Whether you are installing new siding on your home or replacing old siding, the choices can be overwhelming. Here is a great place to get started. This excellent guide on how to buy siding is from ConsumerReports.org:

Vinyl Siding DenverGetting started

New siding is one of the most visible ways to give your home a makeover now and make it easier to sell later. But siding isn’t just decorative. Loose or cracked panels or shingles can allow entry to moisture and insects, leading to expensive structural damage. Use this guide to find a replacement.

If the siding on your home is nearing the end of its life, our test results for dozens of vinyl, plastic, and fiber-cement products can help you to find a sturdy and attractive replacement that can protect your home for decades.

Our tests simulated the punishment that the elements can inflict. We evaluated resistance to cracking from impacts in warm and cold weather, an especially important consideration for active families with children. We simulated 150-mph winds in our lab to see how tenaciously the siding clings, an especially vital factor where severe storms are common. And we gauged fading under ultraviolet light, especially important in sunny climates and where trees don’t provide much shade. Our Ratings (available to subscribers) include enough top choices from among the various materials to give you lots of options.

The thickest and most expensive siding tended to perform best in our tests, although several thinner and less expensive products did almost as well. Our top-rated vinyl sidings, for example, cost $200 or more per square (100 square feet), but we found several very good products for less than half that price. Note that some synthetic materials actually look like wood, even up close, for a small fraction of what you’d pay for the real thing. Check under Types to determine which material–vinyl, plastic, fiber cement, or wood–best suits your taste and budget.

Have it your way

We found significant differences in performance and price. Although some installers may push certain products, we recommend that you insist on the brand, model, and type of siding you want, even if it means paying a bit more for a special order or hiring a different installer.

Factor in your climate

Top-scoring siding resisted fading longest. For storm prone areas, choose siding that scored at least very good for wind resistance. Our weathering and abuse tests found that some fiber cement can be fragile. By comparison, even pricier plastic shingles can be a bargain when you factor in their resistance to impacts and wind. They also banish seams because the ends are where panels connect.

Estimating amounts

An installer will calculate how much siding your home needs, but you can make a rough estimate without climbing a ladder. Multiply the height times the width of each rectangular section of your house in feet, going by what you can measure from the ground, to determine its area. Multiply the approximate height and width of gables and other triangular surfaces and divide each total by two. Then add all the totals. To allow for waste, don’t subtract for doors, windows, or other areas that won’t be covered. Finally, divide the total square footage by 100 to estimate how many squares of siding you’ll need.

Get a good installation

We recommend having a professional install your siding. If the old siding is sound, new siding can go over it. But rotted wood siding should be replaced and the wall behind it checked for damage. If the old siding is removed, have a moisture barrier installed beneath the new siding, and add flashing around doors and windows. Fasteners should attach to wall studs, not just the sheathing. The installer should center the fasteners in the slots and leave a gap as thick as a dime between the panel and the fastener heads to allow for expansion and contraction.

Make it last

You can extend the useful life of your siding with simple maintenance and repairs. Siding is susceptible to leaks, especially where it meets windows and doors. A $5 tube of caulk could ultimately save you thousands of dollars in structural repairs. If you live in a region with cold winters, check the siding under the eaves for water stains, possibly a sign of ice damming. Adding attic insulation and sealing any gaps around pipes and ducts into the attic may help prevent future damming–and may lower your heating and cooling bills as well.

Types

Weigh the look you like against upkeep and cost. Prices listed are per square (100 square feet). Figure on 20 squares and $1,800 to $4,000 in labor for a typical 2,300-square-foot house. Here are the types of siding to consider.

Vinyl

Low price and minimal upkeep make vinyl by far the most popular siding material. Vinyl needs no painting. It won’t warp or twist, and it’s impervious to insects and water. But it can rattle, crack, melt, and burn. Some vinyl products may look like wood from a distance, but not up close. Before you settle on vinyl, consider whether your taste or the architecture of your neighborhood makes the added realism and cost of plastic, fiber cement, or even real wood a more appropriate choice.

Plastic

These shingles and shakes can closely resemble cedar, even up close. Plastic, like vinyl, requires minimal upkeep. Though less rigid than vinyl, it resists impact better in cold weather.

Fiber cement

This blend of cement, sand, and cellulose offers the most convincing look of wood planks. Fiber-cement siding is insect-proof, but water can damage it during freezes and thaws. Whether primed or pre-painted, fiber cement must be refinished periodically, though less often than wood. Color choices for pre-painted fiber-cement siding are limited.

Wood

Although wood shingles and clapboard offer traditional charm, they’re very expensive. Wood is resistant to impact, but it can warp, twist, and burn. And it’s vulnerable to rot, insects, and woodpeckers. Wood can be finished or left natural, and it’s available primed or painted. If it’s painted or stained, it requires periodic refinishing.

Features

When installing siding, there are some features to consider that can enhance the appearance and durability. Here are the siding features to consider.

Deep profile
On clapboard-style vinyl, a profile that’s raised an inch or more deepens shadow lines, making the siding look more like wood. It’s also likely to be more rigid and less wavy when installed.

Double-hem nailing area
The best vinyl siding has a double-layer mounting hem, which provides stronger attachment and better resistance to high winds than does a single-layer hem.

Extra-long panels
Some vinyl siding comes in 16-foot or longer lengths to reduce the number of seams on long, unbroken walls.

Finish
For fiber cement, consider whether the added color choices and cost savings of painting it yourself outweigh the longer durability of a factory finish.

Foam backing
Besides making vinyl siding more rigid, foam backing adds insulation.

Source: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/siding/buying-guide.htm

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