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Short History of siding
Most of the siding being installed on homes today is vinyl,
but that has not always been the case. Wood, asbestos, aluminum,
and asphalt have all had their heyday. Consequently,
much of the vinyl re-siding that is done today replaces one
of these older materials.
Once the leading siding material in the nation, wood was,
of course, the material of choice for early settlers. Wood is
still a popular siding in new home construction, but the
high cost of repainting and wood’s tendency to deteriorate
over time have caused nearly all the re-siding market to
convert to non-wood products. As wood prices have risen
due to environmental protection harvest restrictions, wood
is being used less frequently as a siding material in new
Asbestos siding was the first practical alternative to wood
siding. Made from the fibers of minerals, asbestos won’t
burn or be eaten by termites, and, when it is combined with
cement and formed into rigid sheets, is a practical, hardy
alternative to wood. Unlike treated wood, asbestos siding
absorbs moisture, fades quickly, and is a poor insulator, but
it remained popular until aluminum siding was introduced.
When aluminum siding was introduced in the ‘50s,
homeowners abandoned asbestos siding in droves.
Asphalt siding was a heavy felt-like material coated with
thick asphalt and crushed mineral granules. Much like
asphalt roofing shingles, it did not shatter, it resisted
weathering, and it was widely available in imitation brick
and stone. Because it was less expensive than brick or
stone, asphalt siding was used extensively during the 1940s
and early ’50s in low-cost development homes.
Aluminum siding is manufactured from aluminum coil. It
is chemically coated to protect the metal, then painted to
further protect the metal and give it color. Finally, it is
baked so the outer coating remains bright and durable.
Aluminum was introduced in the 1940s and quickly caught
the attention of homeowners and re-siders alike because it
is lightweight, easy to handle, and can be applied over
Homeowners favored aluminum over the alternatives
because it is “permanent.” It will not rust, is available in
many popular colors and styles, and generally does not
require repainting. However, because aluminum siding is
painted, the paint will often chalk, leaving a white residue
that can stain brick and masonry foundations. The painted
surface can also be scratched, exposing the raw aluminum
below. Aluminum siding dents easily and does not “bounce
back.” Aluminum production is energy-intensive; thus,
aluminum siding became increasingly expensive as energy
costs escalated in the 1970s.
Steel siding has many of the same advantages as
aluminum: a wide range of colors and easy maintenance.
On the downside, steel siding is heavy and difficult for
installers to work with. Also, it is expensive to ship,
conducts electricity, and is susceptible to rusting if the
paint is scratched and the steel exposed. Like aluminum,
when energy prices rose, so did the price of steel siding.
An engineered product generally made of wood chips and
epoxy resin, hardboard is sold primed and is painted on
site. Many hardboard products have had problems with
moisture absorption, causing them to swell, peel, crumble,
and grow fungus. For these very reasons, hardboard
manufacturers have been the subject of several class
Although fiber cement has been used as a building
material in Europe for nearly 100 years, fiber cement
siding is a relative newcomer to the United States.
Composed of Portland cement, pulp fiber, sand, and
special additives, fiber cement is manufactured as a
smooth sheet and then embossed with a wood grain or
stucco finish. Fiber cement looks like real wood, but it is
impervious to wood-boring insects and it won’t rot, swell,
or warp. Like wood, fiber cement siding must be painted.
PVC was first used as a siding material in the late ’50s and
early ’60s. During these early years, vinyl suffered setbacks
from expansion and contraction problems, discoloration,
and brittleness. Once the leading manufacturers, including
CertainTeed, overcame these problems, vinyl became the
dominant siding material.
By the ’70s vinyl siding began to compete directly with
aluminum. Vinyl siding had all the low maintenance and
easy installation benefits of aluminum and none of the
• Vinyl siding color goes clear through the panel, so
scratches don’t show.
• Vinyl siding is tough and resists denting from everyday
occurrences such as falling branches, hail, stones thrown
up by lawn mowers, etc.
• Vinyl does not conduct heat or cold and does not “pop”
with temperature changes.
• Vinyl siding does not conduct electricity and does not
• Vinyl siding does not magnify the sound of rain or hail.
• Vinyl won’t pit, rust, peel, corrode or flake away.
• Vinyl incurs less damage on the jobsite, so there is
Besides vinyl’s obvious advantages, a key to its popularity
was the rising price of aluminum in the late ’70s and early
’80s. By the early 1980s, vinyl had the price advantage and
became the siding of choice for remodeling.
As vinyl’s popularity grew in re-siding, it drew the attention
of new-home builders, gaining share from aluminum,
hardboard and wood siding. By 1995, vinyl had passed
wood and hardboard sidings and became the dominant
siding material. Vinyl siding now accounts for over 30
percent of the new construction cladding market and 95
percent of the re-siding market.
Homeowners today still prefer
vinyl siding because it’s tough: scratches don’t show and
it resists denting. Also, vinyl siding never needs scraping