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Home Remodeling How To Series: Exterior House Siding

Written by JD Esajian

By JD Esajian

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First let’s define the term; a surface forming the outside of or bounding a thing. In this case the “thing” is a house. Now that is a fairly simple definition and does not emphasize the importance of what house siding actually does. Siding is meant to protect a building from the adverse effects of weather. It is essential to keeping out moisture and extreme temperatures and to maintaining the longevity of the house. Not only is siding vital to the integrity of the house but it is so important in the overall “curb appeal” as well. We all know how valuable curb appeal is when selling a house. The first thing potential buyers will see is the exterior siding. I can tell you from experience, if buyers pull up and see an ugly exterior, it won’t matter how nice the inside is.

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Exterior House Siding Material Selection

House siding comes in a variety of styles and shapes. Here is a list of the most common:

  • Wood shingles and shakes are easy to install. However, they are time-consuming and expensive.
  • Plank siding (also known as wood siding) offer a pleasing, natural appearance at moderate cost. Clapboard is a common example. Plank siding requires more maintenance than most other alternative siding products and can be a fire hazard. Wood siding may also warp or crack. Common woods include cedar, western pines and redwood.
  • Panel siding (such as plywood) is inexpensive and easy to install. Unfortunately, it is relatively unattractive. T1-11 is one of the most common types of plywood.
  • Fiber cement looks like wood. It comes pre primed, has no imperfections and will not shrink. It is less expensive and more stable than wood. However, nail holes are more visible, so it is particularly important that all nails are galvanized and countersunk. Like wood, it requires painting.
  • Vinyl is a plastic product that typically resembles wood. It is probably the most common siding in new homes. Because it does not require paint, vinyl needs little maintenance, although it does need to be replaced every 20-30 years. It hides scratches and other minor damage well. It is relatively easy to replace and has a high ignition rate, which means that it burns less than half as fast as most woods. It is easy and fast to install.
  • Aluminum is similar to vinyl. Over time, however, it requires more maintenance, as it is susceptible to dents and requires repainting. When repainting, it is important to prime the siding with primer specifically for that type of siding.
  • Stucco is an attractive, long-lasting siding option. It is expensive, however, and can develop problems over time. It is more common in warmer climates, such as California and Florida

As you can see there are many different types of exterior siding material. The final selection, more times than not, will be determined by region and price.

Exterior House Siding Terms and Definitions

These are the key terms that you will use most often when talking about exterior siding

  • Square = In siding terms, one square is equal to 100 square feet of siding, or a 10′ x 10′ surface area.
  • Starter Strip = Vertical base trim that starts the siding from the base.
  • J-Channels = Used to trim out the ends of siding panels where they meet a door or window & to cover cut edges of panels around windows and under eaves.
  • Solid Soffit = Panels that conceal the eave of the roof that have no ventilation.
  • Vented Soffit = Panels that breathe and control moisture and allow for air flow through the eaves.
  • Coil = Sheets of aluminum to be bent on sheet metal-brake to wrap doors and windows and all other trim.
  • Outside Corner = This is a channel molded into each side of the post to receive the end of the siding, in this case used for all outside corners of house.
  • Inside Corner = Same as outside corner, but designed for all inside corner of houses exterior.

It is safe to say the exterior siding is one of the most important components of any house. Structurally it provides a barrier from elements and visibly it will define the exterior for years to come. If chosen correctly it will protect your house day in and day out. If you plan on selling your home, exterior siding can add so much in the way of “curb appeal”. Think of siding in this way; it is that warm down coat you wear in the dead of winter (for visual see me on the season 3 premier of “Flip This House”). It is also that tight t shirt you wear in the summer to show off your biceps (for visual on this watch for Than Merrill in the months of July and August).

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