Choosing Sides

Changing the siding on a home is one of those monumental renovation projects that typically happens once in homeowner’s life. Siding is a big deal, both in cost and aesthetics—it transforms the entire look of the house. The variety of products, colors and textures to choose from does not make the decision any easier. That’s where research and working with a pro comes in.

One way to approach residing is to pick the look or style first and then think about materials. “All siding materials, including vinyl, fiber cement and wood, come in shakes and [clap] board styles,” said Sal Ferro, owner and president of Alure Home Improvement in East Meadow. The right siding is a delicate balance between aesthetics, maintenance, price and performance. Some contractors offer computer-based design programs to help homeowners visualize what their houses would look like covered in different siding options; a few manufacturer’s websites also allow photo uploads to render the home in different styles and colors before committing.

Often, combining styles, and even materials, creates a distinctive look. “Mixing stone veneer siding with another material is very popular right now,” said John Carlisle of S&H Building Materials in Medford. “The stone siding goes on the first three feet or so with a shake or clapboard-type siding above it.” Another popular option is to install clapboard siding on most of the building but decorate the dormers or gable ends with scallop or rounded shapes in a different color. When transitioning from one siding profile to another, it is best to separate the two by some sort of boundary, like a flat piece of molding. A square of siding is 100 square feet and the common measurement for purchasing or comparing costs.

Vinyl Siding
Vinyl is the most popular material. Except for the occasional hosing down, it is maintenance free and easy to install. Cheap vinyl looks the part, but thicker panels are more rigid and offer a more realistic, textured wood look. In many cases, the siding can be installed over existing materials, like cement shingles, but there can be restrictions against vinyl on historic homes. The market for this finish grew as the popularity of aluminum waned— the latter tends to dent and can fade. New vinyl costs $110 to $700 per square to install.

Fiber Cement
Made of wood pulp, cement and other components, fiber cement is a dimensionally stable product that is resistant to insects, rot and moisture, it will not burn and has good impact toughness, making it ideal for coastal areas. The material comes in claps, shakes, even faux brick and is often touted as a replacement for asbestos shingles. Fiber cement needs to be painted and factory-applied finishes carry 15-year warranties on the paint job, though the products themselves carry much longer warranties. Because it accepts paint so well, homeowners can change the look of the house on a whim. Installation runs $400 to $900 per square.

Wood
This darling of architects and designers is still the most maintenance-heavy siding. If properly cared for, it will last for years. Wood prices fluctuate, but expect to pay $500 to $600 per square for typical pine or fir clapboards and up to $2,000 a square for cedar shakes.

Faux Stone Veneers
These concrete-based products are much lighter than traditional stone, making installation easier. And while cheaper than real stone, they are still an expensive option. That is one reason they are usually limited to use as accents on foundations and chimneys rather than over the entire house. Installed stone veneers costs about $1800 to $2500 per square.