Gray two story home with very steep roof and many gables.

When it comes to your home, first impressions matter.

Siding is usually the first thing people notice when driving by or up to a home. With thoughtful planning and a great siding contractor by your side, your home will be rejuvenated, more valuable, and serve as a source of pride for many years to come.

Siding Types
Siding Styles
Choosing Colors
Got Damage?
Hiring a Contractor

Introduction

In our Ultimate Home Siding Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about siding so you can maintain your home’s value with confidence.

First, we’ll cover the types of siding, styles, and colors you can select for you home and the eco-friendly options on the market today. Next, we’ll cover what to do when your home’s siding is damaged. Then, we’ll share our pro-tips on selecting a rockstar contractor. And finally, we’ll run through some simple DIY projects to keep your home’s siding in top condition.

Chapter 1

Buying Guide to Siding Types

There are many kinds of siding materials to choose from, but the most common options in today’s market are:

  • Vinyl
  • Engineered wood
  • Fiber cement
  • Wood siding
  • Composite siding
  • Metal siding systems

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding gets a bad rap, but its quality has definitely improved through the years. Today, vinyl siding is fade resistant, insect proof, extremely durable, and inexpensive. It also can be eco-friendly.

If you buy insulated vinyl siding, it adds a thick foam layer beneath the siding panels which helps retain heat and cold, boosting your home’s energy efficiency. For additional ways to make the exterior of your home more eco-friendly, check out our article, “17 Ways to Make your Exterior Eco-Friendly.”

Light green two story home with vinyl siding and stone accents.
Close up of window on yellow home with red trim.

Fiber Cement & Engineered Wood Siding

By far two of the most popular home exterior siding contenders are fiber cement and engineered wood. Both of these robust siding products get 5 stars for being environmentally friendly, as they use little wood and have a small impact on the environment.

Engineered wood siding boards are made to look like real wood, because they are made out of wood–but they are much more durable than their older wood ancestors. Engineered wood siding is made of wood strands and fibers, treated with zinc borate to resist damage from termites and fungal decay. Which means you won’t have to deal with wood rot or termite issues the older wood products endured for years. Engineered wood siding is also more cost effective and lighter than wood. It’s also reportedly more durable than fiber cement siding. Check out this awesome video from LP SmartSide comparing their material to fiber cement.

Wood Siding

Wood siding has been popular for centuries because it’s timeless and classic. In fact, many synthetic forms of siding try to imitate the look of real wood today for this reason. Aside from its aesthetic, and the fact that it can be a nice “green” option for families, it does have some drawbacks — mainly insects and water damage. Wood siding needs to be regularly maintained in order to keep it from rotting or allowing water to seep underneath the siding, causing damage to your home’s structure.

Composite Siding

Composite siding is traditionally made up of scrap wood that is bonded together with other resins. However, there are also composite siding options that do not use wood as the base (for example, using cement instead). It is treated with chemicals to ward off water and insects. It is also extremely energy efficient, as the bonded wood helps keep the hot and cold air inside your home, reducing energy bills. It can come pre-primed and ready to paint, or it is available in styles and shades that mimic real wood.

Metal Siding

Metal siding systems, like aluminum or steel, have several benefits. For one, metal is fire resistant and won’t rot. It’s also very energy efficient and “green”. Aluminum uses an upwards of 80% recycled material, and it’s 100% recyclable when thrown away. The most significant downside for metal siding is that it will rust. Rust-prevention is possible, however, with early detection and replacement.

Need help selecting the right siding for your home?

We’re available for a free consultation or quote.

Chapter 2

Siding Styles

Rustic wood home on a lake with steep garage gable and nice stone accents.
Light brown and red two story home with large wrap around porch with stone trim.
Cozy gray and tan cottage style home with blue front door.

