siding choices have R values well below 1.0, so wood siding is considered pretty energy efficient when compared to some other siding choices.
3. Fiber-cement siding
Fiber cement begins as a mixture that includes wood fibers, sand and cement. Some older versions of fiber-cement siding had moisture-related problems and some versions contained asbestos.
Current versions of fiber-cement siding, though, have become a very popular choice for many homeowners because it can mimic wood siding, shingles, and stucco, but it costs less and is more durable than those authentic siding choices. Fiber cement siding even performs well in coastal areas with harsh, salty air.
James Hardie, a manufacturer in Australia, pioneered the use today’s fiber cement siding. So it’s not usual to hear fiber cement siding referred to as Hardie board or Hardie plank siding. There are other companies that manufacture fiber cement siding, including Certain Teed, but Hardie siding is the most widely known.
Fiber-cement siding is low-maintenance, non-flammable and rot and termite-resistant. It’s available in a range of styles, colors and textures, and most manufacturers offer an array of factory-applied finishes. If you prefer, your fiber cement siding can be painted on site. The R value of fiber cement siding is 0.4.
Fiber-cement siding is resist to expanding and contracting with changes in humidity and temperature. As a result, the material and its finishes will last a long time. Fiber cement board should only need repainting every 12-15 years. But you may have to do touch ups more often if the siding is damaged, since the color does not go all the way through the material.
Fiber cement board is a sustainable choice because it’s made entirely from natural, readily available materials. Adding to its sustainability score is the fact that fiber- cement board will probably will last for decades before it needs to be replaced. I say “probably” because fiber cement board is relatively new and there isn’t much data on how long it will will last on a home or in a landfill.
The main disadvantage of fiber-cement siding is that it’s just plain heavy. In fact, its about 5 times heavier that vinyl. This makes installation challenging. Special techniques and tools are required and you’ll need an experienced contractor for installation.
The average cost of fiber-cement board is $6 to $12 per square foot installed, not including trim. That’s more expensive than vinyl siding, but you should have lower homeowners insurance premiums than with vinyl or wood siding because fiber-cement board is so durable and resistant to damage. A 30-year warranty is the norm for most manufacturers.
4. Engineered Wood Siding
Engineered wood siding is made of wood fibers and exterior-grade resins. It is marketed as a cheaper alternative to fiber-cement board, but with similar durability. Engineered wood is strong, but not as heavy as fiber-cement. It can stand up to extreme weather conditions. It comes in a variety of styles and textures and can be bought with factory applied paint or it can be painted on site. Engineered wood needs to be repainted every 5-10 years.
Early versions of engineered wood siding experienced moisture problems, resulting in class-action lawsuits. Newer version haven't been on the market very long, so we have no significant data on its durability, but it’s been installed by many contractors who seem to be pleased with the new version.
Engineered wood is a green option since it uses low-VOC binders and manufacturing results in minimal waste. Engineered wood costs $3 to $5 per square foot, installed, which is about half as much as fiber cement. Some brands provide a 50 year warranty. The R value of engineered wood is 0.6.
5. Brick siding
Brick is made from kiln fired clay and comes in several different colors, sizes and textures. Brick siding comes in regular solid brick, as well as brick veneer. Veneer is a thinner layer of brick that sits on the outside the home’s frame, as opposed to solid, full thickness brick which actually holds the house up! Most brick siding today is a veneer. Brick veneer is less expensive than solid brick, but there is a tradeoff. You’ll lose some of the strength and insulation of full thickness, solid brick. Solid brick has an R value of 0.4 and 1 inch brick veneer has an R value of 0.1.
Since water can penetrate brick veneer, a membrane should be installed beneath the veneer to protect the structure. Brick installation is labor-intensive, so the labor costs are higher when compared to other siding options.
One of the biggest advantages of brick siding is that it lasts a lifetime. You can find 100 year old brick houses and buildings that are still look great.
Rare or no maintenance is needed for brick. For the first 25 years, there is almost no maintenance beyond occasional exterior washing. After that, it’s important to ensure that the mortar between bricks is maintained to prevent moisture penetration.
Other advantages of brick siding are that it’s highly resistant to fire, insect and weather damage. And brick won’t fade or decay. Finally, because brick is durable and resistant to damage, homeowners insurance is usually lower for brick homes.
One of the only downsides to brick is its cost. It’s more expensive than many other options. Brick veneer costs between $5 and $10 per square foot installed, and full thickness brick siding costs between $6 to $15 per square foot, installed.
What if you like painted brick?
According to the Brick Industry Association, if you paint your exterior brick, you’ll need to repaint it every 3-5 years. But, according to several blogs and forums that I’ve been reading, many homeowners and contractors say they have never had to repaint their painted brick homes.
