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How to get the most out of wood siding installation?

When building a new home from the ground up, I like to think of the siding as the “skin” of the structure. The siding encases the robust framework and insulates the interior spaces. It serves as the first defense against rain, wind, and ice and transforms your house from a bare skeleton into a completed home that complements your style. In other words, siding brings your home to life. Critical factors such as local climate, style preferences, and budget limitations influence when choosing a siding material. Depending on the size of your home, the type of siding, and labor/installation expenses, your new home’s siding is certain to be a large portion of your overall budget. While there are many types of siding on the market, I believe in holding true to a classic. Wood siding has been in use for thousands of years. Trusted by many builders, wood products have provided excellent advantages for homeowners while growing in natural appeal over time. With various colors, textures, treatments, and styles coming to the market, the versatility of wood siding has grown and adapted with the ages to remain in high fashion. However, wood siding doesn’t come without its challenges. Aspiring homeowners should do their research before beginning construction to ensure adequate planning for their home’s needs. Here is a brief list of the pros and cons homeowners need to know about wood siding.

How to get the most out of wood siding installation?

Things to grasp before natural wood siding installation

To give the exterior of your home that traditional, nostalgic look, there’s really no substitute for wood siding. Its popularity has steadily declined over the years as more homeowners opted for stucco, vinyl, and fiber cement siding, which require less maintenance. Only 4% of new homes completed in 2021 were made with wood siding, down from 39% in 1990. However, it’s still a classic, viable option.

Take these factors into consideration if you’re thinking about wood siding:

  • Cost. The cost of your wood can fluctuate based on availability. But pine and fir are typically on the lower end, followed by cedar, then more niche options like barn wood and redwood. If you’re on a budget and go with a cheaper option, their higher maintenance requirements might cost you more in the long run. The mid-range price and high durability of cedar make it a good, long-term, and popular choice.
  • Durability. Wood siding can last from 10 to 30 years, depending on maintenance and installation quality. Your climate and amount of direct sunlight can decrease its lifespan as well. 
  • Maintenance. Wood siding needs periodic re-staining to prevent moisture damage. The frequency depends on several factors — the type of wood, its orientation, climate, and proper installation. Pine may require a clear coat yearly or bi-yearly. If you don’t have the time for frequent maintenance, wood siding might not be for you.
  • Installation. Wood siding must be installed properly to ensure it lasts as long as possible. An experienced DIY-er can install the basic wood siding. When in doubt, hire a pro.
  • Pest and rot resistance. Wood is not the best siding material for pest and rot resistance. If this is a priority, he says cedar lasts the longest. To remove this risk entirely, go with fiber cement or vinyl siding.
  • Sustainability. Wood siding has a relatively low carbon footprint. Overall, most cedar and pine are harvested sustainably in the U.S. Freeman says better forestry practices help. 

Natural wood siding - The basics

One of the first things to consider with natural wood siding is what type will work best for your area. Softwoods, such as pine, cedar, and redwood, are particularly susceptible to sun and salt air and will require a bit more upkeep than hardwoods, such as ipe or teak.

While hardwoods require less upkeep, they do tend to be more expensive on the front end. Certain species often work better in certain climates and locations, so consulting with your local lumber yard is a great way to understand what factors you should consider when you choose a species.

What are the types of wood siding?

All wood species and composite woods for siding are milled into specific shapes that adapt to the home’s style and the owner’s design requirements.

  • Shingle siding. Shake and shingle siding options are similar, except that shingles are thinner. Beyond that, most properties of shake apply to shingles. Since shingles lay flatter to the house than a shake, they give the house a smoother, cleaner look—less bumpy and rustic-looking. Most shingle siding made of wood is made from cedar. Polymers and asphalt are sometimes used as wood alternatives.
  • Board and batten. This is a vertically oriented siding with wide strips of wood interspersed by thin strips. The wide board strips are usually about 1 foot wide, and the battens are about 1/2 inch wide. The look is similar to that of interior wainscotting or beadboard. While the look of board and batten is usually described as being barn-like, it has since become disassociated from its rural roots and can be found in modern and contemporary style homes.
  • Shake siding. This type of wood siding is created from thick, almost wedge-like shingles. Shakes are lapped, top over bottom, just like a house’s roofing shingles. Wood shake gives a home a rustic yet refined look. While shake is mostly associated with cedar, it’s also made from fiber cement and engineered wood. Since trapped moisture can be a problem with a wood shake, fiber cement shakes offer better protection against moisture. Cedar shake can also be a fire hazard, and many communities ban the use of cedar shake on homes.
  • Shiplap siding. This type of wood siding creates a weather-proof seal by laying or lapping part of a top board over a lower board. This fit is tight enough to keep out rain, snow, and wind but flexible enough to allow the house siding to expand and contract. Fiber cement, engineered wood, spruce, and fir are ideal types of wood for shiplap siding. 
  • Panels siding. Large wood panels 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide are an economical way to side a house. Because of their size, wood panels go up quickly. Wood panels are made from plywood, fiber cement, and engineered wood. Large-format panels’ appearance is plain, functional, and utilitarian. With the right stain or paint job, though, large panels can enhance a home.
  • Split log siding. This siding type makes the home look like a real log cabin as if thick logs were stacked to form walls. Actually, these are slices of logs that are attached to the home sheathing to give the impression of full-size logs. Split log siding is made from hardwoods such as oak, cypress, or cedar. Minor cracks in the wood are common, but that’s part of the effect. Split log siding creates a cozy, traditional look for homes in wooded areas or for vacation homes.
  • Tongue and groove. This is a horizontal siding with the tongue from an upper board fitting into the groove of a lower board. Tongue and groove create a close joint between the two boards, but one that’s loose enough to allow movement. Tongue and groove siding is commonly made from fir, pine, and cedar.

