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Fiber cement siding mimics wood and offers a more dimensional look than vinyl, but is virtually maintenance free. (Photo courtesy of Tulsa Renew)

by Doug Bonderud, Angie’s List contributor

Installed properly, siding can last between 10 and 50 years. The right house siding product will keep weather out, lower your utility bills and provide substantial aesthetic value. But even the best siding material will eventually break down, or suffer unexpected damage at the hands of an extreme weather event. In these cases, you’ll need to consider replacement, along with the cost of siding a house.

When to replace siding

If you plan on selling your home, your real estate agent might tell you to replace your siding as a way to increase property value and sell the house quickly. While improved appearance is one common reason for siding replacement, it’s just the beginning — there are several scenarios which require a house siding repair or replacement.

The first requires looking at damage at a distance. Start by walking away from your home. If you notice any missing panels, significant color fading or other obvious damage, it’s time to consider replacement. Next, get close to your home for a more detailed inspection. Look for mold or mildew — which could indicate a water problem — and try to pull the siding away from your house. If the piece bends easily or begins to warp, it’s past its prime and needs to be changed. Finally, take the time to inspect your siding and see if you can identify large cracks, dents or holes. As a general rule, if more than half of your siding has this kind of damage, you should consider a total replacement.

Siding options

There are four common siding choices currently on the market. Wood siding offers superb appearance while also adding character to your home. Many older homes still have clapboard or beveled siding and are distinctive because of its use, but wood siding does come with several downsides, such as price. Treated wood varies in price depending on the type of wood you choose, how it’s cut, and how you want it stained or painted. Maintenance is also critical with wood siding; you’ll need to repaint or restain every few years, and make sure the wood isn’t damaged by mildew or insects.

Aluminum siding emerged as an alternative to wood, and with a much lower cost. It’s easy to install, requires very little maintenance and comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. However, aluminum siding dents easily, is noisy to install and colors may chalk or fade over time.

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Vinyl siding was developed as an alternative to aluminum. Cheaper than its metal cousin, vinyl is easy to install, requires almost no maintenance and won’t chalk or bleed color over time. It must be properly installed, however, to avoid warping or improper coverage. In northern climates, vinyl siding is subject to cracking in cold weather if struck by hard objects. Nonetheless, vinyl remains a popular choice among new home builders and homeowners looking to replace wood or aluminum siding.

The latest addition to the market is fiber cement siding. This product looks like wood, cuts like wood, installs like wood siding and many manufacturers offer a 25 or 50-year warranty. The downside of this siding is the price — it costs more than any other type, but may be worth the expense if you’re planning a total home replacement.

Siding cost

While repairing a damaged piece of siding is a task homeowners can tackle on their own, dealing with a full-home replacement due to underlying dry rot or moisture problems is best left to a siding professional. Your total cost determination starts with your choice of siding – vinyl, for example, runs between $200 and $300 for one hundred square feet. For a 2,200-square-foot home, you’re looking at a base cost of between $6,000 and $8,500. Add to this cost the removal and disposal of any existing siding — $1,000 to $3,000 — and the cost of extras such as fascia, soffits, trim and crown molding. Some contractors will provide these extras for free, while others will charge between $3 and $6 per linear foot.

Always ask about any extra charges, and get any quote in writing to avoid payment issues once the siding work is complete. All told, new siding isn’t cheap. But the right product, installed properly, can last for decades.