What are the options for the exterior of our home?


This question is asked by countless homeowners, both building their new home, or renovating an existing home.

The selection of sidings, coatings, finishes, etc. is extremely broad, and can offer any type of appearance imaginable. The selection of the exterior siding is totally a personal decision, based on architectural preference as well as financial capabilities.

The following is a summary of the more common options for the exterior of your home.

1.) Masonry / the use of a masonry material such as brick, block, stone, or tile will provide an exterior finish that will last the lifetime of the home. There will be no reason to ever have to replace the facade, or exterior of the home, and the general maintenance of a masonry exterior is minimal. The re-pointing of the joints in the masonry as well as a sealer over the top of the masonry, are the only types of maintenance that will be required. The negative of an all masonry facade is the cost, as well as the time of construction. The cost of a stone facade could reach over $50.00 per square foot and the time to install the facade is substantial. A brick facade could be as high as $35.00 per square foot, and although not as long as the stone facade, requires substantial time to erect. A masonry facade will provide years of maintenance free living and will offer the appearance of solidarity and sustenance to the home. If you can afford the product, the use of masonry as your exterior siding is both practical and extremely long lasting. Masonry is the way to go if you can afford the product.

2.) Wood / the use of a wood siding, whether it is clad-board, shakes or board and batten siding is an economical method of providing a time honored look to the exterior of the home. Unfortunately wood requires continual maintenance to keep the wood sealed and unaffected by the elements. Clad-board siding, is siding that is applied by overlapping wood boards in the horizontal direction over the exterior of the building. The amount of overlap is a custom design and can be as small as a few inches to over one foot. The wood material used mostly is cedar clad boards, although pine and other species are also used. The amount of overlap for each board is called the ” to the weather ” dimension, and can be adjusted per the individual homeowners request. Wood shakes are separate pieces of tapered wood that are usually approximately 12 inches wide by 18 to 24 inches in length. These pieces of wood are individually nailed to the exterior of the home and again, like clad boards can vary in the amount of overlap. The use of a wood shake requires maintenance, similar to the clad-board, and will provide a very colonial or traditional look to the home. The board and batten type of siding is a vertical straight board, applied in the vertical direction, with separate battens ( narrower boards ) nailed over the joints in the larger boards. Again, like the clad board and the shakes, the board and batten siding requires maintenance, but will provide years of service and will appear substantial on the exterior of the home. The cost of authentic wood siding can be from $15.00 to $25.00 per square foot.

3.) Vinyl / the use of vinyl in basically the same profiles as the wood, has an appearance similar to the wood products. The very obvious difference is the maintenance of the vinyl siding. The vinyl siding is basically a non destructible siding material that will last for several years. There is basically no maintenance required other than a power wash to clean the surface of the siding. The vinyl products have coordinated trim pieces that will cap off the various terminating profiles of the actual siding material. Vinyl siding is less money than masonry and authentic wood siding, however does not command the attention or the stability of authentic wood siding. Although much better than the earlier blends of vinyl siding, the vinyl siding will fade, especially the darker colors, as the sun bleaches the color from the siding. A chalky look could develop as the darker vinyl bleaches out due to the sunlight and acid rain exposure. The vinyl is available in clad board, shakes, scalloped shingles, basically every shape that is available with wood siding, is available with vinyl siding. Vinyl is less expensive than the wood siding it mimics. The cost of vinyl can be from $8.00 to $12.00 per square foot.

4.) Stucco / Stucco for an exterior facade is an excellent surface for sunlight, acid rain and general weather exposure. Stucco finishes have survived for several generations on homes throughout the world. The maintenance of a stucco facade is the filling of any cracks or blemishes that may occur, as well as the painting, staining, or general exterior finishing of the exterior stucco. The stucco can remain untreated and will not deteriorate, however, in many instances, a color is introduced by the homeowner, which will initiate a maintenance issue as time moves on. Stucco is a masonry product and is applied in layers over wire lath that is secured to the sheathing of the home. Stucco can also be applied to an insulation board to improve the overall insulation or R value of the exterior walls. The cost of stucco is approximately $12.00 to $20.00 per square foot.

5.) EIFS / Exterior insulation finish systems are synthetic systems that appear similar to the masonry stucco appearance of true stucco. An EIFS system has a high insulating factor, is easily applied by a certified contractor and will not require substantial maintenance. The cost of this insulation board system is anywhere from $15.00 per square foot to $25.00 per square foot. EIFS is on the softer side , so any exterior facade that is within the initial 8 feet of height on a structure will be subjected to possible damage due to the softness of the material. There are new applications of EIFS which have resolved the issue of damage due to punch through. EIFS can be molded and shaped to provide a variety of different trim pieces and customized exterior facade looks.

