What is behind all those choices in siding?

What is behind all the choices in siding for your home?  Choosing the highest quality finish materials will not ensure a long lasting façade, however, style, material options, and what’s behind the aesthetic are all very important. 


Here are some great tips on what will provide you with a lasting beautiful exterior: Proper preparation and installation are the most important piece, and if there is a breakdown, it is usually a matter of improper installation of the entire system-insulation, vapor retarder, and flashing components with the siding.  The home below underwent a substantial renovation only 15 years earlier, commissioned by the previous homeowner.


Unfortunately, the new owner began to see signs of premature leaks and paint failure.  A very high quality of material was used for the siding, however the metal flashing that was supposed to keep the water out, combined with poor execution on the trim around the windows, resulted in water infiltration. This damage required the replacement of all the doors and windows in the new addition which should have lasted 2-3 times longer!


And as you can see on the after picture above, as a homeowner, you’ll need to evaluate what product and style make sense for you.  For this Wiese Company project, the client selected copper gutters and copper window heads to finish off their exterior remodel. Product selection starts with the architecture… and siding makes a big difference.


A Queen Anne Victorian adorned with scalloped and artistic shingles is very fitting, but those scalloped shingles on a colonial gable- not so much (no photos used to protect the innocent).


A colonial home will most likely be dressed in clapboards since the home style born by our country’s founding propagated the use due to low supplies of lime for stucco. In many Wellesley renovations, there are 1940 era homes that are clad in Red Cedar shingles- and this works well with the scale of the home with a 5” exposure. Think of this as the duck adage… if it looks like a colonial, don’t try to turn it into a mid-century modern.


With siding products, wood siding is still the most widely used in our blue chip communities. When specifying cedar, there are large differences in quality based on the number of knots (which should be none) to how the product is milled (or cut). Clear Vertical Grain Clapboards are quarter sawn and will offer longer life and more uniform appearance. For Red Cedar shingles, make sure they are re-butted and re-jointed.  If you have, or want, a painted home, having the siding pre-primed is essential to a lasting paint job and will pay dividends. I have also seen the use of fiber cement siding take flight.


The James Hardie Company started this wave over a decade ago, and with great reviews and a lasting product, they have offered a paintable alternative that looks almost identical to wood with properties that ensure longer lasting paint. With less deforesting and a lower cost, it is worth considering this alternative before making a final decision. We highly recommend that you add insulation to any pre-1970 structure. It is surprisingly affordable, and it is one item that will have an energy payoff in less than 5 years. You’ll quickly notice how comfortable it is inside your home as well, providing a more stable indoor climate.  


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