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Essential Exteriors for a Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Facade

Worry-Free Good Looks for Your Home


Siding is no small deal. It gives your home character and defines its personality. It is also a big project, one that often costs thousands of dollars. Thankfully siding materials and finishes have exploded over the years and there are infinite possibilities to define the exterior of your home with any budget.

But looks aside, there are still a lot of things to think about. We can’t deny aesthetics are important, but you’ll also want to consider durability, maintenance, installation, and versatility. We’ve sorted through all the siding options out there and hammered down five low-cost, low-maintenance siding options you will want to consider for your home.

Country style house plan #120-2544 with maintenance-free exterior

With the appearance of a mortared-stone exterior below and vinyl siding that looks like cedar shakes up top, this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Country style Ranch home will require minimal maintenance other than cleaning for many years to come (House Plan #120-2544).



Fiber-Cement Panels

Lifespan: 50+ years; Cost: $5-$9 per square foot

Even though it’s the newest siding to hit the scene, fiber cement has already earned a five-star reputation in our books for sustainability, durability, and low-maintenance. It is made from a mix of wood pulp, cement, clay, and sand, and can be molded to take on the look of wood clapboard, shingles, stucco, and masonry sidings. Fiber cement siding can stand extreme weather, warping, rotting, and insects better than any other siding on the market. While the upfront cost of installing fiber cement may seem a little steep, it is expected to last upwards of 50 years, a long enough lifespan to prove this siding is a smart investment.

One of the great perks of choosing fiber cement is that it requires minimal maintenance. Fiber cement doesn’t need to be stained or painted for up to 15 years – but may occasionally need power washing, depending on your location, like a shady spot with a northerly exposure. The only other maintenance is to apply fresh caulking around the edges if it starts crack or degrade after several years.

Craftsman style house plan #100-1358 with low-maintenance stone and fiber-cement siding

Fiber-cement siding comes in a variety of profiles, including board-and batten, as on these gable faces, and lap siding, as on the other parts of the house. Stone-look accents and fiber-cement would ensure that the 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Craftsman style home would need little care other than keeping up with the painted trim (House Plan #100-1358).



Seamless Vinyl

Lifespan: 50+ years; Cost: $5-$9 per square foot

Sophisticated manufacturing techniques have led to the creation of vinyl products that do a surprisingly good job of imitating wood-grain lap siding and wood shingles. Other advantages of vinyl:

• It’s probably the first material that comes to mind when one thinks of low-cost siding,

• It’s also lightweight and can usually be installed directly over existing materials, making it a great retrofit option.

• It’s easy to handle so it can be installed quickly, saving money on labor costs.

• It comes in a boatload of colors and textures, which are mixed into the material to help disguise nicks and scratches.

• It shouldn’t need to be painted unless you’re in a harsh, extremely sunny environment.

• It usually comes with a transferable lifetime warranty.

Vinyl lasts a long time – on the side of a building and in a landfill. Many manufacturers claim the material can be recycled, so make sure your contractor is taking the time to do so. To keep your vinyl siding in good condition, simply clean it once a year or so.

The trouble with vinyl lap siding, though, is that you see seams if the span is more than about 12 feet (though you can get custom lengths up to 25 feet, but you’ll pay for it). You can overcome that by installing vinyl shake siding. The sections of siding interlock in offset vertical seams during installation. The seams virtually disappear because they look like the seams between the individual shakes (shingles) that are formed into each section. Ingenious!

Country house plan #120-2560 with stone and vinyl siding

Using vinyl products with stone on this 3-bedroom, 2-bath Country style home would result in no visible seams, often the downfall of vinyl siding. The cedar-look material on the gable never has visible seams, and the lap siding is in short enough lengths that no seams would be required (House Plan #120-2560).



Manufactured Stone Siding

Lifespan: 50+ years; Cost: $12-$25 per square foot

Manufactured stone is made from a mix of sand, cement, and aggregate. The modern manufacturing techniques make sure the final products look realistic. It can look like a number of stone products, including limestone and granite, and the variety of shapes and styles include split face, dry stacked, and round river rock. And it never needs painting!

It’s pricey (though much less expensive than natural stone), so it’s typically used as a decorative exterior element, such as a chimney, around an entrance, as a wainscot, or as a base for columns – say, in a Craftsman design. Environmental bonus: Manufactured stone doesn’t off-gas or use toxic ingredients during manufacturing, and it reduces the demand for real stone.

Craftsman style house plan #142-1159 with stone accents

Typical of the use of manufactured stone (or real stone for that matter) in homes these days, this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Craftsman style home has a stone look in the short perimeter wainscot, column bases, and porch steps (House Plan #142-1159).



Brick Veneer

Lifespan: 50+ years; Cost: $11-$15 per square foot

Brick is one of the older building materials. It’s loved for its durability, low-maintenance, and structural function. Under normal conditions, brick siding will last the life of the building and won’t need to be painted unless you choose to do so.

But it’s labor-intensive and more expensive than it used to be back in the day when it was a standard building material. Today masonry veneer walls are the alternative to traditional brick of used in European and French design house plans. It is used as a decorative layer, not to support the structure of the house. But it does provide an additional layer of protection without having to be painted or stained and it’s much less expensive than traditional brick.

Once or twice a year, walk around your house and give it a careful inspection. Look for signs of damage, including crumbling mortar joints, cracked bricks, and points of collected moisture. It’s a sturdy material and damage isn’t likely, but the sooner problems are caught, the cheaper the repair. And as with other siding options, you want to keep it clean.

Brick and stone on European style house plan #193-1066

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath European style home uses brick and stone to provide a traditional look while minimizing maintenance and upkeep greatly. Using manufactured stone on the entrance and bay-window area and brick veneer for the rest of the house would reduce costs greatly while maintaining the low-maintenance aspects of the home (House Plan #193-1066).




Lifespan: 50+ years Cost: $9-$12 per square foot

Stucco has endured the test of time, as in it’s been around since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. So obviously it is still a solid siding option, particularly for dry areas with little rainfall. It has a very classic aesthetic found on Mediterranean, ranch and Spanish-mission exteriors, but comes in more color options than white. In fact, stucco comes in a variety of colors and textures for a beautiful finish to any style home.

Stucco materials are inexpensive. The cost is in the labor, and you need to fork out the money if you want it to be properly installed! In terms of sustainability, new formulations of stucco use earth and lime instead of Portland cement, the production of which is linked to carbon dioxide emissions.

To maintain stucco siding, simply clean off the dirt and debris once a year or so, and make small repairs as needed. You shouldn’t have to paint it unless you choose to. Some minimal TLC will keep the stucco siding in great shape for the life of the building.

Stucco-sided house plan $175-1132

Typical of many Mediterranean, Florida, Southwestern, and California homes, this 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Coastal style home is sided with stucco that has been mixed with the color throughout, so maintenance is minimal and repainting probably unnecessary at least for many years (House Plan #175-1132).

It’s no joke that owning a house requires a lot of upkeep. We don’t think re-staining, repainting, and/or repairing your siding should be on your DIY list every year – or few years. Think you’ve chosen the perfect inexpensive, maintenance-free siding? Great! Not quite there yet? We’ve got you covered. Here are more tips for choosing the best siding for your home.


Footnote: The photograph at the lower right of the main image is of a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Acadian style home with brick veneer and stucco. For more information, click here (House Plan #142-1190).



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