Replacement Siding Choices – Materials Are Not Created Equal


If you’ve recently purchased an older home or have been in one for a while the challenge of finding appropriate replacement siding may be on your mind. There’s a “good news/bad news” scenario for your Madison WI home. The good news is you have a wide array of materials, colors and styles to choose from. The bad news is deciding which is best for your property may not be easy. Your replacement siding options all come with variable – material and installation costs, reliability, on-going maintenance demands and environmental impact.

Do you have a color in mind – there’s a siding product that’s just what you envision.

Your basic choice of materials includes:

  • Vinyl – the most popular siding choice.
  • Fiber cement – there’s a new take on this once very popular material
  • Real wood – for natural charm and rustic appeal
  • Engineered wood – for the look of real wood without the maintenance
  • Synthetic stone – the look of stone without the excessive weight and installation cost

Vinyl Siding – The No. 1 Replacement Siding Choice

Vinyl siding first appeared on Madison-area homes more than 50 years ago. But today’s version is a far cry from those early attempts. Modern vinyl is rugged, environmentally-friendly and available in a rainbow of colors and dozens of textures. The color is blended in not added on so nicks and scratches rarely show. Sophisticated manufacturing makes vinyl that mirrors wood grains.

A relatively new advance in replacement vinyl siding is the addition of a layer of insulation. Using polystyrene foam bonded to the vinyl, each piece of siding adds insulation to your home. Insulated vinyl siding costs a bit more but it pays for the difference over time with savings on heating and cooling.

There are pros and cons with every replacement siding type. Vinyl has become extremely popular because homeowners think the benefits outweigh and disadvantages. Those benefits include:

  • Vinyl requires little or no maintenance – dirt and grime washes off
  • You never need to repaint
  • Relatively easy and inexpensive to install
  • Top brands from Sims Exteriors & Remodeling have excellent warranties
  • Available in a wide range of colors, styles and textures
  • Insulated versions are energy-efficient
  • Siding removed from existing installations is recyclable

Drawbacks include:

  • With some installations there are visible seams where siding panels overlap
  • Vinyl will crack when struck by large hail
  • The manufacturing process (as with all plastics) creates toxins – a concern for environmentally-conscious homeowners

Fiber Cement Siding – Back By Popular Demand

Decades ago fiber cement siding products were the standard of the industry. They earned a reputation for stability and low maintenance. Modern engineering and manufacturing has brought them back into the spotlight.

Made from a mix of wood pulp, cement, clay and sand siding is shaped to mimic wood grains, clapboard, masonry and stucco. It is a great match for rustic shingle designs.

What kind of siding is that? Different colors and different textures from the same material – let your imagination loose.

Fiber cement products accept a wide range of paints and stains. Most manufactures provide a long list of factory-applied finishes.

The advantages of fiber cement products include:

  • Siding stands up well to the Wisconsin climate – resisting shrinkage and expansion from changes in humidity and temperature extremes.
  • Paint lasts on the rugged surface
  • Fire- and termite-proof
  • Siding won’t rot
  • Extremely durable
  • Made from materials that are renewable

Drawbacks include:

  • Weight – as you can imagine, anything made from cement is heavy
  • Installation requires specialized tools and techniques
  • Unlike vinyl, it cannot be installed over existing siding – so installation takes longer and costs more

Real Wood Siding – Classic, Timeless

Throughout the Madison area there are hundreds of traditional, classic bungalow, Cape Cod and Craftsman style homes. Each a perfect candidate for the timeless appeal of real wood siding. Wood, when maintained properly lasts for decades.

Few siding materials have the natural charm and appeal of wood clapboard and shingle siding.

Wood siding is created from a variety of species and grades – usually chosen for the final outward appearance.

Unfortunately, real wood siding has a significant down side. However, it’s most positive attributes include:

  • Natural beauty and character
  • Easy to cut and shape for the unique appearance of cottages and bungalows
  • Curb appeal second to none for those looking for period architecture
  • Wood is sustainable and recyclable

On the down side, the list includes:

  • Wood requires regular, routine maintenance – including painting and staining
  • Top grades of wood are pricey
  • Replacing siding means removing old materials – increasing cost and time
  • Quality installation requires skill, craftsmanship and experience

Of all the attributes the need for regular maintenance is the No. 1 drawback for real wood. To get the look and elegance of wood you have to commit to taking care of it.

When ‘Wood’ Isn’t Wood – Made-made Wood Siding

Created from wood fibers and special resins, engineered wood siding is tough, strong and stands up to Madison’s weather. It comes in  several styles and textures – classic beaded lap board, rough-sawn clapboard and a shake shingle look for example.

Most products come from the factory primed and ready to paint, or with factory-applied colors.

Advantages to this relatively new entry in the siding market include:

  • It’s easy to work with – no harmful dust
  • Some products are treated to repel insects
  • Less costly than real wood
  • Manufacturing process uses wood materials considered waste in other applications

Drawbacks include:

  • A poor reputation because early versions had problems with moisture
  • Not enough time in the field to get a solid reading on value vs. cost, longevity, etc.

Decorative, Synthetic Stone – An Accent Option

Few people want to cover their entire home with stone. However, adding stone accents with synthetic stone is an ideal option. Molded from a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate synthetic stone products look real. You can have stone accents on your home that look like anything from natural Wisconsin field stone and river rock to granite and limestone. Each in a selection of shapes and sizes.

The positive aspects of stone accents include:

  • The appeal of real stone without the weight
  • Far less cost than bringing in real stone
  • Synthetic stones are fire- and insect-resistant
  • Stone accents add instant curb appeal – especially for bungalow, cottage and Craftsman style homes
  • Extremely environmentally-friendly

The biggest drawback is the cost. As a siding option, man-made stone is on the high-end of the pricing scale. In addition, critics say “it doesn’t look real.”

Installation Critical For Replacement Siding

No matter the siding material you want for your home renovation, quality installation is vital. Is a company that boasts of its ability to do it “fast” and/or “cheap” a wise investment? Sims Exteriors & Remodeling has been installing siding in the Madison area for decades. Our crews are well-trained and experienced. No company in the area matches our experience. When you need siding you want a company that’s been around and will be around to support its workmanship and products, right? When siding is on your list of upgrades email us or give us a call at 608-825-4500.  Sims Exteriors & Remodeling is the leader for high quality products and installation of replacement siding in the Madison WI area.

Best Wood Siding Ideas – Pinterest

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