Choosing a Siding Brand
Is the siding on your home in need of replacement? Tired of the color or look of the cladding your home came with? Maybe you’re hoping for something that will be easier to maintain than your current cedar boards, or you’re looking to get higher energy efficiency or storm-proof your home.
There are about as many reasons for beginning a siding replacement project as there are brands of siding, all of which will factor into the kind you ultimately select. Some brands focus on providing consumers with a unique look or historically accurate detailing, while some tout their weather-deterring qualities, strength, and energy-efficiency. Still others name their cost-effectiveness as their key selling point, or their company’s efforts to maintain a green, environmentally-friendly brand.
But before you start weighing the differences between a brand’s cedar shakes and Dutch lap board, it’s a good idea to take a look at your existing siding and assess your home’s unique issues, then review what’s most important to you in your replacement plan.
When Is It Time for New Siding?
Obviously, there are times when the need for new siding makes itself plaintively clear– it’s easy to know when you’re tired of your home’s exterior look, for instance. However, if that’s not the case in your home, you may have to get a closer inspection in order to make the call. Extensive mildew, warping, rotting, cracks, and holes are all good reasons to replace, and will all be visible after a quick walk around your home. By extensive, we mean that the problem extends over half the house– for smaller areas, a partial repair may do.
Meanwhile, you can also perform a quick test to check the sidings’ brittleness: take an edge and gingerly pull it away from your home. If it comes away easily, cracks, or warps, it may be time to replace. Other less apparent signs of damage include bubbles in the siding, if your home needs to be repainted very frequently, or the interiors need re-wallpapered more often than usual.
Selecting a Siding Material
The material you choose for your siding will ultimately inform your brand selection. Siding companies are generally specialists that focus on one particular surface or another. Amongst homeowners, vinyl is overwhelmingly the most popular siding material as it’s installed on about 30 percent of houses. But it’s not for everyone– vinyl definitely draws its detractors who say it just doesn’t have the natural appearance of organic material. Homeowners and builders who feel this way may eventually select milled wooden boards for their project, or they may instead opt for fiber cement, especially if they’re looking to take advantage of this material’s easy maintenance. A detailed breakdown of the benefits of each material can be found here however, the general items to consider are:
- Appearance– What are you looking for in terms of color or detailing? Is there a specific color or style that you want for your home? Some materials will better accommodate certain looks. For instance, you may find that fiber cement emulates the appearance of natural wood grain boards better than vinyl.
- Weatherproofing– Are you hoping that your siding will deter cold, or perform well in weather extremes like high winds and heat? Some brands can stand up to strong weather and even add protection to your home.
Maintenance- How important is it to you that you not have to repaint your siding frequently? Vinyl brands come colored and may never need repainting. Wood and fiber cement, on the other hand, will have to be touched up every few years.
After you assess these areas, decide which is the most important to you. Prioritizing what you’re looking for in new siding will help you in selecting the right brand for your needs.
Comparing Costs of New Siding
The price per square foot for siding varies vastly depending on the material and the contractor you use– even the location of your home can affect the cost. That being said, vinyl manufacturers will tend to offer more affordable material prices.
Generally, costs range from $2.00 to $9.00 per square foot for vinyl, with slightly higher prices for fiber cement. That initially seems like a pretty small range, but the final total can vary wildly when you start multiplying for square footage and factoring in labor– running anywhere between $6,000 to $8,500 for an average-sized home. You’ll also need to add in an additional $1,000 to $2,000 to tear down the existing siding and you may need to budget for soffit, fascia, trim, and molding as well, all of which can usually be purchased from the siding manufacturer you choose. Those aren’t just extras either– soffit, for example, protects your rafters from weather exposure, preventing rot, mildew, and increasing energy efficiency. While it’s possible your contractor may be able to get you a deal on extras like these, if cost is an issue, wise brand selection will make all the difference.
Even within a single brand, however, there are price distinctions. Most siding manufacturers offer basic and deluxe versions of the same product, and the difference between high and low end materials could be as simple as aesthetic details like more historically accurate detailing on the panels. You’ll also tend to pay more for insulated boards like foam-backed vinyl siding, but of course, these may return your investment in the form of savings on your energy expenses.
