If properly maintained, wood – lap siding, vertical boards, shingles, and shakes – will last for generations, and there’s nothing else like it for a rich look. However, the hassle of protecting and maintaining wood drives many homeowners to other siding choices. Wood expands and contracts with the seasons, so it is prone to splitting and cracking. It is also prone to mildew in humid parts of the country.
Redwood, cedar, and cypress stand up well to rot and insects. These woods can be left to weather in benign climates, but most species require regular maintenance – you will need to restain or repaint every few years.
In addition to offering siding that looks like cedar boards, vinyl companies offer such decorative details as trim that mimics fish-scale shingles and replications of historic wood clapboard siding. Today’s vinyl siding looks better than ever (particularly seamless vinyl), resists assaults from the wind, and won’t rot, dent, flake, scratch, or blister. It can become brittle in very cold weather.
Steel and aluminum siding, offered in a variety of prefinished colors, comes in vertical (such as board-and-batten) and lap styles. Many brands offer profiles and textures that are almost indistinguishable from wood. Most of today’s metal sidings are dent- and wind-resistant and require little maintenance.
Engineered wood and hardboard
Made up of bits of wood that are bonded together with special resins and treated with fungus repellents and insecticides, these products often stand up to moisture, mildew, and termites better than wood. Products come in both lap and vertical siding styles and are easy to install. Engineered materials stand up well to the harmful effects of the sun, bad weather, abrasion, and chemicals.
Hardboard is considered the granddaddy of engineered wood products. It is usually composed of pressed wood fibers. It comes bare, primed, or finished. A knot- and grain-free alternative to solid lumber, hardboard resists splitting, cracking, hail, and wind damage.