Outer Beauty

Men laying new hardwood flooring

The way you design and decorate the inside of your home is a reflection of your style, but your homes exterior is your chance to project that style to the world. With the array of choices available today, it can be overwhelming to sort through the reams of information available on the subject. To help ease the pain of researching home exterior materials, weve compiled a guide to whats out there for your homes outside.

Natural appeal
A traditional favorite, wood remains a popular choice for home exteriors. Wood siding products include plank (long rectangular pieces of wood applied side by side in a vertical pattern), clapboard (overlapping long rectangular pieces of wood in a horizontal pattern), shingles (smaller uniform-sized pieces of wood applied in rows) and shakes (smaller non-uniform-sized pieces of wood applied in rows). Consisting of compressed wood fiber, composition board or hardboard siding also may be used.

Wood species such as pine, mahogany, cedar, redwood, cypress, spruce and Douglas fir are just some that are used for siding. Because it is a natural product, wood can be one of the best choices for your home. It breathes, which gives you some movement to the product, says Rocky Burt, sales manager for Randall Brothers in Atlanta. Though it does need to be primed, Burt said it holds paint well. Also, given the many selections available today with wood siding, it is easy to match existing siding when performing repairs. We can match just about anything, Burt says.

Because it is a renewable resource, the cost of wood is relatively low, approximately $1.30 to $2.50 per square foot, depending on the chosen style of siding and wood species. If a professional installer is hired, this price may increase a bit for labor.

Maintaining wood siding can be a bit time-consuming and pricey. Depending on weather conditions, most wood siding needs to be re-painted every five to seven years. If the house is exposed to a lot of rain or hot sun, homeowners may need to paint more often. Also, wood siding should be protected from persistent contact with moisture. For example, wood siding should not be installed close to the ground where moisture might build up behind it. This could lead to rot, swelling or cracking. Another downside to being a natural product, wood is susceptible to termite and bug infestation.

However, as long as maintenance is performed as needed, homeowners can expect their wood siding to last for many years to come. With proper maintenance, Burt says wood siding can last between 50 and 60 years, if not longer. He says most properly installed wood products come with a one-year warranty, which should be sufficient to rectify any trouble spots. If you have any problems, a lot of that shows up within the first 90 days, Burt says.



Natural product, some variation in appearance


Reasonably priced

Long lifespan with proper maintenance


Requires regular upkeep and maintenance

May warp, crack, rot, shrink, swell or stick when exposed to moisture

How it stacks up

One of the most prevalent natural siding materials, brick still ranks high with homeowners. Brick, of course, is always popular, says Don Barnett, vice president of the wholesale division for Lummus Supply in Atlanta. Made primarily of clay and water, brick comes in a vast rainbow of colors and textures. Of course, its important to make sure you like the color you choose because you cannot change it later without replacing or painting the brick.

There are many advantages to selecting brick for your home. It provides great insulation, is fireproof and withstands just about anything that comes its way. Maintenance is practically nonexistent. Brick never needs painting or cleaning. Homeowners should, however, keep plants and vines from growing on brick walls. They can weaken the mortar and trap moisture behind the brick.

When it comes to price, brick generally runs between 3 percent and 5 percent more than wood, vinyl or fiber cement siding products. In most cases, this cost can be recouped when the home is sold. On average, brick homes sell for 6 percent more than other home styles.



Natural product

Very strong

Provides excellent insulation

Does not corrode or rot


Cannot change color of brick itself, although it may be painted

A solid selection

Another natural selection, stone remains popular with todays homeowners. I think natural stone looks better than brick or siding, but thats my own personal opinion, says Michael Slonina, general manager for Stone Forest in Kennesaw. Apparently, many others share his opinion. There is an increase in the stone demand in the Atlanta market, Slonina says. Unlike other choices, though, stone generally is used as an accent material rather than a primary surface material. Trim work, accent walls, fireplaces and mailboxes are just a few of the applications for stone.

