The type of siding on a house’s exterior can have a big impact on it’s appearance and amount of upkeep required, so adding new siding can be a worthwhile home improvement project. New kinds of siding systems and materials come out every year, so your options are many. The latest wave of exterior siding choices add a green aspect, some containing high proportions of recycled and re-used materials, some being recyclable.
Is this a good DIY project? It could be, depending on your situation. Installing siding yourself is a time-consuming job, especially if you will be removing the old siding or cladding from the house. With masonry materials or stucco siding, removal is laborious and messy job that will almost certainly take longer than you think it will. Vinyl and metal sidings are the simplest to install, hardboard panel siding is simple as well, with lumber board siding and wood shakes a bit less so, and stucco, brick and stone the most tricky. Short descriptions of each type follow.
Metal and Vinyl
The lowest maintenance sidings you can install are metal and vinyl. Not only are they maintenance-free, but they come with factory applied finishes, so no painting or sealing is needed, just installation. Many different profiles and patterns are on the market, some simulate the appearance of wood, brick, or board and batten siding.
Both metal and vinyl siding come in 6 to 8 foot panels which interlock from top to bottom; only the top of the panel needs to be nailed to the wall sheathing or furring strips. Specialized trim pieces are available for soffit and gable ends, corners, dormers and window and door openings.
When installing vinyl siding, you need to allow time between each installation step for expansion or contraction due to temperature changes. The change in size can be from ¼ to ½ inch, so if you attach both sides of a panel, it could buckle if enough time is not allowed for settling.
Hardboard siding is similar to metal and vinyl panel siding, except for the material of course. It is available in primed or pre-finished state, with a range of different colors and finishes.
There are different ways of putting on lumber siding boards, including bevel, drop siding, board and batten, tongue and groove, and board on board. Depending on the style used, the boards can be installed horizontally or vertically. Redwood, cedar and pine are the most commonly used woods, with pressure-treated lumber being preferred. See our page on wood siding for more information.
Plywood panel is also used as a form of lumber siding. Exterior grade plywood sheets are available with a resin-impregnated kraft paper face to improve paintability and moisture resistance. The panels are typically applied to wall sheathing vertically after painting or sealing. Expansion gaps between sheets of 1/8 inch are left to accommodate expansion and contraction.
Wood Shingles and Shakes
Wall shingles and shakes are available pre-finished in paint or stain and a large selection of materials and styles. Most shingles are supplied in random widths, highest grade shingles will vary from 2 ½ inch wide to 14 inches wide, with only a small percentage of the narrower shingles permitted. You can also buy Dimension Shingles, which have uniform width, of 4, 5 or 6 inches. Length of wall shingles (the measurement from top edge to bottom edge) can be 16, 18 or 24 inches. They should be used over wall sheathing of plywood, oriented strand board, or lumber only.
Shingles and shakes can be installed in either single coursing or double-coursing. Double coursing is using two layers of shingles in each row, or course, in order to produce more pronounced shadows between rows and give a more rustic look. A lower grade shingle can be used as the course nearest the sheathing, as it will not be exposed to weather wear as much.
Stucco siding is a mixture of sand, lime and Portland cement applied in coats to wire lath or stucco mesh to hold it in place. The reinforcing mesh or wire is laid over sheathing paper horizontally, and attached to the sheathing with at least two galvanized steel nails per square foot. The stucco is applied in three layers, with numerous types of finish layers available. Finishes range from colored or white cement to acrylic.
A first layer of stucco, called the scratch coat, is laid on in ¼ inch thickness in order to totally embed the mesh or lath, then is scored to allow the second layer to adhere. The second coat, also ¼ inch in thickness is then applied with a trowel, after a period of curing of from 24-48 hours. The finish coat is applied after another 48 hours cure time. So you can see why removing old stucco siding would be a messy, labor intensive job.
Stone and Brick Siding
Masonry sidings like brick and stone are applied in a bed of mortar. An air space of around 1 inch is left between the wall sheathing and the masonry, and metal reinforcing members fastened to wall studs tie the siding to the building’s frame. The air space provides a moisture barrier, as bricks and stone are naturally porous and wick moisture from the exterior to the sheathing if they are in contact. Mortar joints must be tooled properly to prevent moisture penetration as well.
Photo by Cynthia Donovan, Creative Commons Attribution License