Home Siding Products and Long-term Costs: The Bottom Line

Home Siding Products and Long-term Costs: The Bottom Line

When shopping for home siding, you'll probably get several estimates of the cost associated with the various products available -- chiefly materials and labor required for your installation. But what about the long-term costs? Your contractor won't include the costs of maintenance for the next two decades in his or her estimate (you also won't see the added resale value potential either). Your estimate won't include any tax breaks or insurance discounts. But no one would argue that these hidden costs and benefits don't exist.

An analysis of the responses of siding contractors in a recent survey offers a more complete picture, answering questions like:

  • Which siding choices require the most (and least) maintenance?
  • Which siding products cost the most (and least) to keep looking good?
  • What warranty coverage is available?
  • Are there insurance savings or tax breaks associated with this siding?

When you get wood, fiber cement, or vinyl siding installation bids, you can use this information to flesh out the whole picture and compare products. Costs given in this article are those that would be expected for typical siding installations on two-story homes with approximately 2,000 square feet of living space. Of course, actual estimates for a specific home will vary.

Wood Siding

Real wood siding is a classic choice to protect a home's exterior walls; unfortunately, it requires regular painting/staining and careful maintenance or it will rot, warp, crack, or split. Plywood or hardwood sheet siding (also known as engineered wood siding) is manufactured to look like real wood and doesn't require as much maintenance.

Total wood siding maintenance over 20 years: $14,400

Wood siding needs to be repainted about every ten years depending on your climate. Transparent stains in harsh climates may need to be redone every five years. The average quote for this repainting is $4,200. Assuming that you repaint twice in 20 years, that's a cost of $8,400.

It is recommended that wood siding be cleaned every year or two. Pressure washing is not recommended because water can be driven under the siding and can cause damage. You can wash your siding yourself, but if you choose to hire someone to do the work, expect to pay $400, on average. Assuming that you do this ten times in twenty years, your cost will be $4,000.

Finally, repairing wood siding is not difficult. Re-nailing loose sheathing, replacing rotted elements, and patching any holes or gaps on the underlying surface may need to be done after ten or fifteen years (but as often as every year if the siding is not maintained) and costs a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the damage. Assuming $1,000 every ten years gives you a total of $2,000.

Wood siding warranties average about 20 years and range from five years to fifty. Insurance companies generally don't offer discounts for homes with wood siding, and there aren't usually tax benefits either.

Fiber Cement Siding

Made from cement, wood fiber (cellulose), sand, and other components, fiber cement siding can be manufactured to have the realistic appearance of wood, stucco, or masonry. Promoted as environmentally friendly because it requires fewer trees, fiber cement siding won't burn or rot. Its main drawback is that it's heavy to lift, needs specialized cutting tools, and installation is often a dusty process.

Total fiber cement siding maintenance over 20 years: $9,600

A pre-finished fiber cement siding may never need repainting; siding painted on-site may need new paint every fifteen years. At an average cost of $4,200, over twenty years you can expect to pay just under $5,600.

It is recommended that fiber cement siding be cleaned every year or two, but pressure washing is not recommended. You can wash yur siding yourself in a day, but if you choose to have it done, expect to pay about $400. Assuming that you do this ten times in twenty years, your cost will be $4,000.

Fiber cement siding should require minimal to no repair even after years of use. In general, damage is the result of improper installation. The cost of fiber cement repair runs $3 - $7 a square foot, a little less than for wood siding.

Fiber cement siding generally comes with a 50-year warranty. Insurance companies often offer discounts (14% on average according to James Hardie, siding manufacturer) because fiber cement does not burn. However, that savings may be offset because when fiber cement siding increases your home's value, you need more insurance coverage. Fiber cement is a sustainable building material and in some states you can qualify for tax breaks.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is used in more newly built and renovated homes than any other type of siding, and it's easy to see why. Vinyl siding is very affordable, low maintenance, looks good, and is long lasting. It is a sound investment for most homeowners.

Total vinyl siding maintenance over 20 years: $5,200

Most vinyl siding contractors say it never needs painting, or not for at least 20 years. However, you will need to paint your trim every ten years or so, and that runs about $600, or $1,200 over 20 years.

It is recommended that you clean vinyl siding every year or two, but avoid pressure washing. You can clean the siding yourself or have a pro do it at an average of $400 per cleaning. If you do this ten times in twenty years, it will cost you $4,000.

Vinyl siding requires minimal to no repair. In general, damage is the result of improper installation. The cost of vinyl repair runs $3 - $7 a square foot, a little less than for wood siding.

Vinyl siding generally comes with a 50-year warranty (some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties) and in most cases even covers hail damage. Home insurers generally don't offer discounts when you install regular vinyl siding, but if you choose a premium product with a fire rating and a superior wind rating, you may get a discount. Vinyl siding is a sustainable product and in some states you may qualify for tax credits.

When comparing the costs of various siding options, consider the cost of materials and installation, but also the cost of ownership over time. Subtract any tax credits or insurance discounts. Finally, subtract any increase in home value from the costs and calculate the bottom line result.



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