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Exterior Building Materials

The selection of exterior building materials is made up of several factors, a couple of important ones are personal preference for the aesthetic of the design, and the climate where the home is located.

A home’s exterior siding materials provide the first impression of the home from the street, it emphasizes the home’s quality, craftsmanship, and contributes to its general upkeep. While attractiveness is generally the main reason for choosing a particular siding option, every possibility comes with pros and cons. No matter what exterior siding you choose, consider price, versatility, aesthetics, energy efficiency, installation and weather resistance when choosing your exterior siding. Exterior material choice can also augment and improve an architectural style. Mediterranean homes look well dressed in stucco, Georgian style in brick, and cottage in wood siding and so on.

Here are some of the most common home exteriors and the pros and cons associated with each.

Natural Stone Cladding

This type of siding is one of the most luxurious of materials. It is found most prevalent on estates, and high-end residences. Some smaller homes use this material mixed with stucco or brick for decoration.

Real stone can be used as accent with other building materials. In the case below, it is used for window surrounds, wall caps, and the entrance archway to lend elegance to the stucco exterior.

Natural or Cultured Stone (Rock)

Stone siding is made up of actual rocks or stones and can withstand extreme weather conditions. Stone houses have an increased cost. Stone veneers can cut costs with the same look.

Stone veneer is a popular way to add the look of full-sized natural stone to a home's décor. While stone veneer may cost less and be quicker to install, natural stone works better for some projects. Personal taste can be the final element in choosing between stone veneer and natural stone.

Brick or Brick Veneer

Brick siding has been a home staple for centuries and it tends to be a favorite among homeowners. Brick is usually laid outside a wooden structural frame. It can generally last a lifetime, rarely requiring patching or repairs, and it typically always looks the same as it ages, aside from minor fading in sunlight.

Brick and brick veneer can be used both inside and outside the home to great effect. The advantage of Brick Veneer is that it can be used on homes that do not have the structure to support the full weight of full brick, it is also a wonderful alternative for interior walls of a home. Frequently seen in wine rooms on ceilings and as accent walls.

Brick walls heat up slowly and stay warm for long periods of time. This is great during short periods of hot weather, but during a long, hot summer, this can quickly make your home uncomfortable. Insulating the brick walls will make it cost more initially but it will stop heat transfer to the home during summer and prevent heat loss during winter.Brick is virtually maintenance free, will not burn, is energy efficient, can block sound, and are excellent for resale. The sound blocking qualities and the warm, cozy look of bricks means that it can be a very efficient design element. However, they add a lot of weight to the foundation, is expensive to repair and can be difficult to match after several years because it fades after time, and it is difficult to change the look of the brick if you tire of it, other than painting it. Brickwork is cheaper, easier, and quicker to lay than stone, and is actually stronger (for a given thickness of wall).

Wood Siding

Wood siding is available in an assortment of different styles including bevel siding, shakes, shingles, and board & batten siding. As an exterior siding option, wood is not as costly as stone or brick; however, it does require more maintenance (the dreaded painting). Wood is the classic choice for exterior siding and its beauty cannot be paralleled no matter what the cons may be.

Wood adds to the charm of the home. It is available in different forms like oak, maple, cherry and cedar. It ages naturally and is affordable. However, it requires more maintenance than aluminum and vinyl.

Maintenance-Wood needs the most maintenance from any siding type. But with good maintenance, it could last for about 30 years. The key to its longevity is in the maintenance. For example, it will need to be repainted or refinished every 2 years or so. Plus, special attention needs to be given in determining if any special finishes need to be applied, such as mold or algae repellents in the case of mold growth. Further, the best way to prevent damage, as well as mold growth is to perform a thorough check of it at least twice a year and to power wash it once a year.

Termites-Wood siding always runs the risk of termite invasion. You can prevent this by choosing a type that has been protected with preservatives. Another option is to choose cedar or redwood hardwoods as these have the least issues with termites.

Style Choice-Besides for the natural beauty of wood itself, it can be installed in such a way where you can decide on the exact way of installation. For example, you can interlock or overlap the siding, and you can run in various directions.

Cedar Shingle Siding

Also called “shakes,” cedar shingle siding is usually found in the New England area among Cape Cod homes. The cedar shingles can be stained in a variety of earth-tone colors. It is more resistant to insects than many other softwoods, but it does have a distinctive odor. Some people love to smell it, but others are sensitive to it. If you consider this wood (inside or out) you'll want to test a sample to see if you can tolerate it.