I think one of main things that determines how well paint wears on brick is how well it’s painted in the first place. Brick should be primed and painted with good quality products. The products that I saw recommended most often were Sherwin Williams Loxon Concrete and Masonry Primer followed by Sherwin Williams Duration paint. But you should talk to your paint store representatives and painters for their recommendations.
Although there are lots of people who have painted brick, there are also many people who say you should NEVER paint brick because they say painted brick can hold moisture and because painting brick turns a maintenance-free siding option into one that requires maintenance.
For me, the jury is still out on whether you should paint brick or not. I love the look, so I’ll be doing more research on the subject. I’ll let you know what I find out in future podcasts.
Traditional stucco is made from building sand, Portland cement, lime and water. Traditional stucco is applied in three coats, called a scratch coat, a brown coat, and a finish coat. These 3 coats are applied over a metal wire mesh or netting, which is sometimes further reinforced by a layer of weather-resistant felt or paper. Because traditional stucco is very rigid, its prone to unwanted cracks.
Today's stucco mixtures can include a special acrylic-polymer which can improve stucco’s durability and decrease chipping and cracking. Well-maintained stucco will last a lifetime.
Advantages of stucco are that it’s a low-maintenance and resistant to damage by fire and insects. Pigments can be added to stucco mixtures which add beautiful color that goes all the way through the material, making repainting unnecessary. Although stucco can be painted, it doesn’t hold paint very well, so adding the pigment to the stucco mixture is a better option. The R value of 2 inch stucco is 0.4.
Disadvantages of stucco are that it’s prone to cracking, as mentioned before, and it’s labor intensive. In addition, stucco requires experience contractors, and in some regions, they can be hard to find. Dirt and stains can easily seen on stucco siding. Finally, although breathable, using stucco in areas with heavy rainfall and high humidity can result in moisture and mold problems, especially if your home is framed with wood. Stucco is best suited for dry climates such as the Southwest of the United States.
How green is stucco? Older formulations of stucco are not as sustainable as newer stucco mixtures because older formulations contain Portland cement which has been linked to carbon dioxide emissions.
Stucco siding costs $7 to $10 per square foot, installed, but depending on your location and the availability of experienced stucco contractors, those costs might be significantly higher or lower.
A quick word about synthetic stucco. Its also called Dryvit or EIFS, which stands for Exterior Insulation & Finish System. Synthetic stucco is being used less and less and in many regions it is not recommended at all. In fact, it's my understanding that it can lower the value of your house. Be very cautious if you are considering synthetic stucco.
Stone is naturally beautiful and durable. Because it’s expensive, it's not often used to cover an entire house, but it's a popular choice to accent focal points, to cover the lower part of the house and to cover chimneys.
Thinner, more lightweight and less expensive than genuine stone, stone-veneer comes in natural stone and synthetic stone. Synthetic stone is made in molds from a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate.
Stone is generally the most expensive of all the siding options. The average cost of natural stone is around $15 to $30 per square foot installed. Stone veneer is $10 to $15 per square foot installed and engineered, synthetic stone costs $7 to $15 per square foot, installed. If maintained properly, stone can last several generations, but some synthetic stone can fade and discolor over time.
Stone is natural, non toxic and long lasting, making it a sustainable option. It’s resistant to moisture, extreme temperatures, insects, and fire. The only maintenance is occasional cleaning with a water hose.
Disadvantages of natural stone are that its expensive and heavy, requiring more time for installation, which increases the labor costs. Stone veneer can have the same moisture problems as stucco, and synthetic stone doesn't always adapt well to cycles of freezing and thawing.
Well, we’ve come to the end of another mini lesson. I hope you learned as much as I did. Let’s see how you do on this week’s quiz.
1. True or False. Stucco performs best in dry climates, like in the southwest of the United States.
The answer is true. Although you may see stucco in many different climates, it performs best in dry climates. In wet and humid climates, stucco can be associated with moisture problems and mold, especially if there is wood framing beneath the stucco, as opposed to cinder block framing or insulated concrete forms.
2. What is the main disadvantage of fiber cement siding?
A. It’s not very durable
B. It’s heavy
C. It’s prone to insect damage
D. It’s prone to fire damage
The answer is B. The main disadvantage of fiber cement siding is that it’s heavy. Its 5 times heavier that vinyl siding. As a result, fiber cement requires specialty tools and experienced contractors for application. Fiber-cement siding is very durable, non-flammable and rot and termite-resistant.
Did you get both of those right? I hope so.
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Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
I’m glad you joined me today. Come on back next week for another episode of BYHYU.
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