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Exterior siding materials: How long should they last?

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | March 4, 2013

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When it comes time to choose a new siding for your home, what feature do you consider most important? Many homeowners would say aesthetics -- they want a siding that complements the exterior appearance of their house. Low-maintenance might make many lists -- after all, exterior upkeep is rarely anyone's favorite chore.

Of course cost is always a consideration -- choosing a siding that fits your budget is often a primary concern. But what about longevity -- doesn't it make sense to select a siding that's expected to last a while?

Life expectancy for exterior siding materials

What kind of longevity should you anticipate from the various exterior siding products on the market? If you're hoping that this may be the last time your home needs new siding, you may be in luck. According to surveys done by the National Association of Home Builders and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, most siding products should last at least as long as you own your home.

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Of course, their data is based on average conditions and doesn't take into account severe storms or other types of natural disasters. Here's a closer look at the longevity numbers in the NAHB and InterNACHI reports:

  • Aluminum siding -- The InterNACHI report projects that aluminum siding should last for 25 to 40 years. In some cases it may remain in good shape for even longer.
  • Brick veneer -- Both the NAHB and the InterNACHI indicate that brick is a good choice for a long lasting exterior veneer. In this case, long lasting means a lifetime or over 100 years.
  • Fiber cement siding -- According to the survey data, this relatively new exterior siding product should provide protection for your home for a lifetime.
  • Natural stone -- NAHB and InterNACHI surveys concur on this beautiful natural siding material. The number of stone veneer colonial homes still standing is also pretty good evidence that the material should last for over 100 years.
  • Stucco -- If you want to give your home an elegant look, it's hard to go wrong with stucco. The InterNACHI data projects that you should expect a stucco finish to remain intact for 50 or more years. The NAHB estimates that the material may complement your home for up to 100 years.
  • Vinyl siding -- This is a siding product where the two surveys deviate just a bit. The InterNACHI report predicts that vinyl siding should protect your house for about 60 years. The NAHB projects the material ought to remain intact for over 100 years -- in either case you should be in good shape.
  • Engineered wood -- This is a man made product that is composed of wood fibers and pieces -- it's not the same as the wood clapboard siding found on older homes. Both reports predict that engineered wood should last for a lifetime with proper maintenance.

Keep in mind that the projections on both of the surveys are based on the materials being used in average conditions. However, the numbers would seem to indicate that just about any of these siding products would be a good choice if longevity is your major concern.

exterior siding longevity

Exterior siding costs

While the longevity figures for many exterior siding materials may be very similar, the same can't be said about their costs. Fortunately, there is a wide range of pricing that should be able to accommodate just about any budget. Some types of siding such as vinyl, aluminum, and fiber cement are priced by "squares." A siding square is the amount of material required to cover 100 square feet of wall area. Other siding products such as brick, stone, and stucco are normally priced by the square foot.

If you want to compare the costs of vinyl and stone when shopping for siding, just divide the vinyl's square price by 100. Of course, don't forget to include installation into any cost comparison, unless you're planning on a DIY project. Here are a few average siding costs as reported by R.S. Means Repair and Remodeling Cost Data:

  • Aluminum siding -- This material is available in numerous styles and sizes. Expect to pay about $173 to $205 per square for the material and around $110 to $130 for installation.
  • Brick veneer -- Brick can range from a plain red to intricate styles that look like they might be 100 years old. Their costs can vary by style and installation difficulty. A good material price range might be $4.00 to $7.00 per square foot and installation should be around $7.00 to $10.00.
  • Fiber cement siding -- Fiber cement is available as horizontal boards, vertical patterns, sheets, and even shingles. Expect to pay from about $112 to $145 per square for the material, but some varieties may be higher. Installation should run around $89 to $160.
  • Natural stone -- This material can be very inexpensive if you gather your own, but purchased from a quarry can cost about $10 per square foot. Plan on paying about $13 for the installation.
  • Stucco -- Expect to pay about $1.00 a square foot for stucco when mesh is included. Mesh should be used in almost all exterior applications. Installation should be in the range of $1.30 to $1.50 per square foot.
  • Vinyl siding -- This is considered a budget-friendly siding, but some styles with thicker gauges and those with insulation can cost a little more. A good price range for vinyl siding might be from around $66 to $147 per square. Installation can be from $120 to $170.
  • Engineered wood -- Plywood prices can fluctuate quite a bit, but $1.14 to $2.50 per square foot should be a fairly accurate cost range. Expect to pay about $1.00 per square foot to have the material installed.

All of the pricing is approximate and could vary depending on the material you choose, your locale, and the jobsite conditions.

Exterior siding: Pros and cons of the various materials

Other than longevity and pricing, what other considerations should there be when choosing a vinyl siding? Just about all of the above materials require very little maintenance. However, you may have to do some upkeep with the fiber cement and the engineered wood if you install a variety without a factory finish.

Brick and stone are very heavy and require support at your foundation. If you don't already have a brick ledge on your home, both selections might be cost prohibitive. Stucco has a regal appearance, but can be difficult to repair if damaged. Lastly, if you're looking for a siding that's DIY friendly, you might want to put vinyl, fiber cement, and engineered wood at the top of the list.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.