Because it is a natural resource, there is an unlimited number of styles, colors and textures available with natural stone. Thanks to modern technology, homeowners can find this variety with manufactured stone as well. Like natural stone, manufactured stone has a rock-like appearance. However, it is constructed of cement and generally has a veneer only a few inches deep.

A possible drawback to using stone may be the cost. It is easily one of the more expensive siding options available. Generally speaking, natural stone costs between $12 and $25 per square foot. Manufactured stone can run between $4.50 and $12 per square foot. In some cases, installation and labor may be extra, so that must be figured into the overall cost when planning a budget.

Maintenance for stone is relatively easy. Natural stone should be cleaned with periodic pressure washing. Manufactured stone should be washed and cleaned on a regular basis as well. However, some manufactured stone products may not withstand pressure washing. Check with the manufacturer or supplier for the best recommended cleaning method for your particular product.

As expected, stone is quite durable and should last for many years. Natural stone will be there for the life of the home, says Randy Smith, general manager for Fieldstone Center in Conyers. He did say it was possible for mortar to weaken and rocks to loosen up in very cold, freezing conditions. However, he says he doesnt see much of that in the Atlanta area.

Brian Snell, general manager of Southern Architectural Stone in Marietta, says manufactured stone also should hold up well through the years. Its basically concrete, so its very durable, he says. Most manufactured stone products come with a 20- to 30-year warranty, Snell adds.



Natural product, artistic appearance


Reasonably priced

Low maintenance


Heavy, requires strong support





Easy to install

Artistic appearance

Low maintenance


Though less expensive than natural stone, costs more than most other sidings

Built for beauty

Thanks to the ever-changing and improving technology in home construction, manufacturers are creating some phenomenal siding products. For the past five to 10 years, vinyl siding has popped up on homes everywhere. Made of polyvinyl chloride, vinyl siding panels resemble wood siding and come in various styles and colors. In particular, solid core vinyl consists of foam backing applied to a premium vinyl. This provides tremendous energy savings, says T.C. Booth, vice president of operations for DuraCraft in Lawrenceville. Other benefits to vinyl include durability and resistance to bugs, rot and rust.

Vinyl also is a low-maintenance material. It eliminates the cost of painting for life, says Mary Battle, co-owner of Exovations of Atlanta LLC in Cumming. Just pressure-wash it to maintain it. Most vinyl is expected to last for many years as well. It usually comes with a lifetime warranty, which generally covers 50 years. Even vinyl will degrade over time, but most people will get tired of it before it wears out, says Bill Hofius, vice president of business development and marketing for Plymart in Norcross.

A low price tag also makes vinyl siding attractive to many homeowners. On average, vinyl runs $4 per square foot for a low-end product and $5 per square foot for a high-end product.



Never has to be painted

Durable, doesn’t rust

Very low maintenance

Relatively inexpensive


Limited color selection, cannot change color once selected

May fade over time




Generally does not blister or swell

Low maintenance

Fireproof, rot- and insect- resistant


Poor insulator

Limited color selection

Subject to dents and dings

A strong choice

Perhaps the hottest home-exterior product on the market right now, fiber cement siding quickly is becoming the most sought-after siding option. The single most popular material is fiber cement siding, Hofius said. Fiber cement siding, such as Hardiplank and CertainTeed, resembles wood siding but is straighter and heavier than wood. Humidity and moisture are not absorbed, says Jeff Shea, general manager of The Siding Doctor in Marietta. It doesnt shrink or expand, and it wont warp or crack in the sun. It also is extremely durable, holds paint well, and is fireproof and bug-resistant. Fiber cement siding gives you the look of wood siding without any of the problems, adds Shane Short, an Atlanta representative for James Hardie.

While you do have to paint fiber cement siding, because it holds paint so well, it only requires paint every 10 years or so. Otherwise, maintenance is minimal. Most people today are looking for something maintenance-free and with value, Shea says. Hardiplank really lends itself to that.

