Exterior Siding Options for Your House

Should You Choose Wood, Vinyl, or Something Else?

Nothing will affect the appearance of your home more dramatically than the exterior siding you choose. As you shop, look for a siding panels and materials that suit the architectural style of your house and that fit your lifestyle. Listed here are the most popular materials for exterior siding. Your decision can change the look of an entire neighborhood.

Pink stucco bungalow in Florida
A Florida stucco house in a beach community. Photo by Diane Macdonald / Collection: Photodisc / Getty Imaghes cropped

Traditional stucco is cement combined with water and inert materials such as sand and lime. Many homes built after the 1950s use a variety of synthetic materials that resemble stucco. Some synthetic stuccos have been problematic. However, a quality synthetic stucco will prove durable. Tint the stucco the color you want, and you may never need to paint.

House with stone veneer siding lit up in early evening
House with stone veneer siding. Photo by Kimberlee Reimer/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)
If you think of ancient monuments and temples, you know that stone is the most durable of all building materials. Granite, limestone, slate, and other types of stone are beautiful and nearly impervious to the weather. Unfortunately, they are also extremely expensive. Precast stone veneers and facings are more affordable. Some stone veneers look quite genuine, while others are clearly artificial. Austin Stone from Owens Corning Cultured Stone® is one respected brand of precast stone veneers.
Suburban Home circa 1971 near Pittsburgh with HardiePanel-like vertical siding
Suburban Home circa 1971 near Pittsburgh with HardiePanel-like vertical siding. Photo by Patricia McCormick/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)
Fiber cement siding can have the appearance of wood, stucco, or masonry. This durable, natural-looking material is often called by the brand names HardiPlank® and HardiPanel®. If you want the look of authentic wood with a bit less maintenance, cement fiber is a good option. Fiber cement siding is fireproof, termite-proof, and may have a warranty up to fifty years. Some older homes have Cement Asbestos Siding made from Portland cement and asbestos fibers. Removing that type of siding can be hazardous, so remodelers often apply a new, modern siding on top.
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Wood Clapboard Siding

American Flag Hangs From the Clapboard Siding on a Colonial Home in Boston, Massachusetts
Clapboard Siding on Colonial Home in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Images Etc Ltd / Moment Mobile / Getty Images
Modern science has given us many synthetic wood-look products, and yet solid wood (usually cedar, pine, spruce, redwood, cypress, or Douglas fir) remain favorite choices for finer homes. With periodic care, wood siding will outlast vinyl and other pretenders. As with cedar shingle siding, wood clapboards can be stained rather than painted. Many wood frame houses built centuries ago still look beautiful today.
Brick veneer in the back of a suburban home near Dallas, Texas
Brick veneer in the back of a suburban home near Dallas, Texas. Photo by Jeff Clow/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Made of fired clay, brick comes in a wide variety of earthy, eye-pleasing colors. Although it is expensive, brick construction is desirable because it can last centuries and probably won't need any patching or repairs for the first twenty-five years. Older brick homes may have a stucco siding, which should be maintained because of its historical accuracy. Quality brick veneers are also attractive and durable, although they don't have the longevity of solid brick.

Cape Cod style home with wood shingles and green shutters
Cape Cod style home with wood shingles and green shutters. Photo by Lynne Gilbert/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)
Homes sided in cedar shingles (also called "shakes") blend beautifully with wooded landscapes. Made of natural cedar, the shingles are usually stained browns, grays, or other earthen colors. Shakes offer the natural look of real wood, but usually require less maintenance than wood clapboard. By using stain rather than paint, you can minimize peeling.
This home is sided with "T 1-11" siding panels, which have shiplapped edges and parallel grooves
This home is sided with "T 1-11" siding panels, which have shiplapped edges and parallel grooves. The Engineered Wood Association (APA)
Engineered wood, or composite wood, is made with wood products and other materials. Oriented strand board (OSB), hardboard, and veneered plywood are examples of engineered wood products. Engineered wood usually comes in panels that are easy and inexpensive to install. The panels may be molded to create the look of traditional clapboards. Because the textured grain is uniform, engineered wood does not look exactly like real wood. Still, the appearance is more natural than vinyl or aluminum.
Seamless Steel Siding from Northwoods Collection, United State Seamless
Seamless Steel Siding from Northwoods Collection, United State Seamless. Media photo courtesy United States Seamless (cropped)

