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Francis Guertin

by Francis Guertin Renovation Advisor| Reno-Assistance

Reno Blog / / Choosing Your Exterior Siding: Material Pros & Cons
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Choosing Your Exterior Siding: Material Pros & Cons

Exterior Siding

Planning on changing your home’s siding to give it new look? There are so many siding options out there. Which might actually make picking one difficult! Whether it be due to texture or colour, the different types of material can easily change the appearance of your building. Before getting started, we suggest getting in touch with your city to see what kind of rules and regulations exist for your municipality – or neighbourhood – when it comes to house siding

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, your building’s envelope plays an important protective role by adding an extra layer use as protection from extreme weather conditions and UV rays. Our experts spoke with siding contractors and gathered all the information you need to know about various siding options, including their price, their lifespans, mistakes to avoid, and much more. 

Engineered Wood Siding (CanExel)

Wood fiber is fairly popular as it is used to replicate the look wood has without being as costly. This material is also often called “composite wood” or even “oriented standard board”, although the technology and finishing is a little different. It’s also commonly called CanExel or Maibec, brands that manufacture this product. It’s important to keep in mind that products like CanExel aren’t only wood fiber. CanExel is made up of lignocellulosic fibers (lignine, hemicellulose, and vegetable cellulose). Visually, engineered wood is almost identical to that of real wood, with grooves engraved on its surface. It’s Canadian’s favoured material because it looks more sophisticated than vinyl. As for environmentally friendly siding options, engineered wood is considered one of the best ones out there, and it can last you upwards of 30 years! 

Pros of Engineered Wood Siding

  • Resists to extreme weather fluctuations;
  • Available in a variety of colours;
  • Easy to maintain (compared to wood);
  • Durable.

Cons of Engineered Wood Siding

  • Difficult to install;
  • More expensive than vinyl.

Image sources : CanExel, Maibec

Steel Siding (MAC)

MAC (architectural metal) siding is a essentially galvanized steel cladding. We call this material MAC because it was commercialized by a company with the same name. Visually, it resembles wood the same way CanExel does. It’s a highly durable product and rather easy to install by a siding contractor. However, people tend to lean towards getting CanExel siding as MAC is almost twice as expensive. 

Pros of Steel Siding

  • Durable;
  • Little to no maintenance.

Cons of Steel Siding

  • More expensive than other similar products;
  • Heavy. 

Image sources : Mac

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl or PVC is one of the most common siding options used these days. This is all thanks to its low cost and that it comes in a variety of colours and textures. As opposed to other materials, like aluminum and engineered wood, vinyl isn’t painted. The colour of your chosen vinyl is built into the material – meaning it goes all the way through. So, if it gets scratched, it’s likely to not even show. You can also find foam reinforced vinyl on the market. It’s about 15% more expensive, however, you save on your energy bills in the long run. The greatest downfall of this product is that it’s a petroleum-based and uses chlorine, making it the least eco-friendly option. It’s lifespan is of upwards of 40 years. 

Pros of Vinyl Siding

  • Very affordable;
  • Resists to impact and scratches;
  • Great variety of colours available;
  • Resists to parasites and mold.

Cons of Vinyl Siding

  • Not highly resistant against extreme weather conditions;
  • Darker colours fade out over time;
  • Made of non-renewable resources;
  • Low resistance to fire.

Aluminum Siding

Because of its high resistance to extreme weather conditions and its ability to remain intact for years, aluminum siding really stands out against its competitors. What’s great about this siding option is that it comes in a variety of colours as well – allowing you to pick a colour you like and that looks great on your home. However, you’ll need to keep in mind that aluminum can easily scratch and dent. Though, given how light it is, people tend to use it as siding for the upper level floors, making its low shock resistance unimportant. As for its lifespan, aluminum siding can last upwards of 25 years. Aesthetically, however, it might need to be repainted in that time frame. 

Pros of Aluminum Siding

  • Resist to extreme weather conditions;
  • Durable;
  • Variety of colours and motifs available.

Cons of Aluminum Siding 

  • Low resistance to shocks;
  • Can be noisy (rain or strong winds).

Masonry Siding

This kind of siding is extremely popular. It gives your home an elegant look and increases its value. Not only is brick aesthetically pleasing, it’s also highly resistant to extreme weather fluctuations and is a great firewall. Just like fiber cement, it cannot be contaminated by parasites or mold, and requires little to no maintenance. Brick walls only need their mortar joints maintained. Clay, calcite, concrete and self-supporting bricks (no mortar needed) are also available. The most common type of brick used on Canadian homes is a clay one. Though, it’s important to find a supplier with quality bricks. Their porosity can dry the mortar and a light layer can be apparent on the surface of the brick (efflorescence). If you opt for brick or stone siding, make sure they’re installed at least 8 inches off the ground. otherwise your wall can deteriorate prematurely. 

