On the Outside
While you’re busy mapping out plans for your masterpiece, don’t forget about what will cover the home on the outside—in short, what your home’s “skin&” looks like. Your choice can make a huge difference in the cost, design, energy efficiency and environmental soundness of your home. Here’s a rundown of siding options, along with a few sneak peeks at new products on the market.

Wood
Pros: Conveys quality; blends your timber frame’s interior with its exterior. Virtually limitless options of wood species, color and style.
Cons: Exposure to the sun and the elements affects the performance of wood siding. Periodic finishing reapplication and maintenance are necessary, typically every three to seven years.
Cost: From $2.50 to $8 per square foot installed.
Choose this option if: You want an authentic, premium look and don’t mind the maintenance. Ideal for Cape Cod or farmhouse-style homes.

Stucco
Pros: Durable, limitless color options, fireproof, holds up to hard blows from nature’s elements, low maintenance.
Cons: Can crack if not finished properly, porous (especially synthetic stucco) and can lead to moisture absorption and potential rot damage for underlying wood.
Cost: From $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot installed.
Choose this option if: You want a Southwest Prairie, Adobe or Spanish-style home requiring little upkeep.

Stone
Pros: Virtually maintenance free, quickly installed and can be combined with other materials such as cedar or stucco. Pre-cast stone veneers (such as manufactured stone) replicate the look and feel of real stone at substantially lower prices.
Cons: Extremely expensive.
Cost: As high as $30 per square foot installed. Manufactured stone is about half the price of real stone.
Choose this option if: You can afford it. Also, stone is wonderful if you place a premium on low maintenance and want your new home to have a palatial feel.

Fiber Cement
Pros: An inexpensive alternative to authentic wood and stucco siding; more durable than wood; fire resistant.
Cons: Can require specialized carpentry skills and installation tools for cutting and application; won’t fool the neighbors into thinking you have a real wood or stucco finish; potential to deteriorate with ground contact due to moisture weakening the fibers.
Cost: About $2.15 per square foot installed.
Choose this option if: You want the look and feel of wood but don’t want the maintenance, or if you want the look of stucco but don’t have the budget.

Vinyl
Pros:
Durable and almost maintenance free, with many styles and colors.
Cons: Releases toxic chemicals when burned; any damage requires replacement; can crack, fade or split over time; can’t be painted.
Cost: About $1.70 per square foot installed (but can be as high as $4 per square foot if the product is customized).
Choose this option if: Up-front costs and maintenance are big concerns.

Read the full story in the June/July 2005 issue of Timber Home Living.

Photo by J.P. Hamel