Home Exteriors: New options & traditional favorites... by Kathy Scott
You need only look back at the story of The Three Little Pigs to know that a home's exterior not only adds to its' beauty but is a factor in determining its' strength and durability against inclement winds and storms. In fact, a study released in 2004 by the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University states that "homes built with brick offer dramatically more protection from wind-blown debris than homes built with vinyl or fiber-cement siding."
Brick exteriors have stood the test of time for many reasons, not the least of which comes down to maintenance. Brick is relatively maintenance free, save for periodic repointing where mortar joints become cracked. According to Marshall and Swift's Residential Cost Handbook, brick homes average a 6% higher resale value over identical homes with vinyl, wood siding, cedar, or aluminum exteriors.
While brick may increase a home's value, wood exteriors continue to be a conventional favorite for many homeowners, some even opting to blend wood siding with brick or stone exteriors, creating a mix of traditional and contemporary design. Be aware that all wood is not created equal, and the maintenance associated with wood siding can be difficult and expensive. Untreated wood that is exposed to moisture will rot and decompose. In addition, without proper maintenance such as power washing, staining or painting, the elements will peel away at the surface paint and sealant, exposing it to mold or mildew over time. If properly maintained, however, wood can be an attractive and sought after exterior. Redwoods and Cedars are naturally resistant to insects, offering innate beauty and stability. Cedar can be cut into shakes, and because of its' strength, resistance to swelling and splitting, it can be found on some of the finer homes around the country.
Many builders opt to use pressure-treated Southern Pine, spruce and fir as more economical alternatives for siding. These also offer the native beauty of wood and can be just as durable as stronger woods if maintained properly, such as sealing and staining or painting over time in order to defend against moisture and eventual rotting.
There are alternatives to real wood siding that have become popular as well. Engineered wood, or composite wood siding, is made with wood products but doesn't have the strength that is available in the high-grade wood options. Fiber-cement siding, which goes by the brand name Hardiplank, can be manufactured to resemble wood grain. Voted one of 20 most innovative products introduced in the last two decades by Builder Magazine, Hardiplank is an attractive alternative to wood that won't rot or crack. It's also fireproof and termite-proof, and offers a warranty of up to 50 years. Because of its' durability and resistance to harsh sun and cold winds, a good paint job can last up to 10 years on Hardiplank.
Both vinyl and aluminum siding are additional types of low-cost alternatives to wood with the advantage of low maintenance; however, neither have the strength and robustness that wood or fiber-cement offers. While aluminum won't crack or split like some vinyl siding can, it may dent, and both products fade after just a few years. Still, the large availability of colors and vinyl's ability to resemble architectural design features has made it one of the most popular siding materials in the U.S. and Canada.
For people looking for a more ornate, yet simple wall exterior, look no further than conventional stucco which has dressed up homes, palaces and mansions around the world for hundreds of years. This beautiful wall coating became popular in America in the 20th Century with the advent of the Spanish and Italian design trends that continue today. Most prevalent in California, the Southwest, and Florida, stucco has initiated trends in architectural styles including Art Deco, Mission, Pueblo, Spanish Colonial, and Tudor Revival.
The exterior of a house often creates a setting for the entire home and offers practical objectives like insulating the structure and keeping out the elements. While it is important to choose the style that is most aesthetically pleasing to you, it is also important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option.