Masonry doesn’t only include bricks. It also includes stones, natural stones, reconstituted stones and concrete stones. They tend to be more expensive than brick, but are more durable. Masonry is great if you’re looking for a soundproofing option. However, the statement that masonry acts as great insulation is false. In fact, its insulation factor is of only R-0.4, whereas other siding, like that of engineered wood, is around R-0.8. Though, it shouldn’t be much of a worry as when picking out a siding option, you’re likely to do so for its aesthetic, durability, etc. Insulation is assured by all the sub-layers installed and not by the siding option chosen. Masonry can last upwards of 75 years. Though, for that to be the case, mortar joints will need to be fixed or redone after 20-25 years. 

Pros of Masonry

  • Resist to extreme weather conditions;
  • Very durable;
  • Great acoustic performance. 

Cons of Masonry

  • Repointing needs to be done;
  • Costly;
  • Building structure needs to be strong enough to support its weight.

Wood siding

This kind of cladding is typically chosen for cottages and cabins in northern areas of Quebec and Ontario. Note that it’s possible this siding option isn’t permitted in your municipality.

There are two kinds of wood sidings: chemically treated wood & roasted wood. Roasted wood is essentially wood panels that have been heated in an oven in order to remove as much humidity as possible from the material. It undergoes this process to increase its ability to resist to mold, and it’s likely to have a darker brown tone as a result. Whether you choose to go with chemically treated wood or roasted wood, it’s important to pick the right wood essence as each kind moves (expands and contracts) differently. For instance, for poplar wood, it’s suggested to limit its panel size to 6 inches as it can expand quite a lot with temperature fluctuations. 

Unfortunately, although wood has an aesthetic appeal, it has many downsides. In fact, it isn’t all that resistant to extreme weather conditions, is difficult to maintain, isn’t ideal as a firewall an doesn’t resist to parasites and mold. Wood siding has a lifespan that can range anywhere between 25 and 55 years, all depending on how well it’s maintained. Rough wood shingles need to be re-stained every 15 years, whereas smooth shingles need be stained every 5 years. Producing wood siding requires very little resources and creates only a little grey matter. 

Pros of Wood Siding

  • Production requires very little resources (low environmental impact)

Cons of Wood Siding

  • Does not resist well to extreme weather conditions;
  • Requires a lot of maintenance;
  • Can turn grey with time. 

Acrylic Siding

Acrylic siding is made of an expanded polystyrene insulator, a reinforcing mesh, and an adhesive material that is then covered with a synthetic plaster. It’s commonly mistaken for stucco which is made of cement, sand and water. Acrylic siding , also known as EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) has a controversial reputation. Although it’s extremely popular in other countries, many Canadian homes have had water damage, mold, and other issues with this kind of siding. The issues themselves might not be caused by the material itself, but rather the installation technique. In fact, before 2004, most EIFS sidings were installed without a drainage cavity (gap for air circulation) that allowed water and humidity to make its way out of the wall. Therefore, homes with wood framing encountered many issues. 

Nowadays, this material is much better than it used to be. For instance, manufacturers, like Adex, require a double barrier and a drainage cavity. However, acrylic has become more difficult to install and its insulating properties are becoming similar to those of other siding options – making it less or similarly appealing than other siding materials. Though, acrylic is a great solution to covering concrete walls, which may be why you may have noticed the material as siding on triplex buildings. It’s available in multiple colors and textures, making it a viable aesthetic option. EIFS’s lifespan averages 25 years. 

Pros of Acrylic Siding

  • Watertight;
  • Many colours and finishes available.

Cons of Acrylic Siding

  • Difficult to install;
  • Sensitive to structural movement – can crack;
  • Does not react well to extreme temperature fluctuations. 

SureTouch Siding

Made of brick and stone that’s embedded into a polystyrene mold, this siding was originally created to be used indoors. Although its installation is fairly easy and its look appealing, SureTouch isn’t recommended by our contractors as an exterior siding option. Just like acrylic, it does not have a drainage cavity, making it prone to mold. 

Pros of SureTouch

  • Brick and stone imitation;
  • Not as think, nor heave as masonry.

Cons of SureTouch

  • Made for indoors, not recommended as exterior siding.