Pros: Can last up to 30 years; doesn’t buckle or curl.

Cons: Often viewed as high maintenance since shingles need treatment about every five years to prevent rot or mildew; not the best choice for regions where fires are more common.

Wood Clapboard Siding

Wood, one of the oldest types of siding, is often used on historic houses. There are several options available for wood clapboard, including cedar, spruce, redwood, cypress, and pine. The cost depends on which type of wood is used (e.g., redwood and cedar tend to be more expensive than pine and spruce).

Pros: A renewable material known to be energy-efficient. Can be painted nearly any color.

Cons: High maintenance, requiring repainting about every seven years or so; regularly needs to be power-washed, stained, and sealed. Also requires caulking to prevent water damage. Can be susceptible to rot and termites. Susceptible to fire and can increase homeowners insurance.

Stucco Siding

Stucco is known for being low maintenance and versatile because it washes clean with water and can be shaped and textured for many different architectural styles. Stucco is made from cement added to sand or lime with newer mixtures tinted different colors to avoid painting.

Traditional stucco siding can create a visually appealing exterior and complements Mediterranean and Spanish style architecture. It is made from a combination of limestone, sand, water and Portland cement, and is applied on top of a wire framework or metal screening like chicken wire.

One of the biggest advantages of traditional stucco siding is that it is a long term investment. It is durable and strong, and can last for a very long time. Another major pro of traditional stucco is its strength, making it more likely to resist earthquake damage. Additionally a benefit of traditional stucco is that it is fire proof. Traditional stucco has the added pro of offering good heat insulation, keeping homes cool when located in hot climates.

A disadvantage to stucco is the need to repaint the surface, repainting will be needed every few years. To help increase the life of the paint, homeowners should use an elasticity type paint that can penetrate the stucco, rather than just coat the surface of the material this will move with the settling of the home and cause less stress cracks to show on the surface.

With stucco construction it is a fact that it can look like a plain, flat finish from a distance unless you heavily texture it. This is one disadvantage that cannot be overcome. As individuals get closer to the home, the texture of the stucco becomes visible. To counteract this negative effect, some individuals may choose a neutral stucco color with high contrast colors in shutters, and corners and other features of the house to create an appealing view from a distance.

Cement Fiber (Hardie Plank)

One of the latest developments in siding, Cement Fiber is a “green” siding option made from recycled materials. It has a variety of finishes and can be made to resemble wood or stucco. It is made of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers.

Vinyl, Polyurethane, or Aluminum Cladding

Polyurethane is flexible and rust and mildew resistant. It is lightweight, yet durable. It is easy to install. It can be ideal for cladding one part of the house, instead of cladding the entire home’s exterior.

Vinyl is easy to install. It comes in various colors and different embossed patterns. It has high shock and scratch resistance capability. It is lightweight and affordable .

Aluminum is one of the best exterior cladding materials, which are available in a wide range of colors and patterns. It is durable and resists climate changes. It can be painted. The drawback is it is less shock resistant, when compared to vinyl.

Vinyl Siding

This is the most widely used siding today and one of the most affordable options. Vinyl siding is made from a durable plastic and is known as low maintenance, although it benefits from being power-washed at least once a year. There are abundant vinyl siding options to choose from, and some even resemble cedar shakes or wood clapboard siding.

Pros: Doesn’t require painting; can withstand many weather extremes. The pros of choosing vinyl siding include low maintenance, inexpensive and easy to install.

Cons: Siding could warp or buckle if not properly installed; any damage will require the entire panel to be replaced. Cons of vinyl siding are it is fragile, prone to warping and breaking and is not eco-friendly. Sometimes traps moisture, which can lead to mildew.

Aluminum Cladding

Aluminum siding can look very similar to vinyl. You can tell whether a home has vinyl or aluminum by tapping on the siding aluminum has a hollow, metallic sound. It can come in a variety of textures, such as wood shake and shingle style. It’s widely used today, often for trim pieces along the exterior since it’s a flexible building material.

Pros: Easy to maintain; durable, fireproof, and low-maintenance. Usually low to moderate in price. Termite-proof, rustproof, and waterproof.

Cons: Denting is a common problem, and it can be difficult to repair or replace. Noisy, particularly when raining or hailing. Scratches may reveal the metal surface under the paint.


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