This is where choosing new siding gets fun, as it really can be a great way to show off your family’s personality and style. You can mix and match different styles and materials to create just the right look, so obviously the options are endless! That said, we want to give you a few styles to work from right away, and they are as follows:

  • Lap Siding
  • Shingles and Shakes
  • Board and Batten

Lap Siding

Lap siding is a flat siding composed of long boards that overlap each other, hence “lap” siding. This design is often called clapboard, even though lap siding has larger boards than clapboard siding. The sizing of the overlap is up to you, as lap siding is available in a variety of sizes. This style of siding is very popular with new homes and remodeled exteriors because of its clean and charming appearance. Lap siding does a fantastic job highlighting stucco, stone, and brick on homes as well.

For more information on lap siding, visit our article, “What is Lap Siding”.

Light tan or gray two story home with stone trim and two car garage.
Light green and cream two story home with stone accents and two car garage.

Board & Batten

Board and Batten is a trend you’re probably already familiar with, but it’s not a new style: it dates back nearly 200 years!

Board and batten siding typically starts with wide vertical planks (boards), which are then joined by thin vertical strips (battens). The boards are used as the main siding, and the batten strips are for decorative, creative pieces. Be sure to also check out ‘reverse’ board and batten as an alternative to traditional board and batten.

Shingles & Shakes

Shingles and shakes give a home a lot of charm and character. This siding style is a popular option for smaller homes or as accents on larger ones. Historically, shake and shingle siding was only made of cedar, but it now comes in a variety of materials.

Unique turret styled front door of a large white two story home.

PRO TIP

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the different types and selections of siding? Our PRO TIP for choosing a great exterior design is to start by driving around your neighborhood. Really! It’s that simple. Take note of the different styles in your area. Pay attention to the options that you love (and hate). Consider the architecture of your home and what others are already doing. When you are ready to replace your siding, your mood board of snapshots and notes will go a long way in helping to zero in on the right product for your home.

Get FREE professional design help with your exterior

Stuck with what design to choose? Our award-winning partners at Ruby+Suede Design Studio are available to give Exteriors by Highmark customers advice on designs and styles.

Chapter 3

Siding Colors

Picking the right color is such an important step because it changes the look of your home and amps up its curb appeal. We want to help you make the best choice for your home so here are a few things to consider when picking an exterior paint color.

Large gray two story home with big porch and nice stone pathway.

Climate

Southern homes tend to have lighter colors due to the heat and sun. As for Minnesota, our northern homes stick to more neutral colors. A bright yellow home might be a bit too much for your eyes during the snowy season. Try to pick a color that will work with every season and that won’t be too overpowering.

Popular colors in Minnesotan homes include gray, blue, green, brown, and beige. We also wrote a blog post on the “5 Most Popular Home Siding Colors”, so check that out as well.

The Style of Your Home

Some home styles commonly stick to one exterior color, while other styles allow for multiple colors. Here are a few common home styles and color themes:

  • Cape Cod – You can have fun with accents like window shutters
  • Craftsman – Allows for a lot of natural colors with trim, brick, and stone
  • Contemporary – Usually sticks to one or two colors
  • Mediterranean – Not very common in Minnesota, sticks to lighter colors
  • Prairie – Sticks to one color, but has lots of windows and organic patterns
  • Ranch – Often has one color, with a complimentary trim color
  • Cottage – Tends to have brighter exterior colors

Size of Your Home

Swatches are small–your home is big! A color might look lighter or darker when applied to a home. Keep this in mind when you pick your color. Darker colors might be too intense on a larger scale. Lighter colors might not be intense enough. If you have the ability to create a bigger paint test area, you should certainly do it.

You’ll also want to consider complimentary colors and the color of your roof – both will impact the main color you choose for your home. For example, a more neutral colored roof can match an array of colors, while a darker roof is often softened with a lighter siding color.

There are other things to consider as well, so feel free to reference our article, “How to choose the Right Siding Color for Your Home”. You can also use our computer-generated tool that will give you a 3-D model of your home with different color options. This will allow you to see how different colors look with less hassle.