Seamless steel siding is very strong and resists shrinking and bulging when the temperatures change. The siding is custom fit to the exact measurements of your house. You can purchase steel siding with a wood-look texture.

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Aluminum Siding

Siding in a beautiful, rich blue-grey color
Siding in a beautiful, rich blue-grey color. Photo by J.Castro/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

You may think of aluminum siding as an old-fashioned option, but some builders offer it as an alternative to vinyl. Both materials come with insulation, are easy to maintain, and fairly durable. Aluminum can dent and fade, but it won't crack the way vinyl will. Also, aluminum is not usually considered harmful to your health or the environment. Although vinyl can be recycled, the manufacturing process is known to be hard on the environment. Seamless steel siding is another popular alternative. Corrugated iron has been used for siding but is more popular today as a roofing material.

Remember that the sidings we're talking about here are ones that are mass-produced and readily available. Anything can be used as siding when it's custom-made, as demonstrated by architect Frank Gehry. Consider the stainless steel siding on his award-winning design for the Disney Concert Hall. Why don't we see houses with stainless steel siding?

Vertical Exterior Siding on the Mendocino County Cottage by Architect Cathy Schwabe, AIA
Vertical Exterior Siding on the Mendocino County Cottage by Architect Cathy Schwabe, AIA. Photo by David Wakely courtesy Houseplans.com

Board and batten, or board-and-batten, is a vertical siding that often is used to give a building, like a church, the perception of being higher than it actually is. In small houses, like the one shown here, the vertical siding is just one of the methods that architect Cathy Schwabe uses to give this 840 square foot cottage a big look.

Synthetic Siding on a Queen Anne Victorian Hides Architectural Details
Synthetic Siding on a Queen Anne Victorian Hides Architectural Details. Photo by J.Castro/Moment Mobile/Getty (cropped)

Vinyl is made from a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic. Unlike wood or cedar, it won't rot or flake, but it will melt. Vinyl is usually less expensive to purchase and install than most other siding materials. There are, however, drawbacks. Vinyl can crack, fade, or grow dingy over time. Vinyl is also controversial because of environmental concerns during the manufacturing process. Beware, also, about the architecture of your home—vinyl has been misused on beautifully articulated Victorian homes, hiding the architectural detail and handcrafting from a different era.

Liquid Vinyl Siding? Vinyl Coatings? Learn the Basics About Composite Resins

If you like the idea of vinyl but don't like the look of vinyl panels, another option is to have a professional painter spray on a liquid PVC coating. Made from polymers and resins, the paint-like coating is about as thick as a credit card when it dries. Liquid PVC became widely available in the mid-1980s, and reviews are mixed. The damage caused by poor application can be devastating. Learn about the chemistry before you choose.

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Corrugated Metals

Home in Reykjavik, Iceland Sided With Corrugated Iron Panels, Green, With a Blue Front Door
Home in Reykjavik, Iceland Sided With Corrugated Iron Panels. Photo by Sviatlana Zhukava/Moment Mobile/Getty Images (cropped)

We've gotten used to seeing corrugated metal roofs, but why not siding? It has a lower class reputation in the United States—traditionally, corrugated steel has been used for prefabricated military facilities and factories, so it's considered an "industrial" construction material. In Iceland, however, it's a very popular siding that can face up to the harsh winters of a northern climate. Modernist architects like Frank Gehry used it in the hot, dry Southern California region—take a closer look at Gehry's own house.