What are the key approaches to wood siding maintenance?

Regular maintenance is imperative to ensure your wood board siding will last. You should clean your siding every year with warm soapy water and a soft bristle brush and inspect it for cracks and chips in the finish. A common culprit for finish damage is your landscaping, so keep shrubs, trees, and other foliage off your siding with regular trimming.

Keep an eye on where your siding butts against windows, doors, and corners, and seal these locations with caulking to prevent water from seeping in. Check for cracks and gaps in the seal regularly, and if you notice any damaged caulking, reapply a bit on a dry, warm day.

Should you discover any damaged siding, be sure to have it replaced to prevent water seepage and rot. Replacing sections of siding without damaging other areas can be tricky, so unless you are particularly confident in your carpentry skills, it’s best to hire a contractor to come and replace the area in question.

Wood siding - Benefits and downsides

Wood is a natural material that offers unlimited advantages as a siding option, enhancing the homes' curb appeal and insulating and protecting it from the elements. Check the primary advantages of this siding material below: 

  • Eco-friendliness. Wood is a renewable and biodegradable building material. If you’re remodeling your home, your existing wood siding can be mulched or upcycled into another project. It never has to end up in a landfill. You can invest in sustainably sourced wood or that which is locally produced to reduce your impact on the environment when building or remodeling. 
  • Resistance to impact. Wood is unique in its ability to smooth out any dents imposed by flying ice and debris. Brick and stone have the tendency to chip and break, while metal and plastic may take on dents, but real wood is often very resilient when impacted.
  • Longevity. Maintaining your wood siding over time takes patience, effort, and diligence. Homeowners should be proactive in noticing and addressing splits, cracks, warping, and insect and moisture damage as soon as it happens. If a wood siding home is properly maintained, it can be around for 40 years—or longer! This makes wood siding an efficient and cost-effective choice in many areas.
  • Versatility. Natural wood can be processed to offer a rustic or modern appearance. It can be customized with texture and color to get whatever look you’re going for with your design. You can choose from various wood products and have clapboard, shingle, or wood lap siding.
  • Aesthetics. There’s a reason why other materials try to mimic the look of wood; it’s a classic, timeless building material that never goes out of style. When installed correctly by the skilled team at Burbach Companies, natural wood siding can increase your home’s value no matter your style.
  • Easy maintenance. Wood siding can be repaired or replaced easily. If there’s a crack, a hole, or warping, the right tools can bring the siding back to its original state. With other siding options, sometimes an entire panel must be removed to fix one small imperfection. You can avoid this hassle with wood siding. To preserve natural wood exteriors, they should be cleaned every 4 to 6 years, and a coat of new paint or stain can be applied every 3 to 5 years. 

While there are plenty of advantages to celebrating wood siding, it also comes with several challenges:

  • Prone to damage. Exposure to moisture and insects is a huge risk for your wood materials. Without proper moisture control, planks will warp or cup. They may even grow mold or mildew if left untreated. It is critical to properly treat your wood before installation and maintain the recommended maintenance schedule to lessen your risk of damage to your siding. Choose reputable products and high-quality protection to prevent the failure of your siding.
  • Risk of infestation. The enemies of wood siding are termites. If left untreated, your wood siding could be eaten up by insects in a matter of days. Choosing an insect-resistant wood is a great place to start your defensive strategy, but consult your contractor for more information on wood maintenance and treatment schedules to ensure that your home is protected against any local critters.
  • High maintenance. Compared to other siding types, wood siding requires the most upkeep and regular maintenance. It must be resealed and/or repainted every few years to prevent cracking, warping, and splitting. Homeowners must be vigilant and notice any irregularities as soon as they happen and treat them accordingly before they become bigger and more costly issues. Keeping with a recommended regular maintenance schedule is key to keeping your wood siding in excellent shape.
  • Climate concerns. Wood siding is very versatile in any climate. However, your climate should factor in deciding which type of wood you purchase. Cedar has a naturally water-resistant temperament, making it an ideal choice for rainy or tropical climates. Some wood types are at a greater risk for moisture damage and may be better suited for dry climates. If you live in a particularly wet climate, keep in mind that your siding may require being sealed more frequently to stay protected from water damage.

How much does wood siding cost?

Wood siding is typically priced by the square foot, and the costs can vary widely depending on the type of wood used. Additionally, the size of the house will determine how much material is needed. Wood siding for a large house will come with a higher price tag even if a more economical type of wood siding is chosen because more material will be needed to complete the job.

The price range for materials alone is typically $1 to $5 per square foot, while installation costs anywhere between an additional $2 and $5 per square foot. This means that installation costs will easily double the price of the project, which is why many homeowners will consider doing the work themselves. However, if the type of wood siding chosen is challenging to deal with or the exterior layout of the home is too complicated, homeowners will find professional installation well worth the price.

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