Not your grandmother’s siding – new colors, new materials, new options.

Chances are, you’ve taken your home’s siding for granted. Whether the rain’s lashing down, the snow’s piling up or the heat and humidity of a Minnesota summer are making you wilt, your siding has just been, well, there. That’s the whole point – you don’t want to spend a lot of time fussing over your home’s siding. But if it’s time for an update or your siding just isn’t doing its job any more, you have more options than ever, says Derrick Hansen, branch manager for United Products Corporation.

“I would say that right now, the biggest thing out there is fiber cement siding, along with solid core foam-backed vinyl,” Hansen says. Fiber cement siding goes up very similar to a wood or cedar product and holds paint very well, Hansen says. “It gives a house an authentic wood look and allows you to have a lot of different accessories as home accents,” he says. Fiber cement siding is made to resist hail damage, cracking, rotting and termites, he says. And there are many styles to choose from. The James Hardie brand, for instance, comes as lap siding, shingle or vertical siding, with more than two dozen pre-finished colors or an option to paint.

Solid core foam-backed vinyl combines form and function, Hansen says. “It’s actually probably the fastest-growing, though still small, part of the siding market,” he says. “Its one of the only areas in the siding industry that is growing at all right now.” Solid core foam-backed vinyl siding has built-in insulation for both energy efficiency and sound reduction and is intended to lay smooth and flat even on bumpy exterior walls. In addition, it’s impact-resistant, which may be more important than it seems at first blush. “One of the biggest issues with vinyl siding is that it can get cracked or chipped from ordinary activities, like weed whacking, kids riding bikes or playing ball,” Hansen notes. “This product, you can take a hammer and pound the face of it without hurting it.” Better yet, some manufacturers offer warranties that stay with house, not the current homeowner – which may be a selling point.

The color palette in siding has truly blossomed over the last five years or so. “It used to be limited to taupes or soft, earthy tones because of fading problems,” Hansen says. “But the industry has come a long way with vinyl siding. People are using bolder colors. We sell the most barn-type reds, colonial blues and darker browns, like a brownstone color.”

Siding accessories are also popular ways to add a finishing touch to your home’s exterior. “A lot of people are accenting their homes with shakes and gables,” Hansen says. “There are lots of different varieties, including cedar shakes, vinyl, metal and new products like cultured stone, which isn’t real stone but looks like stone – and is a lot easier to apply and less expensive.”

Siding is meant to be low-maintenance, and while there’s not much you need to do, what you must do is important. “Most of the time, rain keeps your siding pretty clean,” Hansen says. But protected porches and eaves are especially prone to collecting debris, dust and dirt. Although those may not ruin your siding, they can make your home look unkempt.

Hansen suggests washing down your siding annually with your garden hose. If grime remains, tackle that area with a mixture of one gallon of water, a third of a cup of a powdered laundry detergent like Tide, and a third of a cup of a powdered bleach like Borateem. “That will pretty much take off any deeper dirt,” Hansen says, “unless it’s actually stained into the siding. If you’re not up to the chore of washing down your siding, consider hiring out the job – a plethora of companies that clean siding have sprouted in recent years, Hansen notes.

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Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.