Whether the choice is made on color, sustainability or upkeep, siding options have never been more abundant. Color is one of the many factors that have elevated the perception of siding products. Options have moved well beyond the old “white or beige” cliché. “The technology today allows manufacturers to produce many dark colors. From the home-owner’s perspective, you aren’t limited. You can choose from barn red to forest green,” says Yancey Hughes, owner of Hughes and Associates, and architectural representative firm for Heartland Siding.
For James Hardie, color is the No. 1 search term on its website. “Architects and designers want to know what the range of colors is. They are differentiating themselves by using different products and colors,” says Prashant Panchal, head of marketing, James Hardie Building Products.
Drew Brandt, director of product marketing, CertainTeed, says color is a huge part of product availability. “Most manufacturers of vinyl siding have more than 30 colors, and even bright vibrant colors. Manufacturers might also offer color match which means no limitations. And you can change colors as many times as you want,” he adds.
If a builder or architect has chosen fiber cement siding, the next decision is prefinished or primed. Some manufacturers sell siding that is painted in-house, while others sell primed products which would be finished on-site by a paint contractor. Some businesses called prefinishers purchase primed fiber cement siding from manufacturers, paint it and then sell it to builders.
Vinyl and fiber cement siding add green attributes to a house, including qualification for LEED and NAHB Green programs. “[Fiber cement siding] is very sustainable. It is a product that isn’t going to be pulled off and put into a landfill every few years,” Panchal says. “Plus the color technology has improved. We paint products in the factory and the coating lasts longer. Oftentimes with wood, you are painting every three to five years.”
In addition, many vinyl and fiber cement products are comprised of recycled content. CertainTeed’s CedarBoards insulated vinyl siding is comprised of 60 percent and WeatherBoard fiber cement contains 50 percent, Brandt says.
Insulated vinyl siding improves a home’s R-value, and also can add green attributes. “Polystyrene foam insulation acts as an extra layer on the wall, increasing a wall’s R-value and boosting heat transfer performance up to 25 percent,” says Jerry Blais, vice president, marketing, Ply Gem siding group.
Which siding to choose?
Both vinyl and fiber cement siding are low-maintenance products with large color ranges and green attributes, so why choose one over the other? The answer is simple: homeowner preference. “If you want no maintenance, ever, then you want vinyl. If you want to eliminate pocketed accessory items, then you want fiber cement. Those are the major selling factors or decision criteria when looking at the two products,” Brandt says. So, he adds, homeowners must determine if they want little maintenance and pockets for expansion and contraction, or no pockets but painting and caulking required.
Fiber cement siding products generally have 15-year paint warranties, but determining how often siding needs to be repainted also depends on homeowner preference. “Every homeowner is different so it’s difficult to say when a product needs to be painted or when vinyl needs to be replaced,” Brandt says.
Despite advancements in the vinyl and fiber cement siding markets, not everyone has noticed. Some professionals believe that unless wood is used, vinyl or fiber cement will distract and detract from a home’s historic value.
“Technological advances in the past few decades have created the ability to digitize real wood grain textures,” Ply Gem’s Blais says. “Vinyl siding manufacturers offer so many styles and colors today that can mimic the look of a historically significant home.”
Another misconception is that fiber cement is more difficult to install. “As long as contractors are using the right blade, it cuts just as easily as wood. It cuts and goes up like wood without much waste,” Panchal says.
CertainTeed updates its installation manuals once a year. “We recommend our contractors and builders pick up new install manuals every year,” Brandt says. “As soon as we update installation [guidelines], it’s available immediately online.”
The biggest misconception about vinyl siding, according to Hughes, is a lack of product knowledge within the industry. “The technology today is very different. Early on, there were some issues with color loss and getting brittle, but those were overcome decades ago,” he says. “The product has done nothing but improve.”
Regardless of style, geographic location or a home’s value, both vinyl or fiber cement siding can be used. “[Fiber cement] is chosen for townhouses, multiunit and high-end homes,” says Darrin Haugan, senior vice president, Nichiha, which makes fiber cement.
Typical fiber cement offerings include cedar, smooth, stucco and grooved 8-in.-on-center textures, Haugan adds. Nichiha’s clip system can replicate anything — brick, stone or blocks. “Ninety-nine point nine-five percent of demand is for the normal style — it’s a unique audience that wants the specific look of the more diverse selection of fiber cement styles,” he says.