HOW CAN I TELL WHAT TYPE OF SIDING IS ON MY HOME?

Dating back to pre-historic times, man discovered that shelter is an essential part of living. The Caveman had caves, the American Indians had tee-pees and huts, Kings and Queens have had castles of stone, and the list goes on. Well, those of us that are fortunate enough to own a home might one day need to know what type of cladding is protecting our house.

Stone and brick cladding are easily identified.  There are some of us, however, that have different types of cladding other than stone or brick. Here are some other types of cladding and their characteristics so you can tell what is on your house.

1.)     Stucco and Synthetic Stucco—

Real stucco siding is a mixture of cement and inert materials like sand, water, and lime, and is installed directly onto a wall after the proper preparations have been made to the wall surface. It goes on like a thick lathe and is generally tinted so that it doesn’t have to be painted for a long time. It is one of the oldest forms of cladding and is impervious to rot and insect damage if installed correctly. If you knock on the side of the house, it will sound solid and not hollow.

Synthetic Stucco was introduced in the 1950′s by European builders shortly after World War 2 as an acceptible solution to repair buildings that were damaged during the war. It made a come-back during the 1980′s in the U.S. as a less expensive alternative to real stucco. Synthetic Stucco consists of three layers. The exterior layer is made of a textured finish coat, which is the side that you see on the home, the middle layer consists of a cement base coat and a glue that is reinforced with a fiberglass mesh which is applied to the inner layer…a foam insulation board. This is the final layer, and is usually glued directly to the sheathing of the house. This material was originally produced with the intention of attaching directly onto stone or brick. When it started being applied to wood structures, is when the problems with moisture and rot damage occured. EIFUS- (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) is one such sytem that is well known for it’s problems with residential applications. If you have moisture issues concerning stucco, you may see signs of swollen trim around your window and door frames, peeling or blistering paint, or even mold and mildew issues on the exterior finish or even the interior of your home. This too, can be easily identified by knocking on the wall to see if it sounds solid or hollw. If it sounds hollow, it is most likely synthetic stucco. Oftentimes, there will be parts of the house that may have some puncture damages or holes that birds have pecked their way into the wall and made it their home too? Can you see foam inside these places? It’s synthetic stucco!

2)  Wood Siding

Wood siding has been around since there were trees. It is usually pretty easy to pick-out. When stained, it is very easy, as you can see the wood grain textures, imperfections, and even knots. You may also see splintering and splitting, but the board is still intact. Lap siding boards are usually random in length, and are shorter than 16 feet long. Typically the boards are beveled with the bottom edge being thicker than the other to ensure that the boards lap over each other without difficulty. Shingle wood siding has also been a popular siding of the decades for it’s asthetic appeal.  Vertical Panel wood siding is also another type of wood siding, such as Board and Batton, Channel Groove, Tongue and Groove and, the more recent, T-111 and reverese board and batton styles. All of these types of siding can be found in several different species such as cedar, redwood, cypress, pine, and fir. Even though it requires more maintenence than recently introduced products, when properly maintained, wood siding will last a lifetime.

3) Synthetic wood siding

Also referred to as hardboard, pressboard or masonite siding, is mainly comprised of wood fibers, flakes or chips that are held together by glues and resins. This type of siding was extremely popular from the 1980′s to the mid 1990′s as a low cost alternative to other existing house sidings. It is mainly referred to as masonite siding because the company Masonite was the first manufacturer of this type of product. However, there has been several companies that have manufactured this type of product since it was introduced in the 1920′s. There are many different types and styles of this product that have been made into both vertical and horizontal sidings. The best way to tell what type of siding it is, is to go to an unfinished area like the attic, and look on the backside of the board to find the manufacturer’s name or an AHA code (The American Hardboard Association). This will help you determine the manufacturer of the product and where it was made.  Another way is to try and identify specific markings on the exterior grain (if one exists). For instance, the Masonite Brand siding has a waffeled iron texture, Weyerhouser’s has a smoother finish that resembles cork,  and Louisiana Pacific (LP) siding has a distinct knot that is repetitive throughout the board.

