Choosing your home exterior material is a BIG deal! Not only is it one of the most expensive line items when building a home, but your exterior is also everyone’s first impression of your home … and I know you want to make a traffic-stopping great first impression! If you are confused about your exterior siding options and pricing … or unsure where to even start in choosing materials for your home exterior, this post is for YOU!

Below is an overview of eight of the most popular types of siding (as well as pros and cons of each) so you can confidently make a decision for your own home build! 

Top Exterior Siding Options Pros and Cons

WHY EXTERIOR SIDING SELECTION IS IMPORTANT

Exterior siding material is one of the most expensive line items when building a home, so it’s important to understand your options and what fits best with your desired aesthetic (design and curb appeal), local climate (e.g. do you experience extreme temps?), and your budget.

Luckily, there are beautiful options for every budget, climate, and desired aesthetic!

HOW MUCH DOES EXTERIOR SIDING COST?

Pricing is largely dependant on geographical location as well as the quality of product you choose (e.g. the high-end vinyl on my home was possibly more expensive than engineered wood). Honestly, every website I looked at had a different ‘average price per sq ft’, so I have not included actual dollar amounts in this post. 

The continuum below (in order from least expensive to most expensive) is *mostly* accurate, BUT it is best to check with a local building professional for the material cost where YOU live and depending on what level of material quality you choose!

Vinyl  → Engineered Wood → Fiber Cement → Wood → Brick Veneer → Solid Brick → Stone Veneer → Natural Stone

EXTERIOR SIDING OPTIONS WITH PROS + CONS

VINYL SIDING

OVERVIEW: Vinyl siding is a synthetic material that is VERY popular with homeowners because of its low maintenance, versatility, durability, and low cost (both the product AND installation are lower cost).

Vinyl is available in a wide variety of colors and styles; some products are manufactured to look like natural materials such as cedar shingles (this is what I have on my home).

As with any siding products, there are higher quality and lower quality choices of vinyl; the higher the quality, the higher the cost … and the more ‘real’ it looks (e.g. shake shingle).

Vinyl typically can’t be painted over, so make sure you are pretty confident with your color choice … what you choose is what you get for the long haul!

top exterior siding options fiber cement, vinyl, and stone combo
VINYL SHAKE SHINGLE ON MY HOME EXTERIOR

DURABILITY: Again, this depends on the level of quality you choose. High-end (thicker) vinyl siding is extremely durable! The lower cost (thinner) options can be easily damaged by extreme weather conditions such as high winds and hail … as well as extreme temps. Choose your vinyl type wisely if you live in a climate that experiences extreme temps!

Vinyl isn’t waterproof but it is water resistant; poor installation can lead to water seeping behind it and causing mold.

Vinyl color can fade from sun exposure and it can be difficult to replace just a few pieces without replacing the entire wall of vinyl siding.

MAINTENANCE: VERY low maintenance! It requires an occasional power wash and that’s about it!

VINYL SIDING PROS:

  • Inexpensive (material and installation)
  • Available in a wide variety of colors and styles
  • Higher end (thicker) vinyl is very durable
  • VERY low maintenance

VINYL SIDING CONS:

  • Unable to paint (most) vinyl siding
  • Lower end (thinner) vinyl can be easily damaged by extreme weather (e.g. hail and wind)
  • Color can fade from prolonged sun exposure

ENGINEERED WOOD SIDING

Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with engineered wood, so I highly recommend discussing engineered wood siding with your building professional if you are interested in this option!

OVERVIEW: Engineered wood siding is manufactured to resemble wood texture … and it looks very ‘real’! Unlike fiber cement or wood-looking vinyl, engineered wood siding is created from real wood; various wood fibers and strands are combined to create a product that looks like the real deal! It is available in a wide variety of styles.

Engineered wood is considerably less expensive than real wood siding, and installation cost is lower as well because the product is lighter than real wood.

top exterior siding options engineered wood 2 LP
ENGINEERED WOOD SIDING | LP SMART SIDE via BALANCED HOME BALANCED LIFE

DURABILITY: Newer versions of engineered wood are very durable; engineered wood siding holds up well to moisture, fire, insects, and extreme temperatures. Older attempts at manufacturing engineered wood siding weren’t as durable as it is today.

MAINTENANCE: Minimal maintenance (especially compared to real wood)! However, there is conflicting research … some research states that engineered wood siding should be repainted every 5-10 years, whereas others state that it doesn’t need repaintedAgain, check with your building professional!

ENGINEERED WOOD PROS:

  • Resembles real wood … without the maintenance of real wood
  • Less expensive product and installation than real wood
  • Made from fibers and strands of real wood
  • Much more durable than real wood

ENGINEERED WOOD CONS:

  • Conflicting research on the ability to repaint engineered wood siding
  • Not the real thing!

FIBER CEMENT SIDING

OVERVIEW: Fiber Cement siding is man-made (James Hardie is a leading manufacturer) from a combination of wood fibers, sand and cement. It is created to mimic the look and feel of natural wood siding … without the maintenance, rot, and insect issues! Sounds like a win to me!

Fiber Cement is an excellent choice if you want the look of natural wood (wood lapboards, cedar shingles, or wood shake), but want something more durable, easier to maintain, and less expensive than real wood.

Fiber Cement is slightly more expensive than engineered wood and is slightly more difficult to install than engineered wood (which = slightly more expensive installation).

Fiber cement can be manufactured in just about any color or design; it can even resemble various textures such as imitation brick or stone. You have the option to purchase it pre-painted OR you can paint (or stain) it after installation. This is what we did with our James Hardie board and batten … we painted it a custom color post installation.

top exterior siding options caroline on design fiber cement stone
JAMES HARDIE FIBER CEMENT BOARD AND BATTEN ON MY HOME EXTERIOR

DURABILITY: Fiber cement is extremely durable and doesn’t fade from sun exposure like vinyl does.

MAINTENANCE: Very low maintenance, but does need to be repainted about every 15 years.

FIBER CEMENT PROS:

  • Extremely durable
  • Resembles real wood texture … without the maintenance
  • Available in just about any color or style
  • Gorgeous curb appeal (IMO)
  • Ability to purchase it pre-painted or can paint it post installation

FIBER CEMENT CONS:

  • More expensive than vinyl and engineered wood siding
  • Not the real thing!
  • Needs to be repainted about every 15 years

WOOD SIDING

Exterior Siding Options Red Cedar Wood Degraw and Dehaan
RED CEDAR WOOD SIDING AND NATURAL STONE via DEGRAW & DEHAAN ARCHITECTS LLP

OVERVIEW: Real wood siding is available in many different species and styles (e.g. board and batten, shingles, clapboards, etc.). It is relatively quick and easy to install, and it can be left in its natural state or you can paint or stain it.

Real wood is beautiful, but it is HIGH maintenance … and fairly expensive to maintain!

DURABILITY: The durability level depends on the species of wood. Some species (e.g. redwood and cedar) are more durable than others.

MAINTENANCE: HIGH maintenance! Real wood siding must be stained every 2-3 years or repainted every 4-5 years. It is not fire resistant and it is prone to damage from termites, woodpeckers, and rot.

WOOD PROS:

  • Natural and beautiful
  • Available in a wide variety of species and styles
  • Relatively quick, easy, and inexpensive to install
  • You have a choice to leave in its natural state or paint/stain it

WOOD CONS:

  • HIGH maintenance … and expensive to maintain
  • Must be stained every 2-3 years or repainted every 4-5 years
  • Prone to damage from termites, woodpeckers, and rot

BRICK VENEER SIDING

OVERVIEW: Brick veneer is a thin layer of brick anchored to a wood frame. It is less expensive than solid brick, more durable, and provides better insulation. It is applied more like siding. Brick veneer is more affordable than solid brick, BUT still quite expensive!

