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Buyer's Guide for Exterior Siding (page 1 of 6)

Getting ready to re-side your house? Compare costs, weigh pros and cons, and learn how each of today's most popular siding materials rank when it comes to being earth-friendly.

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Image courtesy of Certainteed

If you're thinking of new siding, you're in for a treat — and a conundrum. Your choice will likely be a major upgrade in your home's appearance — that's the fun part. On the flip side, it's not an easy decision to make. There are lots of siding options, and each presents a mixed bag of cost, reliability, ongoing maintenance and environmental responsibility.

Here's what you need to know about options for new siding:

Vinyl

Vinyl siding is tough and comes in a boatload of colors and textures. Because the color is throughout the material, nicks and scratches don't show up. Sophisticated manufacturing techniques create products that do a surprisingly fine job of mimicking wood-grain lap siding, wood shingles and even stone.

Vinyl siding is lightweight and, in many instances, can be installed directly over existing materials, so it's a good retrofit option. Because it's easy to handle, vinyl installation can be installed quickly, saving labor costs.

Relatively new to the market, insulated vinyl siding features a layer of expanded polystyrene foam, providing an insulating value of R-2 to R-6. Insulated vinyl is on the checklist of items that can help a house achieve Energy Star qualification. Expect to pay about 15 percent more for insulated versions of vinyl siding than regular.

Upside: The material requires little or no maintenance, and dirt simply washes off. Never needs repainting. Vinyl has relatively low cost compared to other siding materials. The best brands offer transferable lifetime warranties.

Downside: Because the standard panels are 12 feet long, the ends of the panels must be overlapped, creating noticeable seams. You can order extra-long panels that reduce the number of seams, but you'll pay a premium of about 30 percent more than standard-length vinyl.

Green meter: The same stuff that makes vinyl so tough — polyvinyl chloride or PVC — lasts for decades (if not centuries) in landfills. Although many vinyl manufacturers claim that the material is readily recycled, not many contractors take the time to remove and recycle used vinyl siding. Manufacturing PVC can produce dioxin and other toxins.

Cost: $2 to $7 per square foot, installed. Expect to pay $6,000 to $13,000 to install vinyl siding on an average two-story house.

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