by Michael Buck
Residential building professional Matt Risinger breaks down the different types of siding for your home in a recent episode of his YouTube series “The Build Show.”
Risinger provides a helpful overview and his own opinions about three major categories of lap siding on the market today: vinyl, engineered wood, and fiber cement. Here’s his take on the pros and cons for each option.
Vinyl Siding Pros and Cons
Vinyl siding is a good choice when it comes to waterproofing a home because it’s made of PVC resin, a type of plastic material, which won’t rot and typically won’t mold. “The water just sheds right off,” Risinger says.
The material is a low-cost option for siding a home, but as Risinger points out, it’s not the most durable choice. In the video, he easily cuts through a vinyl siding sample with a pair of shears.
Risinger also points out that vinyl siding “is not going to do well in a fire.” He says the heat of a nearby grill, or intense light reflected from nearby windows, can disfigure or even melt some types of vinyl siding.
The bottom line: “If I were you, I would avoid vinyl, both on new construction and certainly on remodel situations as well.”
Engineered Wood Siding Pros and Cons
Engineered wood siding is an option that offers the look of natural wood, but with performance-enhancing additives that natural wood does not have.
However, Risinger expresses concerns about engineered wood’s long-term durability. One is that the material may swell after prolonged exposure to water. In the video, he tests a piece of engineered wood siding, submerging one side in a small amount of water for approximately 48 hours. The dry side measures at .365 inches, while the wet side expands to .448 inches.
Due to the potential for swelling, wood can buckle if the siding is not properly gapped and caulked at the butt joints. The use of caulk may cause appearance issues, since it does not accept paint the same way as the engineered wood does.
“After just a few short years, you’re really going to see those caulk joints and those butt joints stand out, and you’re going to have to recaulk them. It’s going to be a maintenance issue,” Risinger said.
Later in the video, Risinger notes that wood-based products such as engineered wood siding are combustible in wildfires, as well as in common scenarios like grill fires. “It’s not going to fare well,” he says. Risinger also points out that some pests can be an issue for engineered wood siding.
Fiber Cement Siding Pros and Cons
Risinger notes that fiber cement is a durable material made from Portland cement, sand, cellulose, and water. “There’s really nothing in here that I’m worried about termites eating.” When it comes to fire, he points to the fact that fiber cement siding is non-combustible and may help a home better withstand fire damage.
The material also maintains its dimensional stability when Risinger performs the water submersion test. He says that, for this reason, fiber cement siding doesn’t require gapping and caulking at the butt joints. “That’s a really nice benefit.”
Fiber cement is aesthetically pleasing since it will hold and “take paint tenaciously.” He points out that factory-finished James Hardie® fiber cement products have a durable and long-lasting baked-on finish. “It’s going to look amazing even a decade from now,” he explains.
More Fiber Cement Resources
When it comes to the different types of siding, James Hardie is the #1 brand of siding in North America and the world’s largest producer of fiber cement. You can learn more about the material, or explore some of the design options you’ll have to create your own dream home.