My house needs new siding and I want something low-maintenance with a distinctive look. The walls could also use some extra insulation. What is the best siding material? —Ron G.
No-maintenance siding materials would fit your needs and give your home a distinctive look. You may want to use some of the simulated brick or stone just for accents, which can be applied over an extra layer of foam insulation to help pay back the costs with energy savings. Some of these methods are simple, do-it-yourself projects, which lower the overall project cost.
The amount of savings on your utility bills from installing more insulation under the new siding depends on the level of wall insulation you now have. If your walls are currently insulated to code levels for your area, it would probably not be cost-effective to add more insulation unless you are doing the labor yourself to lower the cost.
In addition to lower utility bills, adding a layer of foam insulation will block outdoor noise. This is particularly true with vinyl siding, which is hung loosely on the walls so it can expand and contract. If you first install foam insulation on the house exterior, follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to the letter to avoid future problems from trapped moisture.
You have quite a few unique material options to choose from: lightweight cultured stone, insulated and non-insulated brick kits, plastic simulated brick or cedar shake panels, and insulated vinyl siding. Using these materials makes a re-siding job easier, and often you do not have to remove your old siding first.
Lightweight cultured stones are one of the most attractive and maintenance-free exterior coverings and they work well as trim or to cover the entire wall. The stones are made of cement and special lightweight aggregate, yet feel as hard as real stones. This makes them light enough that no extra foundation or footers are needed to support them, as real stones may require. Many manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty.
Many types of brick siding kits are available. They look and feel like a real brick wall and are just as maintenance-free. Most use actual brick material, which is only 1/2 inch thick. This conserves materials and lowers the cost and weight. With the mass of brick and the mortar joints, it is ideal for blocking outdoor road noise.
With one brick technique, you install each brick individually to the wall with special mastic. The mastic is spread on the wall and the backs of the bricks are buttered with another layer of mastic. The bricks are pressed against the wall to fix them permanently in place. Using a damp trowel, the mastic is smoothed out to create uniform mortar joints.
Other brick kits include predesigned panels with support channels to perfectly align the thin bricks. A 1-inch-thick layer of polystyrene insulating rigid foam is already attached to the back of the panel. The back of the panel has aluminum ties to secure it to the existing wall. Once the panels are installed, the cosmetic mortar is spread in the joints.
No-maintenance polypropylene plastic panels are the easiest to install siding option. The panels are lightweight and can easily be installed over additional insulation. They are available in simulated brick, stone, and cedar shake styles.
Installing new extra-wide vinyl siding with foam insulation backing (insulation rating of R-4) along with some of the simulated stone or cedar options can produce the distinctive appearance you desire. The foam also increases the stability of the vinyl.
Write for Utility Bills Update No. 735, a buyer’s guide to siding/insulation options. Include $3.00, a business-size SASE, and Update number. Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Go to www.dulley.com to instantly download.