We are finally replacing our roof and are 95% committed to replacing the siding too, so I’ve been doing a lot of research and learning about different siding material pros & cons. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have caught my siding-themed posts and Instagram stories – I’ve been polling readers for advice and sharing snippets of my siding shopping journey.
We actually thought that we had the house exterior plan locked down last year: copper metal roof and DIY cedar wood siding, which we’d let weather to a perfect lake house grey.
We even built a cedar step and DIY bench with copper painted welded legs to test how the cedar would weather in more sheltered areas around the house. But I was really disappointed that the cedar didn’t weather at all, plus I’ve since heard horror stories of DIY cedar wood siding cracking and causing other problems. It definitely made us question wood siding but, if I’m being honest, the bigger reasons is that neither of us feel very motivated to install our own siding this summer.
We definitely need a new roof, so we proceeded with getting a quote for a copper (painted) metal roof – which is still part of the original plan that I’m deeply committed to. While getting a quote, we found out that the company does metal siding too, so we took a look at some samples and I FELL HARD for a metal siding with a pressed, faux bois pattern and shimmering finish in a chalky grey/brown. This is one of those unusual colors that morphs from grey to brown to black, depending on the light. But that shimmer is what has me swooning.
Here’s a quick cellphone video, which doesn’t do it justice but gives you an idea!
I almost wrote a cheque, right then and there.
Cue the sad trombone though, because the quote for the metal roof and metal siding took the wind out of our sails a little (so many zeros). Before taking the plunge, we sought out some less expensive siding options for comparison. Along the way, I learned about different siding material pros & cons – and decided to share what I discovered. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments too – and check out this Instagram post for some really great feedback if you’re siding shopping any time soon.
Metal Siding Material Pros & Cons
Metal siding elicits some mixed feelings. I think that when a lot of people consider metal siding, they think of tin barns, commercial buildings, or the old aluminum siding of yore, but as soon as I show them the sample in person, they swoon like I first did! Today’s metal siding options are seriously gorgeous and, from what I hear, growing in popularity so you might start to see it more soon. The brand we’re looking at offers a chic roster of colors/options with such a durable finish that we’ll never have to paint. Weighing the different siding material pros & cons, there’s lots to love about metal siding: it’s low maintenance and it also does not absorb moisture or enable mold to form. Bugs and animals hate it, plus it can withstand harsh climates and crazy winds (check and check!). Metal siding is also impervious to fire, so with a metal roof and siding, our home would be a little more secure, which is peace of mind for us because although we have lake on one side, we have forest behind us and forest fires always loom large on my list of fears – there’s a fire ban in the area right now which has me feeling a little nervous.
Metal siding can come in aluminum (which can fade and dent more easily) and steel (which is thicker and more durable, but also pricier). We’re looking at steel siding, which is pressed into a wood grain design, which increases the durability. It can still be dented, but it can also be replaced – more easily than HardiePlank (which is near impossible) but less easily than vinyl. Unfortunately, metal reportedly doesn’t insulate as well – for sound or weather – so it can be a noisier siding option and also may require additional insulation, which can add thousands to the price tag.
Like wood siding, metal is more environmentally friendly because at the end of its life, it can be recycled. Some metal siding is even made from recycled materials.
HardiePlank (Hardie Board) Siding Material Pros & Cons
People are obsessed with HardiePlank siding! Whether I’ve polled people online or in town, so many folks are smitten with it – but every now and then, I meet someone who hates it, so it’s a weirdly polarizing siding material. A local salesman (who sells HardiePlank) suspects that really good marketing is responsible for that halo effect.
When you consider the different siding material pros and cons, Hardie Board also has many desirable qualities: it’s durable, storm resistant, fire resistant (like metal and brick), and comes in many different colors and styles. It’s also moisture, hail, and termite resistant. It’s a composite material, made from fiber cement (wood pulp, cement, and sand), so it’s really heavy and dense.
Hardie Board is also pretty expensive because it requires an experienced technician, with specialized tools, to install it properly. Speaking to people who install it, it’s also heavy. As one installer I spoke to lamented, it’s also really, really difficult to replace. It’s fairly durable, so that’s not an issue for most people, but gravel from our driveway migrates to our lawn and occasionally get picked up and rocketed toward the house by the lawnmower. We’ve punctured our vinyl siding as a result. When I asked what would happen to Hardie Board, a salesperson said it would likely shatter. We are fairly confident that Hardie Board is what’s on our garage and it’s from the early 1990s but still looks great, so I’m inclined to agree that it’s a quality material, but there’s also a list of consumer complaints to keep in mind – plus it needs to be repainted after sometime, which is expensive and time consuming. I’m actually planning to paint the beige garage to match the new house siding and I am NOT looking forward to that job, ugh (I’m toying with the idea of painting a huge mural – which is the carrot I’m dangling to finish the boring task of painting the HardiePlank).