Fiber Cement Siding

Well installed, fiber cement siding is incredibly durable. It’s also very versatile when it comes to its look. Although it’s often found as 4′ x 8′ cement panels, this material can also be found in panels of 5 to 12 inches. Also, it can be purchase with a smooth finish or a textured one similar to wood. 

Fiber cement hasn’t always had the best reputation as a siding solution for homes. In fact, “fiber cement” tends to be broadly used to mean a variety of material fibers mixed together with some cement.Typically, it’s actually made up of a cellulose fiber product and Portland cement, but some also contain ashes and other composite materials. Essentially, you’ll need to make sure you have a trustworthy supplier with years of experience when opting to get fiber cement siding. James Hardie is a rather popular brand. It’s also important to get a supplier that cooks the colours directly onto the material as opposed to spraying the panels with paint after the cement has dried. Your fiber cement’s colour stability is much higher with the first colouring method. If you have a great quality material, you’re looking at a lifespan of up to 40 years. 

Pros of Fiber Cement

  • Fire resistant;
  • Resists to decay, impacts, and parasites.

Cons of Fiber Cement

  • Requires a lot of effort to install;
  • Can easily crack if of low quality.

Image sources : James Hardie

Cost of each siding material 

Changing your home’s siding is sure to cost you upwards of $20,000, and that’s only for a tiny bungalow and vinyl siding. Often, people opt for masonry on the facade and vinyl for the other walls. It looks good and costs much less than having all walls covered in masonry. For instance, a 30′ x 20′ two-storey home opting for the same siding options will cost at least $36,000.

You’ll also need to take into account that when you change your building’s siding material, other elements need to be changed as well, like soffits. Demolition costs, debris disposal costs, and other costs will need to be considered as well. Also, if you plan on going from vinyl siding to brick siding, you’ll need to make sure your building’s structure is strong enough to withstand the changes. 

To know the pricing details about each siding option and other elements to consider, take a look at our exterior siding cost article

Installation

When changing your siding, you usually need to consider everything found underneath the surface. In fact, your wall must have many different layers installed – all with their own protective properties – before even installing the exterior siding material. This ensures that your building is properly protected. Of course, depending on the chosen siding, different protective materials can be used. However, there should at least be furring, an air-barrier, bracing and insulation. There will also need to be an insulation layer installed closer to the interior of your home. 

We suggest you get your siding installed by a qualified siding contractor. It’ll greatly reduce your risk of water infiltration, which can easily happen with poor installation. Plus, each materials has its own installation techniques. So, not only do you need a siding professional, but a qualified one at that! Note that even if a contractor you speak with is great at installing vinyl, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any good at installing CanExel siding. Your chosen contractor will still need to follow manufacturers’ guidelines when working with a specific material. 

It’s quite alarming knowing that if water makes its way through your walls and in between protective layers that it’ll go unnoticed and will produce mold. In fact, if rain water makes its way through a torn air-barrier, it can take only 72 hours for mold to grow! Though, signs of mold can take anywhere between 10, 20, or even 30 years before surfacing! Prevent such an issue by ensuring your siding is properly installed. 

Siding mistakes to avoid

We often hear of common practices people have with their home’s siding. However, some of these can be harmful to your building’s health. Here are some siding mistakes to avoid: 

  1. Painting your brick wall: it is strongly discouraged to paint your brick walls. Brick and mortar absorb and release humidity. By painting your brick, the wall becomes watertight. So, any humidity that builds up inside your home cannot make its way out, causing your brick and mortar to begin decaying. 
  2. Over-insulating: another common mistake is over insulating the outer layers of your siding – between the siding and the structural bracing. Your home will be extremely water- and airtight, but just like painting bricks, it won’t let humidity out. 
  3. Horizontal furring at the bottom of the wall: for many years, contractors used to install furring horizontally at the bottom of a wall or under windows. Horizontal wood slats create a barrier that stops water from making its way down the wall.
  4. Blocking weep holes: many of our clients have blocked the holes they find in their brick walls believing there shouldn’t be any holes. Careful! These holes are there on purpose. They allow any water stuck in the wall to make its way without damaging the wall. 

Choose the right contractor for your renovation with our guide

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Ready to get started? 

Now that you have a better understanding of each siding material, as well as their pros and cons, it’s time to get in touch with one of our Renovation AdvisorsCall us or fill out our form and they’ll help you get started with your exterior siding project. All of our contractors have been 360° Verified, so you’re sure to work with a highly qualified professional. 

Happy Renovations Start Here! 

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