The Skinny on Siding: A Go-To Guide For Picking the Perfect Siding Material

Natural Stone


For a timeless aesthetic both tough and long-lasting, consider updating your exterior with a natural stone selection like limestone. “It’s probably the most popular stone, and we see a lot of different colors used for exteriors,” says Ron Vetter, CEO of Vetter Stone. “It’s a really warm, inviting material, and you can pair it with almost any other color. It stays static, and it always looks good.”

It’s also versatile—in both function and appearance. “It can look rustic, or it can look refined and be very linear,” Vetter explains, adding that stone isn’t just used for exterior accents. “We see homes that are truly 100-percent stone with cut elements around doorways, archways, and windowsills, but we also see a combination of materials where [stone is] used on the main front feature areas, windows, and door surrounds,” he says.

Limestone options extend to the color, cut, and thickness of the material—the latter, depending on your project, is especially important to consider. “If it’s a remodel, chances are you’ll have to go with a thinstone product because the home won’t have a stone ledge built into its footing,” Vetter explains, “but in new construction, we see a lot of homes designed to take the 3.5-inch, full-bed material.” (The thinstone, a 1-inch-thick cladding, costs less per square foot and is easier to install than the full-bed material—a thicker, heavier option that comes in various specialty finishes, he explains.)

Sometimes criticized for its moisture problems, “proper installment of stone is critical, and you want a really good mason,” Vetter says, reinforcing the importance of moisture barriers. “If moisture gets behind the stone, it [needs] a way to drain out. That’s the biggest thing—water infiltration—and making sure the mason has done it to industry standard,” he continues. “If they do that, you have a great, longterm job.” Before you purchase, know that stone does not come with decades-long warranties like other siding materials. The biggest con of stone siding, though, according to Vetter? The price tag. “It’s a longterm investment, and because it’s a natural material, it’s more expensive,” he explains, reassuring that Vetter Stone has options to fit any budget.


Insulated Vinyl

Instead of opting for a traditional vinyl, a hard material manufactured from polyvinyl chloride resin, give an insulated version a try. Despite popular belief, when a high-quality insulated vinyl siding is correctly installed, it can be an energy-efficient and low-maintenance siding selection. “Using insulated siding on a home delivers superior R-value performance (resistance to heat flow) compared to traditional vinyl siding and engineered wood, helping to save money on utility costs,” explains Nick Thompson, senior product manager of siding and materials at Alside, a siding manufacturer with locations in Bloomington, Duluth, and Rogers. “It also has a more solid look and feel than traditional vinyl siding, providing added stability, durability, and impact resistance for the exterior of the home.”

Although 25 to 50 percent more expensive than traditional vinyl, he says, “the cost savings it yields through reduced heating and cooling bills make it a smart upgrade.” While some homeowners choose to install vinyl on the sides or rear of their home to minimize expense, there are perks to installing it in full: “Insulated siding reduces thermal bridging—energy loss through studs of an exterior wall—by covering the outside of exterior wall studs,” says Thompson. “It can help qualify homes under the Energy Star Qualified Homes Program.”

In addition to Alside (which offers a life-time limited warranty on its products), consider brands like Craneboard, Georgia-Pacific, Certainteed, or CedarMAX by ProVia for your insulated vinyl needs. Depending on the brand, though, insulated vinyl can be difficult to repair, darker colors may absorb sunlight due to varying levels of fade protection, and it may expand and/or contract at different rates as temperatures turn each season.

No matter the material you choose, remember the role new siding can play in your life: “It’s like your coat or your shell—you want it to look great, and you want it to protect everything that’s inside,” says Marc Setty of James Hardie. “The exterior of your home is what you project to the outside world, and it’s a true reflection of the family that lives inside.”

James Hardie

Gutter Guidance

Since soffits and fascia are often revamped to coordinate with new exterior cladding, seldom does a siding project not include new gutters, too. In a rain- and snow-heavy climate like our own, installing quality gutters is crucial for a high-functioning home. Whether you prefer fascia, half-round, K-, or European-style gutter profiles, consider the following metals to take your gutters from good to great.

  • Aluminum: One of the more popular options when considering rain gutters, aluminum (seamed or seamless) won’t rust, is lightweight, easy to install, and can last up to 25 years.
  • Copper: Upscale with a hefty price tag, copper gutters give off a weather-worn, old-world aesthetic that flaunts a greenish patina. They can last up to 100 years if properly welded and will not rust or warp in wet climates.
  • Steel: Strong yet potentially prone to rusting, steel gutters are coated with a layer of zinc and aluminum. If cost is a deciding factor, steel is more budget-friendly than copper or zinc.
  • Vinyl: The most affordable of all gutter options, vinyl usually lasts up to 20 years and comes in a variety of colors. If you want to embark on a DIY project this summer, vinyl gutters can be self-installed.
  • Zinc: Another low-maintenance selection both strong and durable, zinc gutters don’t require painting or finishing. Instead, like copper, they’ll develop a beautiful patina over time.

Not sure what’s best for your home? Ask your siding contractor, installer, or manufacturer for recommendations.

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