Chapter 4

Damage: When to Repair or Replace

When siding is damaged, your home can be exposed to the elements, pests can get in, and your energy bills can even start to increase. Plus, the exterior of your house will start to look run down. It’s important to inspect your siding after every storm and after every Minnesota winter (since ours are so harsh!)

Close up image of a hail strike on vinyl siding.

Cracked, bulging, warped, or rotted siding

Carefully inspect your siding, specifically at all seams and near the grade around your home and places where the siding comes into close contact with your home roofing materials. If you find siding cracks, bulging, warping, and/or rotting, poke underneath the siding to see how solid the layer is beneath. If it is soft, or you discover more rotting, it’s probably time to get an estimate.

Bubbles under the siding surface

If you see bubbling under the surface of your siding it’s very likely that water has gotten trapped. Siding is meant to keep moisture away from your home, and if it’s been able to penetrate the siding, it’s probably time to think about replacing.

Mold or other fungus growth

If you find mold, mildew, or fungus growing on or underneath the siding, this is another sign that water is penetrating it. While all fungus growth isn’t cause for concern, it’s worth your attention and further inspection.

Faded siding

All siding has a life expectancy, but severely faded siding is a sign that the waterproofing element has run its course. This does not mean the siding is completely useless; it’s just one of the things to watch for.

Peeling or blistering paint inside your home

While you wouldn’t expect it, peeling or blistering paint on interior walls is a sign that your siding may be faulty. As mentioned, your siding is meant to keep water out, so when your home interior paint starts to peel or blister, this could be a sign that your siding is letting water and other elements penetrate your home and causing damage to the wallboards.

PRO TIP

Finally, our PRO TIP is to look for higher than normal energy bills. Usually this is an indication that there’s something wrong with your siding because good siding is supposed to help your home retain heat and cold. However if it’s damaged, your siding will stop doing that and might need to be replaced.

For a more detailed explanation of each of these issues, read our article, “7 Signs You Need to Replace your Home’s Siding”.

Chapter 5

Selecting a Contractor

The siding contractor industry can be a large, scary place. Contractors can be a dime a dozen, with many of them creating their own business out of a van or a pickup truck. Do not use these small pop-up contractors. You want to hire a certified contractor, with a proven track record with references. And make sure they are fully licensed, bonded, and insured.

We want to make sure you know what goes into finding a professional to help you get the look you want. Even if you don’t end up choosing us, we want to help you choose a certified and qualified company.

Here are some important questions to ask when choosing the right siding contractor for you.

Construction worker with Highmark winter hat cutting wood with circular saw.

Who will be doing the work?

The company/contractor might just sub out another contractor who may sub out to another contractor…all at an inflated price. Ask the contractor straight out who will be doing the job. You don’t want to be passed along a line of contractors.

Is there a warranty?

Some siding and roofing contractors only offer the manufacturer’s warranty and a one year warranty. Don’t choose a company that goes with the bare minimum. We proudly stand behind our team and their excellent work by offering a five year labor warranty. 

What are the contractor’s certifications and licenses?

An exceptional roofing and siding company will have many certifications, showing they are qualified to handle any exterior project. Be sure to look for their license number, and check the Minnesota Department of Labor to see that their license is in good standing.

Is the company insured?

It is very important that the company is insured. You don’t want to be responsible for anything happening on your property. Make sure the name of the insurance is in your contract.

What do their previous customers have to say?

The ultimate test of a contractor’s quality is found in the reviews shared by previous customers. Look them up on Google Reviews, Yelp, Angies List, and neighborhood groups to see if their marketing messages match the quality of their work.

PRO TIP

PRO TIP: Sales or discounts are most likely a gimmick, sorry! Some siding and roofing companies estimate the cost to be high and create fake deals/discounts to make the price seem like a great deal. This is a trick to make them stick out from their competitors, even though they could be offering a higher than normal price.

In summary, to get the most from your home’s siding it takes a little bit of homework. But your home’s value and overall lifespan will be greatly enhanced with a strong, efficient exterior.