Selecting a Brand For Durability
The construction world is full of different opinions over which siding material offers the best protection and durability. However, when it comes to resisting impacts or standing up to high winds, vinyl has historically been considered more fragile. Flying debris and hail can often result in holes, or in worst case scenarios high wind can pull the siding off the exterior entirely.
If you live in an area that experiences high winds from hurricanes or where hail damage is a threat, your cladding’s toughness should factor into your selection, especially if you decide to ultimately go with vinyl. There are several vinyl manufacturers that provide specific hail damage clauses in their warranty policies, covering you in the event of damage, so be sure to review the details of a company’s coverage before you buy.
Meanwhile, some brands are more lenient when it comes to covering sun damage and fading. That’s also important if you pick vinyl as your material of choice as it generally isn’t repainted, unlike other types of siding, so the color durability is a factor to consider. The company’s stance on fading should be something you look for in the warranty as well. Fortunately, most brands will allow you to review the details of a sample policy online before you even talk to a salesperson.
Of course, while some companies may make exceptions for certain weather conditions, almost none will cover you for damage resulting from an improper installation. Your contractor’s handiwork can be the difference between a hardy exterior that lasts for 50 years or more, or a sagging, buckling, moldy debacle that must be replaced mere months after it went up. Selecting a contractor that comes well-referenced, who has experience with siding work, will be one of the most important decisions you make toward the life of your siding.
Environmental Impact Considerations of New Siding
Weighing the environmental impact of different building materials often feels like six of one, half dozen of another. Vinyl is technically made from Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, which means it’s not biodegradable. And due to its durability issues, it needs to be replaced more often than others, like fiber cement. On the other hand it can recycled, unlike its cement counterpart. Additionally, since vinyl contains no organic products it does not contribute to deforestation, unlike fiber cement and wood.
Then there’s the question of energy efficiency. While vinyl may lose points for being made of unnatural materials, it regains some of those for having high energy-efficiency, especially when you select an insulated variety. In fact, insulated vinyl can increase a home’s efficiency by 3-R and many varieties add points to a building’s LEED certification.
This is where distinctions between brands can really come into play. Some companies really perform their due diligence when it comes to building green, boasting zero-emissions goals and revamped facilities to reduce materials waste and carbon offsets. Whether your goal is getting your home LEED certified or just buying green, it pays to look beyond materials and into a brand’s reputation for sustainability.
Reputation of Siding Brands
It goes without saying that a company’s reputation is everything, especially when it comes to materials that can affect your family’s safety and wellbeing. Fortunately, most siding companies maintain fairly positive reviews from homeowners and consumer agencies alike. Those that achieved the highest marks were the products that performed the best in testing, which showed superior durability regardless of the weather conditions.
Signature Looks of Siding Brands
A last quality that differentiates brands is their signature look– you’ll find some companies that take pains to mimic the details of classic boards and shingles, where other brands favor updated contemporary selections with wider and bolder color palettes. While most brands can accommodate classic horizontal boards, some will have wider options in terms of shape and shadow line. For instance, they may offer trendy or offbeat selections like half scallop shingles, or vertical bead and batten board patterns. Your taste should inform your brand selection, rather than the other way around, so evaluating a company’s aesthetic before making your decision is a must.
Throughout the next section of this guide, we’ll review popular siding companies for their overall reputation for quality, durability, sustainability, as well as diving into each brand’s costs and signature looks. Read on for an in-depth look into these top siding companies:
CertainTeed: Billing itself as one of the top industrial companies in the world, CertainTeed favors quaint, fiber cement shingle looks that echo the architectural styles of its native Pennsylvania while standing strong through harsh weather.
Norandex: Tough enough to survive the most fearsome prairie squall of its home state of Texas, Norandex prides itself on its insulated and storm resistant offerings.
Alcoa: This brand has been operating as 1888, and in the meantime, it’s developed an especially environmental bent to its offerings, providing products that it claims contain as much as 80 percent recycled material.
Royal: Home decor darling Royal is a favorite for its wide selection of colors and styles–including rich, dark hues that work well for the homeowner tired of the neutrals and pastels typical of vinyl siding.
James Hardie: Already a household name for their Hardiebacker board, James Hardie siding channels their years of cement expertise to create tough, stalwart fiber cement siding for exterior cladding.
Alside: Alside’s coated variegated steel siding and its extensive hail damage warranty make it one of the brands of choice for residents in storm-prone southern states.