Wood Siding Installation
Wood siding is one of the most attractive home siding options available today. Available in all kinds of looks from rustic to smooth, wood siding comes in planks, boards, and shingles. Clapboard siding has remained one of the most popular New England looks for centuries. Or long vertical planks can provide a fresh, modern look. It’s all doable with wood.
The main drawbacks of wood siding are the high installation costs and relatively high maintenance needs. Wood requires an exterior finish to protect it from the elements. It can be damaged by weather exposure, rot, pests, and can easily warp or split.
To protect the investment you’re making, it’s vital that you hire a reliable, licensed contractor to do wood siding installation and repairs properly. CLAD Siding offers free quotes from fully vetted licensed, insured wood siding specialists in just minutes. Click here to get started!
Wood Siding Repairs
While wood siding can be a beautiful choice for your home, it has some fairly common repair and maintenance issues. When the siding is first installed, it should be finished using a clear sealer, paint, or a semi-transparent stain. It’s also recommended to re-paint, stain, or varnish every 4 – 9 years; check siding annually for holes or rot; and be vigilant with pest control.
Other potential repair issues include:
Treated wood siding should last for decades. But if even a tiny crack forms in the paint or stain from freezing weather or ground movement, water can invade, leading to rot and mold.
Swelling and Warping
If wood siding absorbs moisture, it can potentially lead to swelling and warping. Once it dries out, you’ll have to either repaint or replace, depending on the damage.
Mold, Mildew, and Rot
Any opening in wood siding allows moisture to seep in, potentially getting trapped behind the siding and causing mold, mildew, or rot in your walls. It’s important to inspect wood siding frequently and repair the damage immediately.
Wood siding is hugely attractive to woodpeckers and insects like carpenter ants and termites. You’ll want to caulk any openings to stop insect invasions and attach shiny materials that deter woodpeckers.
Wood Siding vs. Engineered Wood Siding
There is nothing that compares to the beauty of wood, but engineered wood is a great alternative to traditional wood siding for homeowners who like the look of wood, but don’t want the continuous maintenance that comes with natural wood siding. Engineered wood is created by combining strands or fibers of wood with a resin composite material. Special wax is added to the fibers to help make them water-resistant, and then the material is pressured heated to make it denser, increasing its strength and durability. The addition of zinc borate ensures that engineered wood resists pest infestations and fungal decay – even in wet, rainy environments – unlike natural wood.
Wooden Siding Pros and Cons
Wood siding has long been one of the most popular siding options. It adds warmth and beauty to a home’s exterior, giving it a timeless, classic appeal. Wood siding can be installed quickly, is fairly affordable compared to other siding materials, and is easily available. However, in recent years other materials have surpassed wood siding in popularity because wood has several distinct disadvantages.
Following are some of the main pros and cons of natural wood siding:
While fiber cement and vinyl wood options may be lower maintenance siding options, there’s nothing like the look of real wood. Aesthetically, natural wood looks wonderful and comes in a vast array of profiles and grains. It doesn’t crack easily and has great impact resistance, unlike its metal counterparts. Weathering and age often add to its beauty over time.
Easy to install
Unlike fiber cement or aluminum siding options, wood siding is easy to install. It can be installed by a qualified carpenter or professional handyman, depending on the licensing requirements in your state.
If maintained properly, wood siding can last 20 to 50 years or more. If not maintained properly, its lifespan will decrease significantly.
Wood is one of the most eco-friendly materials around. Many types of trees, such as cedar, grow quickly, making them a renewable resource. If a house is destroyed, the wood can be reused or will completely decay in a landfill. It also takes considerably less energy to manufacture wood siding than other kinds of petroleum-based siding.
Customizable and easy to repair
You can paint or stain wood siding pretty much any color you’d like, customizing it to your style and design needs. And if it’s damaged in any way, you can easily repair it. Holes can be filled with wood putty, warped boards can be stretched or replaced.
Will increase resale value
Siding your home with wood siding can help increase its resale value as many potential buyers appreciate the beautiful look that wood siding provides. Since wood can be more costly to install than vinyl and aluminum siding, potential buyers might consider it to be a higher-end, more desirable option.
Without proper upkeep, wood won’t last long before the weather wears it down, or pests start to eat it. Better quality wood lasts longer but is more expensive and still requires a higher level of maintenance than engineered woods. If your home has wood siding you’ll need to be exceedingly diligent about the siding upkeep, reapplying finishes every few years, and inspecting it for holes and damage frequently.
Can be costly
Wood siding is an affordable option, but if you go with more expensive types of wood, the costs can add up. Overall, depending on the type of wood you choose, it will likely cost less than brick and stone, more than vinyl and fiber cement, and about the same as stucco.