4) Asbestos Siding

Asbestos Siding is a type of siding that was introduced in the 1920′s as a fire-proof cladding for buildings and homes that could also resist rot and insects.  Asbestos itself is actually a rock that has an inner-fiberous makeup that looks alot like hair or fur. The first documented use of this material was in the 1800′s as a type of insulation for pipes, and later was used as insulation for buildings and homes. When used as a siding, Asbestos fibers were mixed with Portland Cement and pressed together to form what we know as Asbestos Siding. This type of siding was manufactured up to the late 70′s, until it was deemed as a health risk. Asbestos is actually safe unless inhaled. This happens when the siding is cut or broken. Exposure to this have been known to cause Mesothelioma and Asbestosis of the lungs. The only true way to identify Asbestos siding is to have it tested. It does have some characteristics too look for. It is ususally in a shingle/shake form 12″x24″. It may be smooth, or have a pressed wood-grain pattern on the surface of the board. It usually will have two or three nails at the bottom portion of each panel.  It feels denser to the touch than current fiber-cement siding, and was typically dyed when manufactured so it wouldn’t need to be painted. Efflorescense (chaulking) can commonly be seen on Asbestos siding.  If your house was built around or prior to the late 70′s, has the original siding and seems to be made of cement, it is probably Asbestos Siding.

5) Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is pretty easy to identify. It looks very similar to vinyl siding, but metal, and is easily dented. It was a very popular choice of siding in it’s day because of its price, and could be installed directly over existing  wood siding.

6) Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding too, is also pretty easy to identify. It feels like plastic, is dyed the same color throughout and when pushing on the wall of a house, it tends to flex. It also, like masonite siding, is usually labeld by the manufacturer or a manufacturing code on the back side of the siding panel. Vinyl siding is a popular choice of homeowners because of the price, and can be installed over their existing siding. It never needs to be painted. One drawback is that if a piece of siding needs to be replaced,  it can be difficult to find the same manufacturer, style, and color for an exact match. If you are lucky eneough to find that exact piece, the color may not match exactly due to fading of the existing siding. In recent years, manufacturers have introduced Insulated Vinyl Siding as an upgraded product. It is like regular vinyl siding, only it has an insulated foam backing that helps energy costs and also durability.

7) Fiber-Cement Siding

Most people can identify this type of siding because of it’s popularity in recent years. it is more commonly referred to as hardiplank siding. The James Hardie company began producing fiber cement building products in the mid – 1980′s and the most popular being the hardiplank lap siding. Today there are several companies that produce fiber cement siding and building products. Fiber Cement siding was manufactured as a replacement for asbestos siding, which was popular for its attributes of being fire-retardant and rot and insect proof. It is formulated using sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. It is very durable, and can be painted or stained. It also comes in pre-painted or pre-stained versions from different manufacturers. It is available in a wide variety of shapes and styles for siding, trim boards and soffit material. It is generally more expensive than aluminum or vinyl siding, but less expensive than stone or brick cladding. Fiber cement siding can be seen on newer homes built from the late 1980′s to present date.

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29 thoughts on “HOW CAN I TELL WHAT TYPE OF SIDING IS ON MY HOME?

  1. Do you know if an company ever made an aluminum siding in D4 gray that is smooth finish. I am having a difficult time with the insurance company.

    • The largest manufacturer of aluminum siding was Alcoa. I am not sure if they still produce aluminum siding. If your siding is over 10 years old, it will be very difficult to find a proper match. Vinyl and aluminum siding colors fade so over time so even if you are able to locate the manufacturer, the colors will probably not match. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  2. Sir,

    I have a house I bought approximately three years ago. I am about to PCS and I would like to rent it. I have a couple of touch ups that I have been able to get done except for one. I have two small portions of my sidings that I need to replace. No problem, except for that I can not find this type. I have been to every store in my area, I was told by a store associate that may be that the subcontractor was from an outside area, not from North Carolina where my house is. This housed was built in 2010, it seems like its ply-wood but one of the pieces I am trying to replace crumbles like cardboard cant really tell. Every piece is 2″ D x 16′ L x 2′ W and every piece looks like two singles. Thank you for your help.

