Wood Siding - An American Classic

by Brett Freeman

Wood siding has declined in popularity over the last two decades, a casualty of the emergence of vinyl and fiber cement siding products that are more durable and require less maintenance. Today, wood siding is used in only about five percent of new homes, but that share of the market has been steady for five years and seems unlikely to change. Why? Because synthetic or composite siding products only aspire to look like wood, and some people just won't be satisfied with anything less than the real thing.

Why wood?

Wood siding was the exterior of choice for American homeowners for most of the county's history and for good reason.  During much of that time, the U.S. was practically covered in trees. As a building exterior, wood has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it is undeniably attractive... it's durable if properly maintained, it's relatively economical and it's easy to work with and install.

Working against wood siding is that it requires a lot of maintenance; it is vulnerable to termites; and it doesn't last as long as brick, stucco, or more modern siding products. For purists, though, nothing compares to wood siding.

Wood Siding: Good versus Better

According to industry reports, installing wood siding costs about 30 percent more than vinyl, but slightly less than fiber cement siding. This can be true, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. Most wood siding is flat grain, meaning that it is cut more or less with the grain of the log. Vertical grain siding, on the other hand, is cut from the outside of the log in, across the grain. The result is a product that performs better: vertical grain siding is less prone to warping than flat grain; it holds paint better; and it is more durable. It also costs more, so while installing flat grain wood siding on your house may cost less than fiber cement, installing vertical grain siding costs more.

Installing Wood Siding

In most cases, you should hire a qualified siding installation contractor to put new wood siding on your home. This isn't because installation is particularly difficult, but rather because it is such a huge job. For those with the time and inclination, you can save 30 to 50 percent by installing the siding yourself.

If you decide to install wood siding yourself, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

  • First and foremost, make sure the old siding you are removing is free of hazardous materials. Depending on the age of your home, the old siding may contain asbestos or be covered in lead paint.
  • Next, make sure that you prime the wood siding on both sides and the edges. Many people make the mistake of forgetting to prime the new edges created when a piece of siding is cut to install.
  • Finally, make sure to install a new water barrier before installing the siding. Quality wood siding, properly installed and maintained, can last 50 years or more making it a very sound investment. Wood siding that is of inferior quality or poorly installed or cared for, however, can begin to fail in as little as 10 years!

About the Author: Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher and for a home improvement company and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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