Wood is highly flammable, although it can be treated with chemical flame-retardant sprays to improve its fire resistance qualities. Fire can still penetrate through the joints of the siding, so it’s important to install fire-resistant trim as well.
It doesn’t insulate well
The R-value of wood siding is 0.81 to 0.87; vinyl siding’s R-value is 0.67. But the difference is minor as a fully-insulated home should have a minimum R-value of 13. Since wood is a natural material, it tends to expand and contract with the changing weather. That means it won’t fit as tightly to your home as another type of material. You’ll have to add a layer of foam panel insulation under the siding to properly insulate your home.
Animals and insects love it
As a natural material, wood is subject to wood-eating insect or pest infestations. Some types of wood are more susceptible than others, so it’s important to do your research beforehand and then treat the wood accordingly.
It’s not sound-proof
Wood is not intrinsically a soundproof material. Adding wood siding alone will not decrease the amount of noise penetrating the walls of your home but adding foam insulation under the siding can result in a significant reduction in sound.
Cost to Install Wood Siding – Material and Labor Installation Costs
The cost to install wood siding averages $2 to $10 per square foot for materials and labor. The cost of wood varies depending on the wood’s grade and type. A premium grade of wood costs $3 – $10 per square foot. Mid-grade wood siding costs $2 – $6 per square foot and low-grade costs $1 – $3 per square foot. Installation of wood siding on a 1,500 square foot home will average close to $10,000 for a mid-grade wood, plus labor. It’s recommended that wood is treated to protect the siding. Most painters charge $50 per hour to prime or stain a home’s exterior. Painting a 1,500 square foot house exterior adds an average of $2,500 – $3,000.
How to Choose Wood Siding
When choosing wood siding for your home, there are many factors to take into consideration; the appearance of the wood, how naturally decay-resistant it is, its affordability, and how well it can perform once treated. Most wood siding is made from heartwood which is the dead, central wood of a tree. The living, outermost portion of the tree is called the sapwood. Heartwood is dark, strong, resistant to decay, and more difficult to treat with wood-preservative chemicals than other types of wood. But it is typically denser and more durable than sapwood.
All forms of wood are vulnerable to insects, but when it comes to siding, cedar is probably the most impervious. The heartwood is naturally pest resistant and when sealed, stained, and painted, it will resist moisture, insect damage, and decay quite well. Softer woods, such as pine and spruce, are far more attractive to termites, carpenter ants, and powder post beetles, not to mention woodpeckers who love to hammer into corners. Softwoods will need to be treated and vigorously maintained to keep pest damage at a minimum.
Again, when you’re using wood for outdoor purposes such as siding, you’ll want to choose species that are naturally rot-resistant. The best heartwood choices are redwood, cypress, and red cedar, but if you’re buying pure heartwood, you’ll be paying top dollar. Even if you end up buying siding that’s a mix of heartwood and sapwood, you’ll want to make sure it’s treated with UV-resistant varnish, stain, or paint. Then, to ensure your wooden siding remains rot-resistant, you’ll want to retreat it every couple of years.
Redwood and cedar are the most popular woods for siding due to the natural decay resistance of the heartwood and its attractive appearance when stained or finished. Cypress is also very popular, especially in Southern areas where it grows. If you can’t afford such premium woods, a wide variety of softwoods, including pine and spruce, are used that are not naturally resistant to decay but can be treated to function well.
Wood siding is generally graded for quality of appearance. Western species that are used for siding adhere to grading standards set by the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA). Western woods are either labeled as premium and generally made of heartwood and have fewer defects, or knotty, with visible knots where the branches met the tree. Knotty wood can be problematic for siding, as the knots can potentially come loose and allow water to seep in, resulting in board warping. Old-growth wood, from trees that grew over hundreds of years, is typically denser and more stable than newer growth – thus more desirable for siding products.
With so many types of wood siding available, how do you choose which is best for your home? You’ll want to make your decisions based upon the style of your home, common profiles in your region, the weather in your area, and your personal preferences. The top seven profiles (outlined in detail below) include lap siding, drop channel, tongue-and-groove, split logs, board and batten, shakes, and shingles. Some are designed for more traditional horizontal installation, while others are meant for a modern vertical orientation.
When it comes to the maintenance of your new wood siding, there’re several questions to ask yourself before installation. Are you going to paint the wood a specific color? Then it should be treated with an acrylic paint that will expand and contract with the natural movement of the house over time. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any cracking or flaking and be prepared to re-paint every three to seven years. If you prefer the natural beauty of the wood, you’ll want to go with a stain and sealer that will bring out the grain while protecting the wood itself. If you go that route, plan to re-stain the siding every four years on average. In between, it’s a good idea to wash off dirt and debris with a hose, patch holes with weather-resistant epoxy, re-caulk as necessary around windows and joints, spray for insects, and clean stains with bleach and water.
