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Home with yellow siding
All homes have exterior surfaces that are designed to protect the home from the elements. There are many different types, but the two general ones are brick and siding. Some homes have a combination of the two.

If you're giving your home a face lift, you have choices. Let's talk about the many types of siding.

Cedar Siding for the Home

Western Red Cedar siding is the type most commonly used. It's a natural product, known for its beauty and durability. For energy efficiency, rigid foam sheathing may be applied prior to installing the siding. If this option is taken, kiln-dried cedar siding should be used, because of its stability.

Western Red Cedar siding can be finished in many attractive ways. To achieve that sought-after natural wood look, use a penetrating stain, or your choice of a clear repellent finish. Varnish and shellac used to be popular, but have fallen out of favor. Newer products have a much longer life span.

An alternative finish for cedar

Painting cedar siding is an acceptable alternative to a natural-looking finish. Before you paint the siding, you should coat it with a water-repellent preservative. Next, prime it with a stain-blocking primer. Finally, it needs to be finished with a quality, 100 percent acrylic paint.

Cleaning cedar siding

To clean cedar siding, a pressure washer may be used, but only at a very low pressure. A better method is to use a soft-bristle brush with water, with a small amount of dish detergent mixed in. If mildew is present, mix in a bit of mildew-cide.

Plywood siding

Plywood siding is very popular among contractors. It's often used on homes that are part brick and part siding. Compared to other types it can be quite inexpensive. For best results, it needs to be properly primed and painted. Unfortunately, many contractors don't use a good grade of paint, so the job has to be re-done after a couple of years.

One issue is that, being wood, it expands and contracts naturally with the weather. But all too often, the rate of expansion and contraction is different than that of the material that it's nailed to. This can cause nails to work their way out. A little spot-checking every now and then solves this issue.

Composition board

This is probably the worst choice, in my opinion -- perhaps the cheapest, but the worst. It will expand with moisture like wood will, but it won't return to its original dimensions when it dries out.

Because of this, it's important to keep moisture away from it. It must be kept well-sealed with paint. Don't let the lawn sprinkler go crazy and splatter the siding. And when installing it, keep it as far off the ground as possible: ideally somewhere from six to eight inches.

Clapboard siding

Clapboard siding is pretty simple: it's just long wood planks that overlap each other. This concept can be simple and plain, or you can take it further with different patterns. Some of these are shiplap, tongue and groove, bevel, channel lap, Dutch lap, and one of my favorites, log cabin!

Like cedar, you can go with the natural look or paint it. Log cabin, of course, wants to be stained. Since these are planks, it's a fairly simple job to repair in the future, as long as you can find a pattern match.

Can't find one? You can most likely craft your own with a table saw, planer, and router. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding has a lot going for it. It's available in a wide array of colors. Many manufacturers guarantee that it will never need repainting. It's usually recommended to give it a good washing once a year. This type of siding does a good job guarding against the elements; also, it doesn't have the porous characteristics that wood does. This makes it a logical option whenever humidity is an issue.

Vinyl siding can raise the value of your home, since it provides a rigid and durable surface. Where rigidity is concerned, the thicker the vinyl, the better. It will resist the elements more effectively... as well as maverick baseballs!

Matching soffit stock and window trim are almost always available, so you can be sure of an exact match with your siding color.

Aluminum siding -- vinyl's cousin

Aluminum siding is very similar to vinyl. It installs easily and has plenty of durability. One drawback is that, since it's a metal, it's often the victim of denting or dimpling. The good news is that it comes in planks, sort of like the old style shiplap siding: if you get a bit of damage, it's an easy DIY fix.

Caring for aluminum siding

Cleaning aluminum siding is a job for the pressure washer -- just watch out for those windows!

Unlike vinyl, you will have to repaint aluminum at some point.

Fiber cement -- the new kid on the block

Fiber cement siding is more durable than either wood or vinyl. When it's painted -- it usually comes pre-primed, saving a step -- it's remarkably similar to wood siding, since it's formed with the grain contour. You'll usually hear it called Hardiboard or Hardiplank siding. (Hardie is the dominant manufacturer of fiber cement products.)

What makes it so desirable? You can forget having issues with termites or rotting. As I mentioned above, it's pre-primed, so painting it is all the finish you need. A high-quality acrylic paint is recommended.

Caring for fiber cement siding

Caring for fiber cement siding is rather straightforward. You can approach cleaning it the same way as cedar: a pressure washer is fine so long as you don't blast the paint off. Of course, this doesn't matter if you're planning to slap on a new coat of paint anyway.

When you choose siding for your home, approach it this way: look at budget, appearance, and how much maintenance you're willing to put into it. Those criteria will help you choose the right product for you.


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