Canadian Woodworking

HomeInOn – Siding

Author: Carl Duguay
Photos: Lead Photo by James Hardie
Published: April May 2017

There are a lot of great choices when it comes to siding your new or existing home, garage or workshop. Learn more about the pros and cons of the most popular materials, so you can make an informed choice.


The siding on your home is an important component of curb appeal, and by extension, the value of your home. It’s also what protects the structure of your home against the elements – high wind, heavy rain, ice, snow, UV radiation, insects – and the damage they can inflict.

When it comes to choosing siding for your home, garage or workshop, there are a number of factors to consider, including aesthetics, installation, maintenance, price and life expectancy. Fortunately, advances in manufacturing mean the latest siding products are more durable and last longer than ever, and many of the products now come in a much wider range of styles and colours. Always check your local building codes when installing siding, as some areas have certain rules about what can, and can’t be installed.

Yes you can – install some siding

Though we’re not going to get into installation techniques and tips here, if you have the time, inclination, knowledge and tools, you can save quite a bit of money by installing siding yourself. Installing siding on anything more than a dog house isn’t a weekend project, and it is fairly hard work, but it’s not overly complicated.

Factors that influence the length of time it takes to complete the job include: the size of the building, whether it’s single or multiple story, the type of siding you’ll be removing, the type you’ll be putting up, whether you’ll be working alone or with others, the depth of your renovation experience, whether you’lltackle the project full time or on an ad-hoc basis and how well the weather cooperates. An experienced siding crew can replace the vinyl or aluminum siding on a single-family home in one to two weeks. Given these factors, allowing for two to four weeks to complete the job isn’t unreasonable.

The most DIYer-friendly sidings are wood, engineered wood, and vinyl. Fiber cement siding is more challenging and somewhat more time consuming to install. It’s a job best done by two people, as the boards are quite heavy and can easily crack or break if mishandled. All the other types of siding should be installed by experienced contractors. In any case, check with the manufacturer of your chosen siding to ensure that the warranty will still be valid if user-installed. You’ll also want to check with your local planning department to see if a building permit is required. Manufacturers have detailed installation guides that you’ll definitely want to read through before you start your residing project – not half-way through the project or after you’ve run into a problem.

If your plans call for siding an unattached garage, it’s the perfect place to start. There’s nothing like a small project to build up both your confidence and skill. Start with the less conspicuous surfaces (generally the back and sides) before taking on the front. However long you think the job will take, add 50% more time. The number one problem with siding is moisture and water infiltration, so don’t rush – careful installation is a key to durability and performance. Siding is typically sold by the ‘square’, which is 100 square feet. When calculating the total square footage, an easy way to allow for waste is not subtracting the footage for doors and windows. If re-siding, you’ll need to reinstall the building wrap – use a vapour-permeable product like Tyvek and tape all the seams.

On a single-story house you can get away with using ladders, but for tall walls you’ll need to rent scaffolding or pump jacks. Unless you have a truck it makes sense to rent a dumpster for the old siding and construction debris. Starting at the back of the house, remove the siding from one wall, re-side, and then move on to the next wall. You may need to install strapping to provide a ventilation channel behind the siding. Be on the lookout for any water damage or areas that might need repairing, paying special attention to the flashing around doors and windows. You’ll also likely have to install various J-channels, corner posts, and other trim pieces around doors and windows. Finally, use a top-quality caulk that’s compatible with the siding you installed. In general, the longest-lasting sealants are silicones, urethanes and urethane hybrids.

Maintenance makes it last

As with almost every aspect of your home, extend the useful life of your siding with regular maintenance and repairs. All siding materials are susceptible to leaks, especially where they meet windows and doors. Annual inspection of your home’s exterior doesn’t take long, and it could save you a bundle in future repairs. Likewise, cleaning your siding is a good habit to get into. Dirt, bird and insect droppings, and mold and mildew can deteriorate the finish. Keep your home looking fresh and new with a yearly bath. The information guide that came with your siding will tell you what products you can safely use for the siding you installed.

We’ve listed eight of the most popular siding materials. While many of these products are available across Canada at building supply centers, we’ve provided sources for some of the major brands.

The Three Most Popular Sidings


Low price, low maintenance, a wide array of styles and colours, ease of installation, and ease of repair make vinyl the most popular siding. The quality has improved significantly over the decades since it was first introduced in the late 1950s. Some do a great job of mimicking cedar shakes and boardand- batten siding, most coatings provide non-yellowing UV protection, and some even have an inner core of high-density insulation for added energy efficiency. Generally comes painted, with the colour infused within the vinyl so it doesn’t flake or chip off. Depending on the thickness, it should last upwards of 40 years.

Cost: $
Pros: Resistant to water, pests, and mold. Easy to maintain. Can be repainted. Recyclable.
Cons: Dents and cracks easily, especially in freezing temperatures, and can become brittle as it ages. Burns and melts easily. Susceptible to high wind damage. Time consuming to repair. Colours tend to fade over time. Not ecofriendly to produce.

vinyl siding


Available in a variety of patterns and in horizontal and vertical formats, primed, or prefinished in a wide array of colours. Provides better insulation value than vinyl and doesn’t get brittle in extreme cold. Can last for 35 to 40 years, dependent on its thickness, which varies from about 40-gauge to 50-gauge. An ecofriendly product.

