HOW CAN I TELL WHAT TYPE OF SIDING IS ON MY HOME?

Dating back to pre-historic times, man discovered that shelter is an essential part of living. The Caveman had caves, the American Indians had tee-pees and huts, Kings and Queens had castles of stone, and the list goes on. Well, those of us that are fortunate enough to own a home might one day need to know what type of cladding is protecting our house.

Stone and brick cladding are easily identified. Most of us, however, have different types of cladding other than stone or brick. Here are some other types of cladding and their characteristics so you can tell what is on your house.

1.) Stucco and Synthetic Stucco

Real stucco siding is a mixture of cement and inert materials like sand, water, and lime, and is installed directly onto a wall after the proper preparations have been made to the wall surface. It can be mixed with different grades of sand to achieve the desired texture and is generally tinted so that it doesn't have to be painted for a long time. It is one of the oldest forms of cladding and is impervious to rot and insect damage if installed correctly. If you knock on the side of the house, it will sound solid and not hollow.

Synthetic Stucco was introduced in the 1950's by European builders shortly after World War 2 as an acceptable solution to repair buildings that were damaged during the war. It made a come-back during the 1980's in the U.S. as a less expensive alternative to real stucco. Synthetic Stucco consists of three layers. The exterior layer is made of a textured finish coat, which is the side that you see on the home, the middle layer consists of a cement base coat and a glue that is reinforced with a fiberglass mesh which is applied to the inner layer…a foam insulation board. This is the final layer, and is usually glued directly to the sheathing of the house. This material was originally produced with the intention of attaching directly onto stone or brick. When it started being applied to wood structures, is when the problems with moisture and rot damage occurred. EIFS- (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) is one such system that is well known for it's problems with residential applications. If you have moisture issues concerning stucco, you may see signs of swollen trim around your window and door frames, peeling or blistering paint, or mold and mildew issues on the exterior finish or even the interior of your home. This too, can be easily identified by knocking on the wall to see if it sounds solid or hollow. If it sounds hollow, it is most likely synthetic stucco. Oftentimes, there will be parts of the house that may have some puncture damages or holes that birds have pecked their way into the wall and made it their home too? Can you see foam inside these places? It's synthetic stucco! (Our photo gallery has several examples of Stucco Removal projects.)

2) Wood Siding

Wood siding has been around since there were trees. It is usually pretty easy to pick out. When stained, it is very easy, as you can see the wood grain textures, imperfections, and even knots. You may also see splintering and splitting, but the board is still intact. Lap siding boards are usually random in length, and are shorter than 16 feet long. Typically the boards are beveled with the bottom edge being thicker than the other to ensure that the boards lap over each other without difficulty. Shingle wood siding has also been a popular siding of the decades for it's aesthetic appeal. Vertical Panel wood siding is also another type of wood siding, such as Board and Batten, Channel Groove, Tongue and Groove, and the more recent, T-111 and reverse board and batten styles. All of these types of siding can be found in several different species including cedar, redwood, cypress, pine, and fir. Even though it requires more maintenance than recently introduced products, when properly maintained, wood siding will last a lifetime.

3) Synthetic wood siding

Also referred to as hardboard, pressboard or masonite siding, is mainly comprised of wood fibers, flakes or chips that are held together by glues and resins. This type of siding was extremely popular from the 1980's to the mid 1990's as a low cost alternative to other existing house sidings. It is mainly referred to as masonite siding because the company Masonite was the first manufacturer of this type of product. However, there have been several companies that have manufactured this type of product since it was introduced in the 1920's. There are many different types and styles of this product that have been made into both vertical and horizontal sidings. The best way to tell what type of siding it is, is to go to an unfinished area like the attic, and look on the backside of the board to find the manufacturer's name or an AHA code (The American Hardboard Association). This will help you determine the manufacturer of the product and where it was made. Another way is to try and identify specific markings on the exterior grain (if one exists). For instance, the Masonite Brand siding has a waffle iron texture, Weyerhaeuser's has a smoother finish that resembles cork, and Louisiana Pacific (LP) siding has a distinct knot that is repetitive throughout the board. (You'll find more information about Common Problems and pictures of various hardboard siding materials here.)

4) Asbestos Siding

Asbestos Siding is a type of siding that was introduced in the 1920's as a fire-proof cladding for buildings and homes that could also resist rot and insects. Asbestos itself is actually a rock that has an fibrous makeup that looks a lot like hair or fur. The first documented use of this material was in the 1800's as a type of insulation for pipes; it was later was used as insulation for buildings and homes. When used as a siding, asbestos fibers were mixed with Portland Cement and pressed together to form what we know as asbestos siding. This type of siding was manufactured up to the late 70's, until it was deemed to be a health risk. Asbestos is actually safe unless inhaled. This happens when the siding is cut or broken. Exposure to this have been known to cause Mesothelioma and Asbestosis of the lungs. The only true way to identify asbestos siding is to have it tested. It does have some characteristics too look for. It is ususally in a shingle/shake form 12″x24″. It may be smooth, or have a pressed wood-grain pattern on the surface of the board. It usually will have two or three nails at the bottom portion of each panel. It feels denser to the touch than current fiber-cement siding, and was typically dyed when manufactured so it wouldn't need to be painted. Efflorescence (chalking) can commonly be seen on Asbestos siding. If your house was built around or prior to the late 70's, has the original siding and seems to be made of cement, it is probably asbestos siding.

5) Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is pretty easy to identify. It looks very similar to vinyl siding, but is metal and can be easily dented. It was a very popular choice of siding in it's day because of its price, and could be installed directly over existing wood siding.

6) Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding too, is also pretty easy to identify. It feels like plastic, is dyed the same color throughout and when pushing on the wall of a house, it tends to flex. Like masonite siding, it is also usually labeled by the manufacturer or it may have a manufacturing code on the back side of the siding panel. Vinyl siding is a popular choice of homeowners because of the price, and can be installed over their existing siding. It never needs to be painted. One drawback is that if a piece of siding needs to be replaced, it can be difficult to find the same manufacturer, style, and color for an exact match. If you are lucky eneough to find that exact piece, the color may not match exactly due to fading of the existing siding. In recent years, manufacturers have introduced Insulated Vinyl Siding as an upgraded product. It is like regular vinyl siding, only it has an insulated foam backing that helps energy costs and also durability.

7) Fiber-Cement Siding

Most people can identify this type of siding because of it's popularity in recent years. it is more commonly referred to as HardiePlank (sometimes called hardiplank) siding. The James Hardie company began producing fiber cement building products in the mid - 1980's and the most popular being the HardiePlank lap siding. Today there are several companies that produce fiber cement siding and building products. Fiber Cement siding was manufactured as a replacement for asbestos siding, which was popular for its attributes of being fire-retardant and rot and insect proof. It is formulated using sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. It is very durable, and can be painted or stained. It also comes in pre-painted or pre-stained versions from different manufacturers. It is available in a wide variety of shapes and styles for siding, trim boards and soffit material. It is generally more expensive than aluminum or vinyl siding, but less expensive than stone or brick cladding. Fiber cement siding can be seen on newer homes built from the late 1980's to present date. (You might also like our post on "How to Clean Fiber Cement Siding.")

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