Exterior Siding Buying Guide

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Your home's exterior siding is one of its most important building materials. It keeps your home protected...

Your home's exterior siding is one of its most important building materials. It keeps your home protected against the Atlanta heat and intense storms, defines your home's style and has a major impact on the value of your home. If you are considering replacing your house's old siding, there are several popular options to choose from, each with different initial investments and long-term care requirements. Before you get your heart set on a particular siding, it's a good idea to consider the pros and cons of the most popular types of siding.

Wood siding

Wood siding has been a long-standing staple for homeowners, mainly due to its low price tag and natural appearance. Wood siding is available in many species and grades. How you plan to finish it usually determines the type of wood you will need and your out-of-pocket expense. For example, if you plan to paint or use an opaque stain, you can get a lower quality grade of wood than if you plan to leave the wood a natural shade.

The pros: Lets be honest, there is no siding that compares with the natural beauty of wood. Wood siding is very easy to cut and shape, and it's fairly easy to install. In fact, it's one of the few types of siding that doesn't need specialized skills and tools to install. It is also the least expensive of the siding types, with the average cost being as low as $1 per square foot, depending on the type of wood you choose.

The cons: Wood siding requires more maintenance than the other type of exterior sidings available today, which is the main reason it has lost its popularity. On average, wood siding will need to be repainted every five years and re-stained every three years. Some types, such as pine, are prone to rot, and most types are fairly ineffective in regards to insulation. In some areas of Georgia, it can also be challenging to keep insects and other critters from taking up residence in the wood siding.

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is the most popular siding available today, largely due to its low-cost, ease of installation and low-maintenance upkeep. It's durable, able to handle all types of climates and weather, and available in a plethora of colors and styles to fit every homeowner's unique demands. Vinyl siding typically costs between $2 and $3 per square foot, plus installation.

The pros: Vinyl siding is lightweight and yet extremely durable. It is made to hold its shape in high heat and winds and doesn't dent like metal siding. Vinyl siding can be installed right on top of your home's existing siding in most cases. It will last 30 to 50 years, and many manufacturers offer lifetime transferable warranties if it is professionally installed.

The cons: Unlike other types of siding, vinyl siding provides no insulation unless you add insulation, such as foam backing, at an additional cost. The look is not often as finished as some homeowners may like, as trim pieces must be placed at corners, windows and doors. Seems will show at the ends where panels overlap unless you are willing to spend up (about 30 percent) to cover extra-long panels.

Fiber-cement siding

Fiber-cement composite siding is gaining popularity due to its durability and low-maintenance. It allows greater control over the look of the home, as it's molded to look like wood, stucco and masonry. It tends to be a bit pricier both in material costs and installation, averaging about $5 to $9 per square foot installed.

The Pros: Because fiber-cement siding is available molded in so many styles, there are many more options for trim and finishing than are available with vinyl or wood siding. Fiber-cement siding also typically comes pre-finished, meaning you will never need to paint your home. Should you tire of the color, it does take paint well. You may also get a discount on your homeowners insurance for choosing fiber-cement siding, as it's fire resistant and some insurance companies consider it masonry.

The cons: Installation of fiber-cement siding requires a professional team. The material is extremely heavy, and all previous siding must be removed from the home before the installation, which can drive up the installation price. You can expect to spend about 50 percent more to have fiber-cement installed over wood or vinyl, but you can expect a decent warranty to come along with the installation.

Should you do it yourself, or call in a professional?

Whether you choose to install your new siding yourself or call in the pros depends on the type of siding you choose and what type of siding is already on your house. Some older types of siding have asbestos, and are best left to the professionals to remove and dispose of properly.

According to the experts, fiber-cement siding and foam-backed vinyl siding add such value to your home that you can expect to recoup up to 80 percent of what you spend on materials and professional installation should you decide to resell your home. With statistics like that, it's hard not to justify sitting back and sipping your lemonade while the experts do the work.

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