6.) Synthetic Plank Systems / the use of a cement board type of siding has become very popular in the residential marketplace. This type of system is extremely durable and easily maintained. If the material is painted, then the maintenance becomes more involved. Cement board siding can be used with a synthetic trim that is as durable as the cement board field. The cost of these systems is more than the vinyl or wood it is mimicking, but not as costly as the masonry facades. Cost for a synthetic plank system can be from $15.00 to $25.00 square foot. These systems will appear similar to a wood or vinyl system and can be purchased in various sizes and shapes.

7.) Prefab panels / The use of prefab panels of varying materials, shakes, clap board siding, masonry, etc. is a fast method of applying siding to the exterior facade of the home. Prefabricated panels are panels that are constructed in manufacturing plants under ideal conditions. The panels are then shipped to the project for field erection. Dependent upon the product and the manufacturer, the size of the panels can vary. However, the speed and efficiency of installation far exceeds the separate installation of individual boards, shakes, bricks, etc., using the conventional method of siding installation. The cost is totally dependent on the material and the manufacturer, however the cost must be analyzed, understanding that the overall cost of both labor and material will be substantially more economical, due to the amount of labor saved during installation. The ability to apply larger sections of siding in one piece definitely adds efficiency and economy to the installation of all types of siding.

8.) Insulated panels / the use of an insulated panel covered with a vinyl or aluminum surface is a practical and contemporary style of facade. The use of this type of panel is both practical and economical especially if the home fits the style. Aluminum clad panels are both pleasing to the eye and maintenance free. However the look is something that must be appreciated as non-traditional and customized. The cost of a panel of this sort is dependent upon the finish skin surface as well as the thickness of the panel, but should be anticipated to cost from $20.00 to $35.00 per square foot. However the cost of installation is substantially lower than other types of siding. Therefore the cost of installation in many cases makes the overall cost of the panel economical and competitive with other types of siding.

9.) Glazing / the use of glass panels to cover the facade has become a contemporary style that can provide a very customized and modern look. The cost is substantial and could be between $45.00 and $65.00 square foot. However, in many cases the glass panels are used as a window facade with no other surface behind the glazing. The insulation value of glazed panels has improved, however, are not the same as an insulated metal or vinyl panel. If glazing panels are used, the interior spaces will be obviously effected. This must be considered if deciding upon a clear glazed panel. The glazed panels can also be constructed of tinted glass with opaque cores, this is a different look, but can provide a very durable and customized appearance.

10.) Paint/ the use of paint over existing surfaces, is a method of re-establishing the new look of the structure. In most cases of severe painting requirements, I recommend the use of a replacement siding over the material that requires painting. The ability to apply a separate layer of insulation over existing siding, and then to apply a vinyl or cement board finish surface is extremely difficult not to recommend. Granted, the cost is substantially high when compared to simply painting the existing facade. The home owner must decide if the painting of the siding, which will require substantial maintenance, is worth the money saved due the brief period of time that the painted surface will last, prior to another coat of paint. The cost to paint is substantially less than the cost for a new siding material, but will need to be maintained after several years of exposure. The cost of paint is probably about $1.50 to $3.00 square foot depending on the condition of the existing surfaces.

11.) Stain / it has been my opinion that if the new surface is going to be a new paint job, then the use of a stain, in lieu of a paint is preferred. The stain will not peel, chip or crack. The paint may exhibit some of these qualities. The cost of a stain is slightly less than the cost of a good paint job due to the ease of a stain application, as opposed to the paint application.

If the home is an existing home, the application of new siding also provides the opportunity to add insulation board and vapor barrier to your home. This opportunity is important to the overall insulation value of the entire envelop, and can reduce the heating and cooling costs of the home substantially. In addition, the quality of life within the home can be increased due the added insulation surrounding the home. The noise factor within the home as well as the decrease in wind and air movement through the facade will substantially benefit the occupants of the home.

Any decision regarding the type of exterior siding to be installed on the home will make a large aesthetic difference in the homes appearance and curb appeal. Cost is a principal aspect of the decision and each type of material and application should be thoroughly researched and investigated, prior to making the final decision on the facade.

Remember, that this decision will have the greatest impact on the presentation of the home from the exterior and should be carefully considered.

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