It’s not recyclable, but it is biodegradable. However, if my garage is any indication, you might never need to replace it so maybe this isn’t even an issue?
Vinyl Siding Material Pros & Cons
I looked at many kinds of vinyl siding, the best being a flatter, more modern looking vinyl plank with a foam backing. With that backing, it is more durable when it comes to hail and lawn mower projectiles. Vinyl is also usually pretty cost effective and – bonus! – can usually be replaced really easily. It does fade over time and painting it, if needed, requires paint designed for vinyl, but it’s a solid choice.
It’s made of PVC plastic resin, which means that in some circumstances it can blister or warp but in general it’s fairly durable. It won’t rot or mold like wood and it’s pretty resistant to the elements. I’ve read many siding reviews and some people say things just ricochet off vinyl because it’s so durable, but I have a series of holes in my vinyl siding that say otherwise. However, if we had more siding stashed away, we could fix it. The former owner melted some of the siding with a BBQ and patched that pretty well. It looks ridiculous to have a weirdly pieced together section, but if you don’t look close it’s passable.
Price wise, it can be very affordable because it’s cheap to make and easy to install – both factors which lower the cost. It comes in a lot of colors and styles now, and I’ve seen some very contemporary vinyl siding which looks nothing like what was popular in the 1990s. Unlike other siding choices, the color isn’t painted on – it should go all the way through the material – so it won’t peel but it can fade over time. Overall maintenance is really low.
But I am starting to really open my eyes to plastic and the way it is contaminating our world so I’m leery about vinyl siding and the impact on the environment. On the one hand, it saves trees and probably won’t need to be painted but its production is supposedly terrible for the environment. And what about if it’s replaced and disposed of? It can be recycled but, like a lot of other theoretically recyclable plastics, a lot of it doesn’t end up recycled.
Wood Siding Material Pros & Cons
When we realized that the wood siding might not weather – or at least not weather evenly – I suggested Shou Sugi Ban, a Japanese wood charring technique which extends the longevity of wood and is a fun process of charring and oiling wood boards. When maintained, this kind of wood siding can last up to 80 years, which is amazing. But it’s so much work, so it was quickly vetoed (but I had to mention it in my list of siding material pros & cons, because it’s so stunning and solves some of the problems with wood siding.)
I love the look of wood siding.
Because you can use many varieties of wood – or paint or stain it literally any color – wood siding offers the most creative control over a home’s exterior look. It can look mid-century modern, or rustic farmhouse – and pretty much anything in between. Painting or staining wood will require maintenance and upkeep though, and one major downside is that bugs and animals can wreak havoc on wood.
But it’s fixable! My father-in-law installed his own wood siding (not pictured) and the nice thing is that as he’s renovated his home, he has been able to easily repair/add boards. It’s weathered really nicely, but his house doesn’t really have many alcoves or nooks. When we planned to do wood, we wanted to just let it weather so that we don’t need to paint or stain – but weathering can happen unevenly, which is something we didn’t consider.
We have wood siding on the bunkie and – knock on wood (ha) – we haven’t had issues but since doing this research on siding material pros and cons, I’m keeping my eye on it….
I do love that wood siding can be more environmentally friendly. If it’s ripped off a house down the road, it can still be used, or will at least biodegrade – plus it’s a renewable resource. However, I’ve read that it can be expensive – both the initial cost and the upkeep. We had planned to DIY our cedar siding and use my father-in-law’s discount as a woodworker to nab some cedar wood in bulk, but that’s not an option for everyone.
Wood siding can have a poor flame spread rating, making a home more susceptible to fire and also potentially impacting home insurance rates.
Of course, there are many other siding options (brick, stone, stucco) but these were the ones we shortlisted in our search. Even with this smaller shortlist, weighing the different siding material pros & cons has been dizzying!
I’ve been going from display room to display room in my city and it seems like every salesperson and installer has their own preference and bias. No siding material is perfect but I think the trick is to figure out what pros and cons matter to us (while keeping tabs on what keeps a home sell-able in this area – just in case).
Let me know what kind of siding you have in the comments – and whether or not you like it. I’ve loved hearing about siding material pros & cons on Instagram! We’re so close to a decisions and I’ll keep you posted on what we choose. I can’t wait to share before and after photos because, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be doing a massive exterior makeover in the coming months: new roof, new siding, new soffit and fascia, new windows (maybe), freshly painted garage, garish garage mural (heck yes), finally some gardening, epic shore repairs, new dock and a refinished deck.