Product Review - Siding Part 3

Less Common Materials

In our previous articles we looked at the most common cladding materials for our homes, lap siding, brick and stone. In this article we are looking at some of the less common materials including stucco/plasters, concrete, metal panels, corrugated metal, wood shingles and board and batten siding.

Stucco and plaster finishes are much more popular in the Southwest and in areas with higher humidity and precipitation. Stuccos and plasters are very durable and when sealed and painted correctly can outlast many other cladding materials that use concrete as the primary structural elements can have quality finished concrete expressed as exterior cladding as well. This usually has a very austere look and can be stained, bleached or textured. Another option is painted concrete masonry units. These are popular in many parts of the world but have never caught on in the US.

Metal siding, like finished concrete has similarly failed to develop a US following. This lack of adoption is in spite of the fact that corrugated metal or flat panel siding is durable, flexible and provides a unique appearance to your home. Flat metal panels work very well for homes with a modern architectural style, but may not be appropriate for more traditional forms. Corrugated metal is more versatile and depending on the type of metal and finish can “age” over time to add character to the exterior of your home.

Wood shingles and board and batten cladding have similar benefits and shortcomings to wood lap siding. Many home owners will use these finishes as accents to more traditional siding options. These siding options have long been more popular in the Northeast US.

The Options:

Material Cost Installation/Maintenance Negatives Environment
Stucco & Plasters
Reasonable cost. Can be a very labor intensive process requiring skilled professionals. Needs to be sealed correctly and maintained over time. Moisture issues need to be addressed during installation. Fading can occur if not properly installed. Durable product. Some stuccos and plasters are made from natural materials. Regional recipes allow stucco and plaster to be used nationwide from local materials. Can be breathable, allowing for healthier interior environments.
Concrete Low cost because it is typically an expression of the already existent structural system. Little additional labor above the installation of structure. Special finishing may be required for slabs to maintain quality exterior appearances. Often viewed as a lower quality exterior finish. Patches to damaged surfaces often detract from appearance. Concretes can now be made in environmentally friendly ways, reducing or even replacing portland cement content. Aggregates can be recycled content. The resulting products are strong, durable and flexible. Reduced material consumption because structure and cladding are the same material.
Metal Panels Higher cost, but can also be insulated, adding to the performance of the home. Skilled labor required. Manufacturers will often require certified installers. Maintenance is low. Austere appearances and uncommon in most regions. More applicable to commercial structures. Highly durable material. Some products are produced from recycled content and are also recyclable.
Corrugated Metal Lower cost than panels and most other siding options. Lower installation cost than most options. Comes in sheets that are attached to framing or sheathing. Low maintenance. Often viewed as a low end material and not accepted by many home owner associations. Very durable and flexible material. Can be made from recycled and recyclable materials. Outlasts most other exterior cladding materials.
Shingles (Shakes) Higher cost due to nature of small individual shingles. Requires skilled labor and increased installation time. Maintenance can be high due to splitting and damage to individual shingles. Expensive and labor intensive. Moisture issues need to be addressed during installation. Rot, insects, splitting and warping can also occur. Most shingles and shakes are cedar, a long lasting, durable and natural material. When FSC certified, shingles can be a very eco-friendly material.
Board and Batten Higher cost than lap siding but lower than shingles. Skilled labor to install, but similar to lap siding. Maintenance is dependent on species of wood and finish. Composite materials can also be used. Moisture issues need to be addressed during installation. Rot, insects, splitting and warping can also occur. Natural materials that are durable with proper maintenance. When FSC certified, shingles can be a very eco-friendly material. The use of composite materials can reduce maintenance and increase the life of the installation.

We highly recommend that you consider these materials with the same weight as lap siding and masonry options like brick and stone. A larger variety of exterior finishes will provide character and individuality to our homes, which otherwise risk becoming carbon copies in the “vinyl villages” that pervade our suburban landscapes.

Related Articles:
Product Review - Siding Part 1

Product Review - Siding Part 2