Wood Siding Types
Many types of wood are available, some of which are better for siding purposes. Each has a distinct look and appeal, depending on your preferences. Following are some of the most popular choices:
Cedar is a very popular option, especially in moist climates. It’s a strong wood that comes in many grades and colors and is not as disposed to water absorption as other types of woods. Best of all, it’s affordable, making it possible to get a timeless look on a more limited budget.
Charred or Burnt Wood
Charred or burnt wood siding is a Japanese process also called Shou-Sugi-Ban. The finish adds a weather-resistant coating that helps the wood last longer. It comes in many styles – from light to heavy charring – and colors, adding a distinctive, rustic look to any home.
Cypress is an attractive hardwood that’s not too heavy and is largely rot and pest-resistant. Much of the cypress used for siding is recycled from older buildings, so it has sustainability going for it as well.
Fir is a softwood that absorbs water easily and is not great at preventing rot or insect damage. It’s generally cut into longer boards, so it’s good for smaller sections where you won’t mind the seams. If you choose fir, it’s definitely necessary to stain or paint the boards, and fastidiously maintain them over time.
Pine generally comes in either yellow pine, which is stronger and generally used for framing a house, or white pine, which is softer but absorbs stain and paints better. Pine boards often have a knotty texture which means you’ll need to inspect them to ensure they won’t break or split during installation. They’re also not naturally insect and rot-resistant, so the siding will most definitely need to be treated with paint or stain.
Plywood or T1-11 Siding
Plywood, or T1-11, siding is a versatile, low-cost siding material that can be stained to simulate natural wood, or painted. It’s available in either sanded or roughhewn varieties, depending on your preference, and is strong and durable. It must be prepped, sealed, and maintained to protect against water, sunlight, and heat.
Redwood is another great option for wet weather regions. It’s inherently water-resistant and isn’t likely to warp or buckle. It’s also insect-resistant, long-lasting, and great-looking. Redwood is expensive, but if you can afford it, it’s a great way to go.
Spruce is a cousin to fir and has a lot of the same issues with moisture, rot, and pests. It comes in many grades and can easily be customized, but like fir, spruce needs to be treated and maintained to hold its value.
Wood Siding Profiles
There are three main profiles of wood siding on the market today; horizontal lap siding, vertical siding, and shakes, shingles, and scallops. Within each of these groups, there are literally dozens of styles to choose from, helping you customize your home any way you desire.
Horizontal Lap Siding
The most common type of horizontal wood siding is lap siding. Also known as bevel or clapboard siding, lap siding is one of the most durable, and easiest to install and maintain types of wood siding. Most commonly seen in New England, lap siding is made of boards sawn so that one side is thin and the other is thicker. Then they’re installed from the bottom up, overlapping each other so there’s a water-tight seal.
- Beaded lap: With beaded lap siding, there’s a deep “V” groove running along the bottom which creates a distinct shadow line between the face of the panel and the rounded bead. Because originally it was all carved by hand, beaded lap was more expensive than more traditional forms of siding and became a signature look of well-to-do families in the Colonial era. Today, it remains popular for its distinctive, traditional appeal.
- Beveled lap: Beveled lap siding looks a lot like clapboard siding but is created differently. Bevel siding is milled by re-sawing lumber at an angle to produce one edge thicker than the other. This early 20th-century version of the traditional clapboard has a triangular shape with a thick back and a thin front edge. It’s installed with the thicker edge overlapping the thin, resulting in an attractive shadow line.
- Clapboard: Traditional New England clapboard is plain lap siding cut radially from the log, producing a vertical grain that is highly weather-resistant and durable. Because it has more thickness than beveled siding, it’s thought to be a slightly better insulator.
- Dolly Varden: A Dolly Varden pattern features a notch in the thicker edge of the triangle-shaped board. This “rabbeted” edge cut allows the bevel siding panels to fit snugly together so as to protect joints from water intrusion. The Dolly Varden profile is fairly easy to install while providing a traditional bevel style and appearance.
- Dutch, German, or Cove lap: Dutch (or German or Cove) lap siding is a style that creates a pattern of overlapping horizontal rows. It’s a highly popular New England style, similar in look and feel to clapboard siding, except the boards are beveled on the top edge giving it a stylish profile and more shadowing than traditional clapboard.
- Shiplap: Shiplap is milled to tightly interlock, creating a flat look with very little variation between the planks. There’s no shadow line as there might be with a Clapboard or Dutch lap system.
- Channel gap: With shiplap siding, the boards connect firmly together, but channel gap siding is designed so they don’t. The boards are milled with a flat section that joins the two boards together. Once they’re joined, there’s an attractive shadow between the two boards.