A result of its strength and durability, fiber cement siding boasts a long life. Life expectancy is 25 to 50 years, Hofius says. If it is well-maintained, it should last that long. The industry standard warranty for fiber cement siding is 50 years.



Very durable

Available in a wide range of styles and colors

Reasonably priced

Low maintenance

Holds paint very well

Fireproof, rot- and insect- resistant


Requires periodic painting

A many-layered choice

Though not as common as it once was, stucco still can be found on many homes. Applied with a smooth or textured finish, there are two types of stucco: hardcoat and Exterior Insulation and Finish System (commonly referred to as EIFS or synthetic stucco). Hardcoat stucco consists of three layers or coats of a sand, cement and water mix. EIFS stucco also has layers, but they are composed of different materials than hardcoat stucco. It usually contains polystyrene foam, a cement adhesive, a glass fiber mesh panel and acrylic elastomeric coating.

Stucco offers a number of benefits. It is a good insulator, ages gracefully and is durable. You also can change colors. Like some other siding options, stucco is affordable. Depending on the application, stucco can cost between $6 and $7 per square foot, installed.

The biggest drawback of stucco doesnt actually come from the product itself, but rather the installation of the product. Make sure the installation of whatever product [the homeowner chooses] is done properly, says Richard Roth, president of Servox Ltd. in Chamblee.

The biggest threat to stucco is water. If water seeps into the stucco, it can lead to rotting, bug infestations and mold. To help prevent this problem, first make sure the product is installed correctly. Also, Deborah Floyd, president of W.I.F.E. Inc. in Hiram, says to keep up caulking around all doors and windows. If its put on correctly and maintained, it can last forever, she says.

Maintaining stucco is pretty simple. When it gets dirty, clean it with a low PSI pressure cleaner, Floyd says. Use bleach and water and a soft bristle brush with white bristles. Floyd recommends using a white brush so the color from the bristles wont bleed onto the stucco.


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Great insulator

Can change colors

Ages well

Another alternative

Rather than applying an entirely new home exterior material, homeowners can opt for a product like Liquid Siding, distributed and applied by Procraft. Liquid Siding is a three-component system that can be applied to almost any surface, including wood, brick, concrete, stucco and masonry. The first component, or coat, is a surface conditioner that acts as an adhesive for the remaining two components. The second component is the base coat, which is a blend of resins and ceramic micro-spheres. The third component is the topcoat, which adds the color and sealer to the system.

Liquid Siding is waterproof, mildew and fire resistant, and environmentally friendly. It also wont chip, crack, peel or blister. It comes in dozens of colors or can be custom tinted to the color of your choice. If you want to change to color, you simply apply a new topcoat in the new shade. The system also comes with a 25-year warranty and cost between $3.50 and $5 per square foot.



Never has to be painted

Can change color

Can be applied to most existing siding materials

Won’t chip, crack, peel or blister


Must be applied by a professional applicator

With so many choices available, it may be hard to decide which siding material would be best for your home. Barnett recommends asking yourself two questions: First, what style do I want my house to look like? Second, how much can I afford? Cost is important, but style is certainly more important, he says. Dont be afraid to mix different materials for a unique look. Probably the biggest thing Ive seen in the last five years is a mixture of these sidings on the same house, Barnett says.

Booth says to consider how much time and money you want to spend on maintenance. Choose one thats right for you and your lifestyle, he says. Do you want to spend the money to keep it up? Youve got to get whats right for you.

One of the best steps to take when deciding which material to choose is to educate yourself on whats available. The Internet is a fantastic source, Hofius says. Check manufacturers Web sites for information.

Hofius also suggests talking to local contractors and suppliers to find out what their experiences with these products have been like. In addition, visit area suppliers to see products first hand, Slonina says. Always a good source, ask family and friends for referrals and references. Check out their homes to see how the finished product looks.

While researching and finding the right home exterior material for your home can be a daunting task, the reward will be a wonderful new asset you can enjoy every day.