House siding options: Pros & cons

Wed Mar 09 2022

Exterior of a house with vinyl and brick veneer siding.

The type of siding you have on your home dramatically affects its curb appeal, but how it looks shouldn’t be your only consideration. Some house siding options are better suited for certain climates, are more durable, or cost less than others. Another issue to keep in mind? The general aesthetic of your neighborhood

That’s a lot of factors to weigh, so let’s look at the pros and cons of some of the most common exterior siding options.

Stucco siding

House with white stucco siding

Stucco siding works well in dry climates.

Stucco is a popular exterior siding option for many styles of homes. It mixes cement with sand or lime, and homeowners love it because of its clean look and ability to be tinted in many colors. Stucco is best used in areas where there isn’t a substantial rainy season. The material's porous nature can cause it to saturate in more damp climates.

The lifespan of stucco is up to 80 years, but it can crumble. And while the materials are inexpensive, installation is labor intensive and drives the expense up. Stucco siding costs around $7 to $9 per square foot, and re-stuccoing a home adds about $1 per square foot for removing the old stucco.

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is fabricated from PVC plastics and can last up to 60 years. Unlike some other house siding options, vinyl doesn't rot or flake, and it can keep your home cooler during summer months because it reflects the sun’s rays. However, vinyl siding may fade and crack, and it can even melt in extreme heat. Plus, the manufacturing process raises environmental concerns for many homeowners.

Builders use vinyl siding because it is less expensive to purchase and install. Insulated varieties cost anywhere from $4 to $12 per square foot, and non-insulated only typically cost $3.50 to $8 per square foot.

Wood clapboard siding

Contemporary home with wood clapboard siding

Wood clapboard siding can work well with contemporary styles

Wood clapboard siding consists of overlapping horizontal wood boards. This pattern is not only attractive, but it prevents moisture from collecting beneath them. Additionally, homeowners can stain or paint the siding to customize the look. Wood clapboard is a good insulator, though homeowners need to be concerned with warping and pest infestation.

This is a more expensive exterior siding option, costing anywhere from $6 to $10 per square foot depending on where you live. Currently, lumber prices are sky high - even after a recent tumble - so wood clapboard may be especially expensive right now. This cost, however, is counteracted with routine maintenance that can help clapboard last centuries. Without maintenance, the wood can rot.

Stone veneer siding

Stone veneers give homes a rustic look, but the quality of stone veneers ranges widely. Some clearly look manufactured rather than like real slate or limestone. However, stone veneer siding is more fire-resistant than wood-based siding options and protects your home from harsh weather. Stone is also a good insulator because the material absorbs heat and releases it slowly to help regulate the temperature in your home.

Because they last up to 70 years without much maintenance, stone veneers are a fairly durable and convenient siding option. The cost of stone veneer siding is anywhere from $5.50 to $10.75 per square foot in most areas.

Brick and brick veneer siding

Exterior shot of a red brick house

Brick is one of the most durable house siding options available.

Many people like the look of brick siding, but it’s also known for its durability. Real brick can last for more than a century with little to no maintenance. When brick does need maintenance, it usually involves re-mortaring deteriorating joints.

Another advantage of brick is that it's fire-resistant and keeps homeowners safe. Plus, it offers decent insulation, particularly if you go with brick veneer. The cost, however, is another matter. Solid brick walls can cost upwards of $50 per square foot. Brick veneer doesn’t last as long, but it’s about significantly less expensive than brick, costing $4 to $10 per square foot.

Fiber cement siding

There’s a lot to like about fiber cement siding: it’s fireproof, termite-proof, durable, easily maintained, and aesthetically versatile. You can get fiber cement siding that looks like wood, stucco, or masonry, and it can last up to 50 years. It’s also inexpensive, costing between $5 and $14 per square foot for cement fiber siding.

However, this type of siding has some disadvantages. For one, manufacturers often used asbestos to make it, so owners of older homes may need to cover their cement fiber with a new, more modern siding. Fiber cement siding is also not a great insulator, although it does a good job of protecting the layers of insulation under it.

Board-and-batten siding

Modern white farmhouse with board-and-batten siding

Boad-and-batten siding helps homes look taller.

Unlike wood clapboard, board-and-batten siding runs vertically, not horizontally. This design feature helps smaller buildings look taller. The wood, usually pine, is a good insulator on its own, but there’s usually a layer of rigid foam insulation beneath the boards. It should last 25 years or more but does require maintenance to prevent rot and pest infestation. Installation costs range from $2.25 to $12.50 per square foot including materials and labor.

Seamless steel siding

Seamless steel siding has several advantages over other house siding options. The first is aesthetics. Each panel of siding is customized to fit the entire length of your home, so you don’t see any splices. Steel siding is also fire-resistant and low maintenance. While it expands and contracts with changing weather conditions, the effect is minimal, so you shouldn’t see a lot of warping or cracking. Plus, seamless steel costs just $3 to $6 per square foot.

On the downside, seamless steel siding is difficult to install. And once you’ve got it up, you’re going to be stuck with whatever color you’ve picked for the next 20 years or so. This also isn’t the best exterior siding option if you’re on the coast. High winds can increase the holes around the fasteners, which can ultimately cause the siding to fail.

Cedar shingle siding

Closeup of the stonework and cedar siding on the entrance of a contempory home

Cedar siding is beautiful but requires routine maintenance.

In cedar shingle and shake siding, precisely milled cedar is layered in an overlapping pattern to reduce moisture accumulation. Both types of siding look wonderful in wooded surroundings, especially if you choose to stain rather than paint it. You can expect cedar shakes and shingles to cost anywhere from $6 to $15 per square foot depending on where you live.

The biggest drawback to cedar shingle siding is maintenance. Shakes can last up to 30 years, but you’ll likely need to replace rotted or flaking shingles within 15 years. You’ll also have to be cognizant of pests that can damage and destroy the cedar shingle siding.

Engineered wood siding

Engineered wood siding, also called wood composite, is a durable but affordable home siding option. It usually costs less than $9.00 per square foot for installation and lasts between 20 and 30 years in most parts of the country.

Engineered wood is made of wood products and other materials that are easy to maintain and provide decent insulation. While it doesn’t look exactly like wood, it can have a more natural appearance than vinyl or metal siding.

Aluminum siding

Ranch home with aluminum siding

Aluminum siding is popular for its affordability and durability.

Aluminum siding is another affordable house siding option that’s more environmentally friendly than vinyl siding. Because it is metal, it is not a good insulator on its own, but it’s usually sold with insulation. It has a long life span, lasting 50 years or more with little maintenance required. In fact, aluminum siding is popular along the coast because it resists rust. However, it's likely to suffer dents. A homeowner can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $6 per square foot for aluminum siding.

Corrugated metal siding

Often considered industrial, corrugated metal siding has a long lifespan - 50 years or longer - with little maintenance. Metal doesn’t offer quality insulation, but it is fireproof and pest-proof. It costs approximately $3 to $7 per square foot to install corrugated metal siding.

Cost is an important factor when you’re working through your house siding options. But remember, the per-square-foot price is just part of that consideration. Siding that lasts longer or that requires less maintenance can actually come out cheaper in the long run.


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