- Channel rustic: Channel rustic siding, or channel lap, is similar to the channel gap, but has a rustic, rough-sawn texture. This siding provides excellent weather protection and allows for breathing in variable climates.
- Nickel gap: Nickel gap is a close cousin to the channel gap but there’s much less room between the boards. This cuts down dramatically on the amount of dirt and debris that can gather in the grooves.
- Tongue and Groove: As with channel siding, tongue and groove siding can be installed in any desired direction: vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Individual planks are milled with a groove on one long edge, and a corresponding tongue on the other long edge. The tongue and groove planks interlock to create a smooth surface. This method of joining is used for hardwood floors as well as siding.
The boards for live edge siding are unusual in that they haven’t been cut straight on the sides. Instead, they are left with the natural curves of the tree creating a beautiful, natural, and truly rustic effect. Not readily available at big box home improvement stores, live edge siding is best sourced from specialty suppliers or directly from mills.
Split Log Siding
If you’re the proud owner of a cabin in the woods, you most likely will be interested in split log siding to protect your home. Made from hardwoods such as cypress, cedar, or oak, split log siding is custom-made by sawing logs with the natural bark still attached. These pieces are then attached to prepared walls, creating the appearance of solid logs. The planks must go through a drying process before installation so that they won’t shrink or warp. Then they’re sprayed with a clear coat to seal the wood, keeping moisture and insects out.
Vertical siding is tricky in that seams have problems remaining water-resistant. Because wood expands and contracts with the weather, water leaks are more likely to arise with this option. It must be installed by a professional wood siding contractor who can provide the correct overlap in materials while leaving room for the material to breathe.
- Board and Batten: Board and batten has large “boards” that are installed vertically, leaving just a little bit of space between them. “Battens” are smaller, thinner pieces of wood that are installed on top. This style has traditionally been used for utilitarian buildings like barns and stables, but vertical siding has been growing in popularity in recent years due to the long, lean look it provides.
Shake, Shingles & Scallops
Wooden shakes, shingles, and scallops are siding styles that are beautiful and beloved for their rustic elegance and old-world charm. They are, however, hard to maintain and are very vulnerable to moisture and insect damage.
All three are applied from the bottom up so that each layer overlaps the one below it. They can be made from any type of wood, although shake siding is most popular in redwood and cedar. It’s important that you’re careful when painting or staining so they all wear at the same rate and won’t need individual replacement in the future.
- Wood shingles are thin, tapered pieces of wood that are generally machine-cut from a block of wood to be smooth and consistent. Wood shingles are popular for siding because they’re fairly easy to install and great as accents or for uniquely-shaped contours. They can be stained or painted and are often used in brightly-painted colors on Victorian-style homes.
- Shakes look like shingles, but they’re split from lumber logs and are usually crafted into shape by hand. Shakes are much thicker than shingles, more durable, and not uniform in thickness. Wooden shakes are customarily left “undressed” with a rough surface that gives them a more rustic appearance.
- Scallops are machine-crafted half-round panels that add a delicate appeal with their curved bottoms.
Find Wood Siding Contractors Near Me
When hiring a company to install wood siding on your house, it’s important to find a contractor who knows the material, has experience creating the profile you’ve chosen, and won’t make costly mistakes along the way.
Following are things you should look for when hiring a wood siding contractor:
Ask for recommendations
Make sure to ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have recently installed wood siding for their recommendations. Find out what it was like working with the particular company: whether the job was done on time, care was taken to do the work correctly, and if there were any unexpected time or cost overages.
Once you have a number of names, ask the companies for references from recent clients. They should be happy to provide you with contact information from satisfied customers. And, finally, check out each company online to read posted reviews and comments.
Ask intelligent questions
Be sure to ask questions about the type of material and installation design you’ve chosen. A good wood siding contractor should be able to advise you on the best type of wood for your particular climate, and which profile will work best with the style of your home. They can also weigh in on color and finish choices, based on experience and material knowledge.
Specify experience with your materials and profile
If you have a definite idea of materials and profile you’d prefer, make sure to look for a siding contractor near me who has worked in those mediums before. Many contractors can claim experience, but if they’ve never actually worked with the materials, or created the look you desire, they may not have the know-how to get the job done right the first time.
Ask any contractors you’re considering if you can see their portfolio of work. Reputable installers should have photos of their most recent work at the ready to show you. If they don’t, it might be a red flag that they’re not the right company for the job.
Get multiple bids
To ascertain what the cost of your job should be, be sure to get multiple bids. They should all be within the same range. If not, you’ll need to ask any contractor with a higher or lower bid to explain disparities. This will give you a more realistic idea of materials costs and the labor involved.
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