Home Siding Basics

Understanding Residential Siding for the Average House

The siding on your home is the most aesthetically dominant facet of your home.  The general impression of the quality, maintenance and pride of ownership is reflected in a very “ up front “ way, when you consider the amount of siding that presents itself to the public.  What are some of the basic principles and concepts when considering your siding, whether for a new structure or as a replacement of the old, existing siding?

  1. As with roofing, the siding of your home is normally quantified on a square unit of measurement.  A square of siding is a total of 100 square feet and normally identified as a 10 foot by 10 foot panel section.
  2. Clapboard is a siding that appears to be individual boards, installed horizontally, one over the other, similar to the shingle sequencing on your roof.  The boards are normally as long as possible and can be from 6 inches to over 12 inches in width.
  3. To the weather ” is a term that is used to identify the overlap of the clapboard siding.  This means the amount of individual board that is exposed to the exterior, and not part of the overlap from one board to the next.  A 4 inch to the weather, is a repeated pattern that exposes a 4 inch section of the horizontal clapboard. If you are using an 8 inch total width clapboard, then there is 4 inches overlapped and 4 inches exposed to the weather.
  4. Shingle siding is normally single shingles that are installed to overlap each other.  Similar to a clapboard determination, there is also a “ to the weather “ element to the installation of shingle siding.  The identification is the same and identifies the amount of the shingle that ends up exposed to the weather after installation.
  5. Stucco siding is the installation of a plaster type application to create a continuous surface of stucco or plaster.  The surface can be any variety of applications from totally smooth to extremely troweled and rough.
  6. EIFS siding is an exterior insulated finishing surface that has been developed in the last several years and has evolved under several names.  Basically the applications include the use of rigid insulation with a number of coatings of synthetic material over the rigid insulation. This application is excellent for added insulation and is available in different types of hardness, dependent upon the area of application.
  7. Board and batten siding is the application of a wood board in a vertical position, with the installation of smaller, narrower pieces of wood board over the joints.  This type of siding was typically used in old colonial homes and barns due to the inexpensive nature and ease of application.
  8. Masonry siding can be any variety of different masonry elements and products.  Brick, stone, even tile can be used as a siding material.

The clapboard, shingle and board and batten siding is available in wood, vinyl, aluminum or a composite blend of manufactured material depending on the manufacturer.   Each type of material offers different qualities in regard to durability, budget, availability as well as individual taste and aesthetic appearance. As technology advances, additional materials are being developed for each of these siding products.

What are some of the basic concepts that homeowners should be aware of when selecting the siding for your new home or replacing the siding on an existing home?

  1. Cost is a primary consideration and the use of a synthetic material such as aluminum or vinyl is normally less expensive than the use of natural materials, such as wood, stone or a masonry type of material such as brick or tile.
  2. Longevity and durability is a factor, especially if you are going to retain the home for a number of years.  If you are merely looking for immediate curb appeal and will either not be living in the home at all, or quickly selling it, the selection of a good material that may not last for a lifetime, will be less expensive and more in line with your budget constraints.
  3. It is important that the insulation beneath the siding be discussed and reviewed.  This is the perfect time to add to the sidings R value ( a measurement of the amount of heat loss through the exterior siding ) by adding insulation to the exterior of the structure.
  4. Siding replacement is a perfect time to evaluate the subsurface of the structure if you are removing the old siding.  Any mold, rot or compromised subsurface sections should be removed and replaced prior to the installation of the new siding.  
  5. If there was any discussion regarding the replacing of windows or doors, this would be a perfect time to implement this replacement.  Once the work is started, any additional work required, is always easier to accommodate, due to the work in progress.  
  6. As with roofing replacement or new installation, there are several competing contractors that will be available to perform the work.  It is very important that you choose a contractor that has a history of good work and will be available in the future for any warranty issues that may come up.

The siding of your home is not only the most obvious aesthetic element of your home, it is the second most important surface, in terms of keeping water and moisture out of the interior of the home.  Obviously the roof is the first surface of importance but the siding is a close second.

Other specifics to be aware of, when either installing new siding or replacing old in regard to water integrity are the following:

  1. Flashings around the doors, windows and any item that is installed within the surface plane of the siding.  Flashings are the various metal, rubber or synthetic elements that stop the water from entering the home at the perimeter of the windows, doors, louvers or other encumbrances on the surface of the siding.  
  2. Proper fastening of the siding to the subsurface of the structure.  It is important to understand the effects of wind and driving rain on the integrity of the siding.  Overlapping siding is important in terms of the prevailing winds and the lap should coincide with the typical driving rain on each facade.  Although this is not a controlled situation and different storms will present different angles of rain and wind, there is always a prevailing type of occurence, and the siding should be installed with this in mind.
  3. The wrap that is under the siding is extremely important to the overall integrity of the siding. As with many construction products, technology is constantly improving the makeup and the performance of various products.  Building wrap, or the material that is applied to the subsurface of the structure prior to the siding is constantly evolving.

As with the installation of your new roof or the replacement of the old, the selection of a reputable siding contractor that has a history of success is important.  The installation of siding is not a technically difficult activity, however, the performance of the end product is extremely important to the integrity of the home and your peace of mind.  Choose carefully and intelligently, noting that the cheapest is not always the best.

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