If the siding on your home is nearing the end of its life, our test results for dozens of vinyl, plastic, and fiber-cement products can help you to find a sturdy and attractive replacement that can protect your home for decades.
Our tests simulated the punishment that the elements can inflict. We evaluated resistance to cracking from impacts in warm and cold weather, an especially important consideration for active families with children. We simulated 150-mph winds in our lab to see how tenaciously the siding clings, an especially vital factor where severe storms are common. And we gauged fading under ultraviolet light, especially important in sunny climates and where trees don't provide much shade. Our Ratings (available to subscribers) include enough top choices from among the various materials to give you lots of options.
The thickest and most expensive siding tended to perform best in our tests, although several thinner and less expensive products did almost as well. Our top-rated vinyl sidings, for example, cost $200 or more per square (100 square feet), but we found several very good products for less than half that price. Note that some synthetic materials actually look like wood, even up close, for a small fraction of what you'd pay for the real thing. Check under Types to determine which material—vinyl, plastic, fiber cement, or wood—best suits your taste and budget.
Have it your way
We found significant differences in performance and price. Although some installers may push certain products, we recommend that you insist on the brand, model, and type of siding you want, even if it means paying a bit more for a special order or hiring a different installer.
An installer will calculate how much siding your home needs, but you can make a rough estimate without climbing a ladder. Multiply the height times the width of each rectangular section of your house in feet, going by what you can measure from the ground, to determine its area. Multiply the approximate height and width of gables and other triangular surfaces and divide each total by two. Then add all the totals. To allow for waste, don't subtract for doors, windows, or other areas that won't be covered. Finally, divide the total square footage by 100 to estimate how many squares of siding you'll need.
Get a good installation
We recommend having a professional install your siding. If the old siding is sound, new siding can go over it. But rotted wood siding should be replaced and the wall behind it checked for damage. If the old siding is removed, have a moisture barrier installed beneath the new siding, and add flashing around doors and windows. Fasteners should attach to wall studs, not just the sheathing. The installer should center the fasteners in the slots and leave a gap as thick as a dime between the panel and the fastener heads to allow for expansion and contraction.
Make it last
You can extend the useful life of your siding with simple maintenance and repairs. Siding is susceptible to leaks, especially where it meets windows and doors. A $5 tube of caulk could ultimately save you thousands of dollars in structural repairs. If you live in a region with cold winters, check the siding under the eaves for water stains, possibly a sign of ice damming. Adding attic insulation and sealing any gaps around pipes and ducts into the attic may help prevent future damming—and may lower your heating and cooling bills as well.
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