    • George – Thank you for your question. I had to do some digging but based on your description, I think I found the type of siding. Go to page 6 of this link and see if this is it. This may be an old brochure. However, LP Smartside I believe makes this style of siding that may work for you versus replacing all of the siding on your home. Let me know if this helps.

  3. Hello. I have a home built in the early 2000′s. I was told that it has a type of cement board/siding on it. Many of the boards are rotten around the chimney and the deck (where I was told that flashing wasn’t used). I read that fiber cement board doesn’t rot! Is there another type of cement board beside fiber cement board? There are very bad holes in which you can see inside the wall / behind the actual fireplace. I put a type of foam filler stuff in the holes until I can figure out what is needed to fix all of these boards. Is there some insulation that is supposed to be inside that wall behind the fireplace? How do I find out what type of siding it is? I would appreciate any advice you give. Thanks so much.

    • Sally – Thank you for your comment. Fiber Cement siding does not rot. However, it can delaminate due to high moisture content. This can happen in areas where the siding is installed touching the roofing shingles or sitting on top of a deck or concrete pad. Most fiber cement siding manufacturers require a minimum clearance of 1 inch from the roof and deck to the bottom edge of the siding. Improper flashing or lack thereof would not cause the siding failure. It is possible that you have one of the engineered wood sidings on your home which can rot. If you know who your builder is, then they may be able to supply you with the information as to the type of siding. Or you could remove one of the bottom pieces and take it to a local lumber yard/distributor and they should be able to identify it for you. There are only a few so it should not be too difficult. Let us know how it goes and if we can be of further help.

  4. We are in the process of replacing our vinyl siding. We are going from standard siding to Insulated Vinyl siding. The problem we have run in to is, the window trim will not accept the insulated siding. ( the siding is too thick to fit into the window trim) How would you suggest we handle this.

    • Insulated vinyl siding (foam backed) is much thicker than standard vinyl siding. The insulated products come with their own accessories; ie: j-channel for window and doors and inside and outside corners. These accessories have a larger receiving pocket to accommodate the thicker insulated vinyl siding products. Your supplier should be able to direct you to the proper accessories for your product.

    • Brian – I am not aware of any websites that have this information. Maybe someone on this discussion board can offer one. If you are able to take a sample to your local distributor, they may be able to identify it. Good luck.

  5. Hi,
    I want to paint the exterior of my home. I think I have both aluminum and vinyl. The A has a little “clink clink” sound to it and not the V. BUT, I think the V was originally green, then painted grey. Can I still paint over this? I would use a primer, yes?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Kim -
      You can still paint over the painted vinyl siding assuming the existing paint is not peeling. If it is peeling then the new paint (with primer or not) will begin to peel as well. Actually the new paint will be bonded to the old paint which will be peeling. The vinyl siding should have been primed with a “bonding primer” prior to the finish coat the first time if was painted for proper adhesion. I would recommend applying a good primer before you apply the new paint however it is not a requirement. Just make sure the surface is clean and dirt free before applying. Best of luck with your paint project.

  6. Trying to figure out what type of siding I have. Not sure when the current siding was installed on the house before I paint or replace it. The longest section looks to be 1′ x 3 or 4′. Look like yellow fiberglass installation pressed down to about an half inch thickness. The surface is smooth with a prepainted surface, mine is white. Where the paint has wore off from normal wear and tear, it actually a gray surface. Doesn’t look like the pictures of asbestos siding, but I am far from knowledgeable on this subject.

    As of right now, the siding seems to be in great condition for its age. Just wondering if painting it would be possible and would it be worth it? If it is asbestos, I was wondering if I should replace it later if it is in good condition or stay with the painting idea?

    • Mr. Lewis -

      Without seeing a picture, it sounds very much like a type of asbestos siding. As long as the siding is in good condition, I would clean and repaint it. There is no need to replace the siding. Asbestos siding is very safe until it is removed and releases the asbestos particles in the air. Removal and disposal would need to be done by a certified asbestos removal renovator who will take the proper precautions to protect you and your family.