Cost: $$
Pros: Resistant to water, fire, pests and mold. Doesn’t rust. Easy to maintain. Can be repainted. Recyclable.
Cons: Dents and scratches easily. Difficult to repair. In high winds susceptible to pinging noises. Colours tend to fade over time.

aluminum siding

Fiber Cement

An eco-friendly choice manufactured from a mixture of cement, sand and cellulose. Often referred to as ‘Hardiplank’ (the most popular brand) it’s available as boards, sheets and shingles. Comes in a smooth finish as well as wood grain and rough-sawn textures. Available factory-primed and also can be ordered pre-painted. Typical life span of 50 years.

Cost: $$
Pros: Very strong and very durable. Resistant to fire, water, insects and decay. Dimensionally stable. Easy to maintain. Can be repainted.
Cons: More time consuming to install than vinyl or aluminum. Susceptible to paint chipping during thawing in cold climates. Needs to be repainted (finishes typically warranted for 15 years). Can be easily damaged during installation. Caulking between seams may need replacement.

fiber cement siding

The Standbys


A classic, ecofriendly siding that exudes beauty and charm (which is why most other sidings attempt to imitate the look of wood). Available unfinished and prepainted in a wide variety of colours. Boards come in a variety of styles, including board & batten, rabbeted, channel, cove, and V-joint, and can be installed horizontally or vertically. Also available as shakes and shingles. With regular maintenance can last anywhere from 40 to 50 years.

Cost: $$$$
Pros: Impact resistant. Easy to install and repair. Better resale value (when properly maintained).
Cons: Low-quality brands can have inconsistent quality (knots, warping, etc). Susceptible to damage from insects and rodents (excluding redwood and cedar), and mold and rot from moisture. Burns easily. More costly and time consuming to maintain than other siding materials (requires more frequent scraping, painting or staining, and caulking to prevent decay).

wood siding


Stucco is a popular siding in regions that have milder climates, such as the West Coast. Made from Portland cement, sand, lime and water, it’s an ecofriendly product. It can be applied in a traditional three-coat process, which is more time and labor intensive, or a one-coat process that has a topcoat containing fiberglass and polymer additives that help withstand winter freeze-thaw cycles. Typical life span of 50 years.

Cost: $$$
Pros: Durable, vapor-permeable, fire-resistant. Performs well against pests and rodents.
Cons: Not as resistant to weathering as other sidings. Prone to cracks and shrinkage in areas where there is a freeze-thaw cycle. Requires professional installation.

stucco siding

Synthetic Stucco

Properly called EIFS (Exterior Insulating and Finishing Systems), it may look like traditional stucco, but it’s an entirely different product. There are different types of EIFS systems, but in general they consist of rigid insulation board on which is applied a synthetic polymer base coat reinforced with fiber mesh, topped with a textured protective finish coat. One of the major characteristics of EIFS is that it doesn’t breathe, making it difficult for any trapped water to evaporate. There were a lot of moisture problems associated with the system after it was first introduced, largely having to do with the flashing or caulking being omitted or improperly applied. This is one product that needs to be put up by trained and skilled installers.

synthetic stucco siding

Stone and Brick

Brick and stone siding has a distinguished look, comes in a wide variety of textures and colours, and, with proper care, lasts for generations. However, because the materials are so heavy, they require support at the foundation, which can significantly increase the cost of installation on an existing home. As a result, most homeowners choose a veneer form, which is much lighter in weight and less expensive. Stone and brick veneer siding comes in natural and synthetic materials. While traditional stone and brick require professional installation, veneer is DIYer installable.

Cost: $$$$$ (traditional); $$$ (veneer)
Pros: Durable, resists weathering. Virtually unassailable from pests, insects, mold, and fire. Very low maintenance.
Cons: Traditional products are expensive to purchase and labour intensive to install. Mortar joints on veneer can deteriorate over time.

stone and brick siding

Growing In Popularity

Engineered Wood

While there are different proprietary products on the market, it’s typically made from wood fibers combined with resin binders for strength and waxes for water resistance. The product may also be treated to protect against rot and insects. It’s uniform, resists deterioration better than solid wood, is lighter in weight and easier to install, making it a more cost-effective product. More fire-resistant than wood. It’s available primed and ready to paint, or prefinished. Expect it to last upwards of 30 years.

Cost: $$$
Pros: Impact resistant. Consistent quality. Less shrinkage and warpage than wood. Easy to install and repair. Low maintenance.
Cons: Requires careful installation to prevent moisture problems. Requires periodic repainting.

engineered wood siding

Polymer Siding

This is a relatively new product on the market, made from polypropylene resin (vinyl siding is made of polyvinyl chloride resin). It’s available as shake and shingle cladding and seamless cladding in a variety of colours, and as faux stone veneer panels in a wide variety of styles, sizes and colors. Because it’s thicker than vinyl it’s more impact resistant.

Cost: $$$
Pros: Waterproof and impact resistant. Good resistance to colour fading and peeling. Doesn’t get brittle over time. Can be repainted. Recyclable. Easy to install. Has 25-year to limited lifetime warranty.
Cons: Burns and melts easily. Time consuming to repair. Not eco-friendly to produce.

polymer siding

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Other articles to explore
Username: Password: