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Siding The siding you choose for your home will have the most impact on the appearance. Homeowners are usually trying to impress most with the siding. Look for material that fits your house's style, your lifestyle, and geograpy. The siding will be on the home for a long time, so make a choice that will be pleasing to you for a long time. When you have your home sided, the labor is the biggest cost, so remember that the larger your home the more the labor.

Here is a look at some of the most popular and affordable materials for exterior siding:

Solid Wood
Wood has beauty and durability, so it tends to be a homeowner's first choice. Wood can be purchased in boards, shingles, or shakes and usually in red or white cedar. You can also get it in pine, spruce, redwood, cypress, and Douglas fir. Wood provides some insulation, is easy to both repair and install, and is available in many styles of stained, primed, and unfinished. You can also get it with fire-retarding treatments. Solid wood must be painted or stained. This adds additional cost and future maintenance. Wood shingles typically cost $3 to $4 per square foot before the staining or painting cost.

Cedar Shingles Cedar shingles, often referred to as 'shakes', are made from natural cedar stained in shades of brown, gray, or other earthen tones. Shakes are most often used on traditional, ranch, historical, and vacation homes to blend with the natural rustic look around them.

Engineered or Composite Wood
If solid wood is too costly for you, there are alternative, engineered or composite wood products available. Products like plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), and hardboard are lower cost ($1.50 to $2.70 per square foot), but will not be equivalent to real wood. Plywood is normally the cheapest. It is most often sold in a reverse board-and-batten design. It is also easy to install and lasts the longest of the three alternatives mentioned. Plywood works best when installed on contemporary-style homes. OSB and hardboard are sold in 4 x 8 sheets molded to resemble clapboard. There are a variety of colors available in pre-primed or pre-finished.

Fiber Cement
For the appearance of wood, stucco, or masonry at lower cost than the real thing, fiber cement is strong and attractive as an equivalent alternative. The brand names of this material most known are HardiPlank(r) and HardiPanel(r). It is fireproof, resistant to rot, fungus, and termites, and can carry a warranty of up to 50 years. These are big perks if you live in an area that is very hot and humid.

The costs of this installed are reported to be less than the traditional masonry or synthetic stucco, equal to or less than hardboard siding, and more than vinyl siding. As always, size matters when it comes to your exterior.

Stucco Stucco is the most sturdy. It is basically covering your home with a layer of rock. Cement stucco is constructed of a small quantity of lime, Portland cement, and water. It is fine grained and attached to the house with a waterproof barrier paper, galvanized wire mesh, and metal flashings, which are devices that channel water to the exterior wall. Although stucco is strong, it does have a rigid makeup. If the wood frame beneath or the foundation were to move, the cement stucco could crack. To help avoid this, make sure the contractor frames the house with wood sheathing and allows it to dry for 60 days before the stucco is to be installed. The texture possibilities are limitless if you have a talented plasterer. If you plan to paint the stucco, use penetrating masonry stain because other paints may peel and end up being more costly. Traditional stucco has a low material cost, but is expensive to install ($12 to $16 per square foot).

Aluminum and Metal Siding
Aluminum and steel is more durable than vinyl. Like vinyl, aluminum and steel comes in a variety of colors. It is not as good of an insulator though and easily dents. It is also very difficult to repair. If you live in an area prone to hail or near acorn trees, metal may not be the best choice for you.

Thanks to new technology in the vinyl industry, the common stereotype of a "plastic" home has all but faded. Vinyl now offers more options: wood-like textures, shingles and shakes, deeper colors, and more trim designs. This makes vinyl quite a popular lower cost choice. Vinyl will not rot or flake because it is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Know that even the best vinyl will crack, split, and look dingy over time. Maintenance is low and easy; simply wash it with the garden hose. The cost is low at $1.50 to $2 per square foot. The problem with vinyl is practically no insulation, uneasy to repair, limited color choices, fading over time, and doesn't handle the weather well.

EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Stucco)
Synthetic stucco, also called EIFS (exterior insulated finish system) consist of a polymer-and-cement mixture, which is applied in two coats over rigid foam insulation and a fiberglass mesh. You might want to double think using this product, because since it came on the scene two decades or so ago it has been unable to successfully keep the water out. Water gets behind many EIFS systems and can't get out. What that means for you, is that your home will likely suffer some serious structural wood rot. Synthetic manufacturers are working on rectifying this problem by using special water management systems, which collect the water and divert it back to the exterior of the home before it suffers water damage. Being a new homeowner, this may be one worry you'll want skip. Synthetic stucco materials cost more than the real thing, but because it's easier to apply it costs less.

Vibrant exterior colors and wood interior looks have always been the 'in' style. People have begun looking at alternatives to this 'in' style. The exterior is what creates the first big impression, so people are now designing their exteriors for uniqueness, but also low maintenance. Vinyl tends to be the best choice. Most of the color palettes used for vinyl are similar and pale, but manufacturers are trying to continue expanding the options including brighter and deeper rich colors like forest green and barn red.

Cedar shingle looks have become available in vinyl. They look very close to real cedar. The nice thing about the look being vinyl is that they will not split, rot, flake, peel, or chip like real cedar. Almost all vinyl manufacturers now have this cedar replica.

Georgia-Pacific not only has vinyl and fiber cement to simulate real wood products, but they also market a real wood siding product. They use Catawba hardboard siding, which is 100% hard wood from pulp-grade wood chips pressed and bonded at high temperatures. The process also makes the wood weather resistant. With two coats of paint after installation, you won't have to paint it again for ten years, which is twice the amount of time traditional wood products will hold the paint.

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