Historically, wood was a highly available and relatively reliable building material for siding. However, siding manufactures and homeowners now have higher standards for which siding materials they prefer. Wood siding is being phased out because it’s not the most durable or reliable siding material. These days, contractors prefer stronger, more affordable materials like vinyl and fiber cement.
Below, we’ll explore the problems with wood siding in addition to popular alternatives to wood.
Why Should I Avoid Wood Siding?
While wood was adequate in the past, homeowners today expect their siding to last for decades with minimal maintenance, which means wood siding is not worth it to purchase and install. Here are some of the biggest cons of wood siding:
While wood siding was an affordable option in the past, it is much more expensive today. Compared to vinyl, wood is a much more costly siding option. Wood itself is also a more expensive material. Additionally, environmentalists no longer prefer wood due to the popularity of green design in the building industry.
The expenses continue past the materials and installation, as wood requires frequent repairs and can be expensive to maintain. Because wood is porous, it’s vulnerable to absorbing moisture over time and must be both protected and maintained to prevent mold, rotting, warping and other problems. Wood siding is also flammable, which can increase the cost of home insurance.
Needs Regular Repairs and Maintenance
Because wood is not as durable as other materials, it requires regular repairs and maintenance. Every four to nine years, wood needs to be resealed, painted or stained to maintain its durability and integrity. Additionally, wood siding should be cleaned once a year with a soft-bristled brush, as more aggressive cleaning methods like power washers can damage the wood.
Many people often hire a professional to help them with this time-consuming maintenance, which requires scraping and sanding away the old paint and cleaning the wood before applying a layer of primer and painting. While reapplying stains and sealants is a little bit easier, the wood still must be thoroughly cleaned before application.
Beyond regular maintenance, wood siding requires immediate repair after damages. Cracks and holes can allow moisture to enter your home, which can cause more problems with mold and structural integrity.
Inadequate Protection From the Elements
A major reason wood siding often requires more maintenance than more modern materials is its failure to protect your house from weather and pests. Inclement weather and even daily temperature fluctuations can cause wood siding to warp, distort and potentially crack.
Too much or not enough moisture and fluctuations in heat and cold can cause the wood to swell, expand and contract, which can cause gaps between boards and around your windows and doors. If wood siding is installed on a house in a hot, dry climate, it can essentially bake in the hot sun and deteriorate, leaving the home vulnerable to water penetration. On the other hand, if a climate experiences a lot of rain, water damage to the wood can cause mold and mildew to spread both inside and outside the house.
Wood is also vulnerable to pests like termites, ants and carpenter bees. People who have wood siding often have to schedule regular pest-control inspections, which can be costly.
Not as Durable as Other Materials
Even if properly maintained, wood siding only lasts about two decades. While wood siding could last longer if a homeowner is especially careful with maintenance and repairs, modern siding materials are much more likely to survive for several decades with minimal maintenance.
As previously mentioned, wood is a porous material that water easily penetrates. As wood softens due to repeated moisture exposure, the siding will begin to rot or grow mold, compromising the integrity of the structure and requiring replacement boards.
Requires Extensive Research
There are hundreds of wood species to choose from. However, not every type of wood has the same quality. Plus, wood siding can also be treated with heat or chemicals to change the way it performs. Because of the plethora of wood options to choose from and all the problems with wood siding, deciding which wood to use for your siding will require extensive research.
For example, you might consider using tropical hardwood for siding, as this type of wood has fewer issues with warping and distortion and is more durable. However, these woods are expensive and difficult to work with, adding to installation costs. On the other hand, softwoods are easier to work with, more available and less expensive than hardwoods, but they don’t last nearly as long.
What Are Alternatives to Wood Siding?
Now that you know the disadvantages of wood siding, you’re probably wondering about alternatives to wood siding. The three best alternative materials to wood siding are vinyl, insulated vinyl and fiber cement.
Vinyl siding consists of a thermoplastic made from a synthetic resin called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is much more durable than wood siding and is one of the most affordable and popular siding options, lasting up to 40 years. Additionally, it’s one of the lowest-maintenance siding options you can choose, requiring only a yearly washing.
Vinyl siding is better than wood siding because it’s more resistant to weather, pests and other hazards. PVC also contains additives to protect it against UV rays and help it resist fading. However, vinyl siding is not fireproof, and UV rays from the sun can fade and discolor vinyl over time. Vinyl also is notorious for becoming brittle in the cold and expanding and contracting with differing humidity levels.
Insulated Vinyl Siding
While slightly more expensive than simple vinyl siding, insulated vinyl siding is enhanced with a layer of rigid contoured foam, further supporting the siding panel. Insulated vinyl siding also comes in richer, darker colors that were previously unavailable due to their susceptibility to high temperatures. The foam also provides a crisper, sharper look to imitate the appearance of natural wood.
Insulated vinyl siding better protects your house from warping and everyday hazards such as a rogue baseball or a rock thrown from the lawnmower. Insulated vinyl siding helps to resist warping by providing a supportive layer for your siding. This reinforced siding will also protect against moisture damage, pest infestations and outside noise.
Additionally, insulated vinyl can lower the cost of your utility bills because of its energy-saving qualities, making the lifetime costs of insulated vinyl siding even lower than regular vinyl siding.
When deciding between vinyl and insulated vinyl siding, ask yourself the following questions:
- How long are you going to live in the house? If you’re planning to stay in your house for many years, insulated vinyl siding is best due to its damage-resistant qualities. However, if your current house isn’t your forever home or you are buying an investment to sell, you might prefer non-insulated vinyl siding.
- What is your budget? Insulated vinyl is more expensive than standard vinyl because of increased materials, higher shipping costs, more color options and more complicated installations. However, if you can afford the higher up-front costs of insulated vinyl, you’ll save money in the long run, thanks to insulated vinyl’s energy-saving qualities.
Fiber Cement Siding
Since the 1980s, homeowners have increasingly chosen fiber cement siding. In 2019, one in five single-family homes in the U.S. chose fiber cement siding — the most families to choose this type of siding since the Census started collecting data on fiber cement. Unlike vinyl siding, fiber cement is made from natural fibers, consisting of cellulose fiber, sand and cement that binds the materials together. Because of the cellulose, fiber cement is much more malleable than regular concrete.
Fiber cement siding is much more durable and requires much less maintenance than wood. One study from the National Association of Homebuilders suggests that fiber cement siding lasts for a home’s lifetime. Plus, fiber cement increases the resale value of your house, and you’re more likely to recoup initial upfront expenses from the installation.
Regardless of your climate, fiber cement is weather-resistant and does not fade or crack. It also protects against the common culprits that destroy wood siding, including moisture, dents, fires, settling and shifting, mold, fungi and pests. You can even get fiber cement siding that mimics the rustic, natural appearance of wood siding.
Choose Sunshine Contracting for Siding Replacements in Northern Virginia
If you’re looking to replace your old wood siding, Sunshine Contracting has the materials, professional team and experience you’ll need for siding that lasts. Since 1993, homeowners in Northern Virginia have relied on Sunshine Contracting to help with their exterior remodeling needs. Unlike companies that subcontract their installations, we use the same crew for every installation and stand behind our work with a 10-year Labor and Workmanship Warranty. Contact us today to schedule your free quote!