  7. Great site..I have some type of pressboard on my house (appox 7.5″ wide)..some pcs have small (appox 2″ x 2″ damaged areas (soft)..what’s the best way to repair these? Does anyone make this board anymore?? Thanks!!

    • Mike – All of the pressboard sidings (Masonite, Lousiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, Abitico, just to name a few) removed their siding products from all markets several years ago. The only options that remain are in the fiber cement category. Unfortunately the fiber cement siding is not as thick (dimensionally) as the pressboard siding. So you can use it to replace a few pieces, however, the difference in the two products will be noticeable. I would not recommend trying to repair the soft spots in the siding. The soft spots are typically a sign that the board has absorbed moisture and many times from the inside or bottom edge. While it just appears soft on the outside, the damage may be much worse on the backside of the board. I would recommend replacing a minimum of one wall. This will blend better with the overall look of your home and allow inspection of the sheathing to make sure there is no moisture damage or potential mold.

      • This is wrong, as there are still pressboard sidings! LP still sells siding, except it is updated to be less prone to rot. It would make more sense to replace 1 wall with a similar product than to have 2 separate products.

        • True. However the LP Smartside Siding is not available in many markets including ours. And in our opinion, this product still needs to stand the test of time as it is a relatively new product. Sorry for any confusion.

  8. I need some help trying to find a name for a type of siding on a home recently sold. It is seen on quiet a few homes around the Pacific NW and in the era from 1920 on up. It looks to be cement and aggregate and usually comes in green beige and pinkish hues. Again, I am looking for a specific name for the siding….Help?

    ~Karrie

    • Karrie – The type of siding you are describing sounds like asbestos siding. It has similar characteristics of fiber cement siding. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the types of siding from that era in your market. I would suggest you contact your local NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) chapter and they should be able to recommend a contractor or supplier that can help you identify the product.

    • Asbestos siding can be painted with out any issues as long as it is in good condition. Asbestos siding would have to be removed by a Certified Remediation Company which could be costly if you are considering replacing it with another product.

  9. Hi,
    The recent superstorm Sandy did a number on our vinyl siding (“5 inch- double” in Victorian Gray) and now some of the panels need to be replaced. The original installation was done in 1995 and the local contractor we used is no longer around to answer “what brand did you use?”, as the contractor doing the repairs has asked. Is there any way i can figure out what brand of siding was used? I would hate to have to redo the entire back of the house to just get a uniform look and worse yet our budget can not handle it. Any suggestions. I live in New Jersey.
    Thanks

    • Most vinyl siding manufacturers have different letters or numbers or symbols on the nailing hem that will help you determine who the manufacturer is. You should be able to take a sample of your siding with these markings to a local distributor and they can help determine who the manufacturer is, even if they do not sell that type of siding.

  10. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  11. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome website!

      • Asbestos is a serious thing, If you diutsrb it while you are installing a new finish to you exterior of your house, it will then enter your lungs, and if you don’t know what that means, you better do some reading. I f you are thinking about romoving it, then that is creates a whole other list of concerns., such as a contractor, a dispose site and safety officals up the ying yang. here is a clip:: Asbestos-containing products are considered hazardous waste in every state. Hazardous waste is highly regulated, with big fines attached to those who attempt to circumvent the proper disposal of these products. There are certified abatement contractors, registered with and regulated by the state, who will charge huge amounts to properly remove, bag-and-tag, and dispose of asbestos-containing products in highly regulated hazardous waste landfills.I don’t do stucco myself, but I understand the concept. As a window and siding installer, I would think that unless you removed the original siding and installed new window flashings and stuccowrap, it would be impossible to flash and seal the stucco around any window or door penetration. Those sort of details are important on any successful stucco job, and you can’t do it right unless you do it from the start.I f your house is an older hertitage home you may qualify for homeowners grants to help you with this endeavour,, good luck in what you decide to do

  12. Stucco is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a coating for walls and ceilings and for decoration as well. Stucco may be used to cover less visually appealing construction materials such as concrete, cinder block, or brick.

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