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Spend Smartly on Siding

At one point in time homes were simpler, having as many options as the big bad wolf did when he prayed on those three piggies, wood, brick or stone. Today, when you walk into the hardware store, options for siding can be overwhelming: vinyl, brick, metal, fibre cement, cultured stone and there is an even longer list online.

This article was originally published in Home and Cabin.

Vinyl siding, wood clapboard and fibre cement have similar appearances, but varied cost, durability and maintenance.

Vinyl siding is quickly installed and cheap at $24,200*. Many home owners choose vinyl because it’s economical and promises no maintenance. In a harsh climate like ours strong wind or flying branches can easily put knicks or cracks in siding. In most circumstances vinyl can’t be easily repaired and has to be replaced when it’s damaged. A few years down the road, the colour or profile you selected may no longer be manufactured, meaning you could have to re-side your entire home. Most manufacturer’s warranty vinyl for 20-25 years, but in practice to keep your home looking sharp you’ll probably have to replace it every 10-15 years, meaning when considering lifecycle costs, it may not actually be the cheapest option.

Wood clapboard has been used in this province for hundreds of years and there’s a reason for that. I chatted with big time wood advocate John Norman of Bonavista Living. The number of properties they own in Bonavista sits around sixty, and they use almost exclusively wood when restoring them. “Wood is natural, good for the environment and it lasts.” For wood siding you can expect to pay $35,200, and need to repaint every 5 to 15 years depending on your location. For wood to last, it needs to be protected so this maintenance piece is very important. There are many different grades of wood, John uses spruce clapboard from Cottle’s Island, which has the added bonus of supporting our local economy.

Fibre cement is a mix of cement and cellulose fibres which can be purchased pre-primed or painted. The most costly option at $44,000 this product is rot, fire and pest resistant. Fibre cement has gotten a bad rap because a few manufacturer’s products have not stood up to our climate. These manufacturer’s no longer warrant their product in Atlantic Canada, but there are products available that will work here. Like wood, it’s important that all sides be protected by primer and paint at all times. Water is the enemy! Tougher to install than wood, the panels are heavier which requires more hands and special tools. This option is right for you if you’re in a situation that the building code requires “non-combustible” cladding. Make sure it’s installed correctly or the warranty will be voided.

*The costs outlined above exclude HST and assume professional installation for a two-storey 1,500 sq. ft. house with gable roof and shed. Many factors affect cost and these numbers are only intended to give a relative idea. If you’re hiring a contractor, it’s always smart to get three quotes. If you are going to do-it-yourself, you can expect to pay 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of professional installation. DIYers should seek advice to make sure it’s installed right. A little bit of upfront work can save you time and money down the road.

This article was written with construction and pricing guidance from Sable Building and Design and building science guidance from Fougere Menchenton Architecture.


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