DURABILITY: Highly durable; provides better insulation than solid brick. It doesn’t fade or rot like some of the other exterior siding options. Moisture retention can cause issues in climates with high rainfall.

MAINTENANCE: Minimal maintenance.

top exterior siding options brick veneer
BRICK VENEER WALL | CHRISTINA’S ADVENTURES

BRICK VENEER PROS:

  • Less expensive than solid brick and easier to install (= less labor cost)
  • Provides better insulation than solid brick
  • Highly durable
  • Doesn’t fade or rot
  • Minimal maintenance

BRICK VENEER CONS:

  • Lower cost than brick but still expensive compared to other siding options
  • Not the real thing!
  • Prone to moisture issues

SOLID BRICK

OVERVIEW: I think we all are familiar with solid brick! It’s extremely durable and will last forever! It is also VERY expensive both for the brick product and installation. 

DURABILITY: Brick is incredibly durable and fire resistant. It doesn’t fade, decay, mold or rot; however it is not very water resistant and does not provide the best insulation.

MAINTENANCE: Very minimal maintenance; it never needs to be refinished (unless you paint it as shown below) and can easily last 100+ years!

top exterior siding options painted white brick
PAINTED WHITE BRICK EXTERIOR | TENNESSEE VALLEY HOMES

SOLID BRICK PROS:

  • Extremely durable
  • Very minimal maintenance; never needs to be refinished (unless painted) and can last 100+ years
  • Fire resistant
  • Weathers beautifully … will not fade, decay, rot or mold

SOLID BRICK CONS:

  • Not very water resistant and not very good at insulation
  • Cost of material and installation are high because of the labor-intensive process to install
top exterior siding options solid brick
TRADITIONAL BRICK | DECOR TIP

STONE VENEER SIDING

OVERVIEW: Stone veneer is manufactured to look almost exactly like stone for a fraction of the cost of product and installation (but still WAY more expensive than many other siding options!). Proper installation of stone veneer is CRUCIAL to ensure that it withstands weather, time, and humidity! Do your research on installers!

DURABILITY: Highly durable BUT doesn’t respond well to excessive moisture or extreme temperatures (especially if not properly installed). It will NOT last as long as natural stone.

MAINTENANCE: Low maintenance; can hose it down if needed.

top siding exterior options stone veneer
STONE VENEER SIDING | BUECHEL STONE

STONE VENEER PROS:

  • Looks very much like natural stone
  • Less expensive to purchase and install than natural stone
  • Low maintenance

STONE VENEER CONS:

  • Less expensive than natural stone, but still VERY expensive compared to other siding options
  • Will not last as long as natural stone
  • Does not do well with extreme temps and excessive moisture
  • Proper installation is CRITICAL!
  • Not the real thing!

NATURAL STONE

OVERVIEW: I don’t think natural stone needs much of an introduction! It is the most expensive of all siding options (both material and installation), but it is GORGEOUS!

DURABILITY: EXTREMELY durable! Extreme weather does not affect natural stone, so it will last a lifetime! Stone is also resistant to moisture, fire, and insects.

MAINTENANCE: Natural stone must be sealed properly, but other than that is requires very minimal maintenance.

top exterior siding options caroline on design
NATURAL STONE ON MY HOME EXTERIOR

NATURAL STONE PROS:

  • Natural product
  • Extremely durable
  • Weather, fire, and insect resistant
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Will last a lifetime
  • STUNNING (IMO)!

NATURAL STONE CONS:

  • VERY expensive (both product and installation)
  • Requires proper sealing

CONCLUSION

Ok, that was a lengthy overview of eight of the most popular exterior siding options! I truly hope you feel like you now have a better understanding of your options … as well as the pros and cons of each one!

You can find many more helpful home building blog posts HERE, and make sure to grab my FREE guided worksheet How to Make Design Decisions for your New Home Build’!

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