Vinyl Siding Cost vs. Fiber Cement in 2017

You have just spotted the first telltale signs of peeling paint from your house’s wood siding. It won’t be long now until the dreaded house painting becomes a must-do. Unless, 2017 is the year you finally re-skin the house in vinyl siding.

Vinyl siding – actually polyvinyl chloride plastic resin that is heated and extruded into sheets – has only been around for about 50 years and was developed as a cheaper alternative to aluminum siding back in the 1950s. Its reputation for “cheap” was honestly earned as the plasticized siding was susceptible to cracking and sagging. Colors were limited and those colors faded. Even well-cared for vinyl siding looked like… vinyl siding.

But in recent years, the two most important components of vinyl siding – the quality of materials and the expertise of installation – have made giant leaps forward. Today about one-third of new American homes are built with maintenance-free (almost) vinyl installed as cladding. Vinyl has been rated in various surveys to last anywhere from 60 to 100 years so this will likely be the last investment you make in your house’s siding. So how much will it cost to cast those paint brushes aside and put new vinyl siding on your house?

vinyl siding on a cape style home Vinyl Siding on a Cape Cod style home installed by Siding & Windows Group


The short answer is anywhere from $3.50 to $7.50 per square foot installed, or around $350 to $750 per square (100 square feet) installed, on average. This can translate to a total cost of $7,000 to $15,000 for an average two-story house. The mid-range vinyl siding installation cost for a typical home in the US was between $9,694 and $12,130 according to the Hanley Wood Remodeling Costs report for 2015. With that being said, your total cost for a new vinyl siding job will be dependent on a couple of factors; primarily the grade of materials being used, the quality of installation, and of course your geographic location. Let’s explore this further.

Choice of Materials & Their Costs

vinyl-siding-on-a-house Image Credits: Kramer Construction


Nearly all of today’s vinyl siding – an estimated 96% – undergo a series of quality checks for impact strength, shrinkage, windload resistance and more. The universal standard is ASTM D3679. Manufacturers may also certify their vinyl siding for color retention based on ASTM D6864. While building codes mandate the use of ASTM DS3679 certified vinyl siding, color retention certification is not required.

Smooth builder’s grade vinyl siding (.040″ thick) can be had for around $65 per square, including delivery. Thinner grades are on the market but are best avoided for residential work. More expensive grade siding is thicker – up to a maximum of .052 inches – which increases the life expectancy of the siding and also provides better resistance to fading. Thicker siding also provides increased thermal stability. Manufacturers often sell vinyl siding in a Good-Better-Best product continuum with the top-of-the-line grades fetching an additional $30 to $40 per square.

From there aesthetic options conspire to inflate the job price of re-siding with vinyl. Manufacturers never tire of the challenge to make plastic look like real wood. One of the most popular styles is beaded seam siding that boasts a rounded edge on the bottom of each piece to mimic the style of handcrafted wooden clapboards from the 19th century.

Another souvenir or early America, the barn-style board and batten look of alternating wide and narrow strips can be replicated in vinyl – right down to the rough textured boards. Manufacturers can even manipulate the colors of the panels during the extrusion process or by applying acrylic films to the panels to create a natural weathered appearance.

The wizardry does not end there. Vinyl siding is now taking the form of wooden shakes and hand-sawn fish-scale shingles. With a wide variety of colors available these vinyl shingles can dress up a creaky old Victorian house so seamlessly that your great-great-great grandfather would never be able to tell the difference from the curb! 😉 And don’t forget, the vinyl pieces of gingerbread trim and classic crown windows to complete the facade.

And what will you pay for all this eye-tricking vinyl? Beaded Seam and Board and Batten will come at a small premium, bumping the cost to around $100 per square. Imitation cedar shakes will run about $160 per square and Victorian-style fish scales as much as $240 per square – for the materials only. Your payback for this investment is likely to come at resale time when your house will not only have a low-maintenance exterior but one that looks traditional to the untrained (just about everyone’s) eye. Middle-grade vinyl siding will recoup 80 percent of the installed cost and expect more from premium additions.

Installation Costs

Are you looking to save money and do the job yourself? If so, you can get the job done for as little as $100 to $300 per square. Don’t forget to price in the costs of corrosion-resistant fasteners, flashing, and exterior grade sealants and caulking. Depending on your region, general contractors can cost twice as much, while the going rate for siding specialists can be three times that amount. Expect to pay $30 an hour for labor on the low side and $40 and up for a professional, certified installation.

Before tackling a siding job on your won you are going to need access to the following tools, at a minimum: 3″ belt sander, electric jigsaw, 10″ miter saw, electric planer and pneumatic nailer. Now you need to make sure you have obtained a builder’s permit ($200) and made arrangements for garbage removal (another $200). And if you don’t want to work overtime with a pry bar to remove the old siding, set aside $1,000 to have it removed from a average 2,500 square-foot house.

Why It’s Imperative to Hire an Experienced & Certified Installer & How to Go about it

For those less ambitious, the search for a contractor begins. And when it comes to hiring the right vinyl siding installer, your time will be the best investment you will spend on this project. In addition to a rigorous bidding process, references and previous work are critical in the selection of a siding contractor. Mistakes from shoddy installation of vinyl siding on previous jobs are difficult to hide.

Installation Mistakes Can be very Costly

Vinyl expands and contracts aggressively with changes in the temperature – as much as 3/4 of an inch – and the need to “breathe” demands a loose installation. So whereas wood siding gets fastened snugly to the sides of a house, vinyl siding hangs from nails – horizontal slots are manufactured into the top of individual panels for the purpose. On the other hand, if an inexperienced contractor hangs the panels too loosely the siding will bang and rattle in the wind. These lively panels can also not be butted together or installed flush to corners which will result in buckling and cracking. It is because of these intricacies of installation that many major manufacturers of vinyl siding certify installers and provide names for customers.

If you own a house of architectural distinction you will need to take the contractor search further. Even certified vinyl siding installers may not be architecturally savvy – sacrificing decorative details for the sake of the re-siding job. Finding a contractor who specializes in old-house work will add costs to the job and be sure that trim pieces, mouldings, shutters, window channels, fascia pieces, soffits and the like are accounted for in the premium bid per square. For these high-end installations you can expect to pay $50 an hour and more.

Maintenance Costs

Even without the aesthetic advances in vinyl siding, the plastic skin covering has made inroads into the home construction market on the wings of its reputation for being “maintenance-free.” Yes, vinyl does not need to be repainted, although it can be for appearance-sake rather than protection. Note that painting will often void a warranty. But vinyl-siding is not completely maintenance-free. A soap-and-water cleaning is necessary from time to time with a cloth or soft-bristle brush. A simple hose down will wash away the solution. Power washers can be used but only with the utmost of care so as to not damage the siding.

Mold and mildew can be tackled with a potion of vinegar (30%) and water (70%) or a mixture of liquid household cleaner and bleach dissolved in a gallon of water. A regular bathing will help protect vinyl siding from discoloration. Properly installed, vinyl siding will not split or warp. It will never be gnawed away by insect damage nor rot from water infestation. Vinyl can melt if exposed to an intense heat source so be careful when burning leaves or charring steaks on the grill too close to the house. Even continued exposure to extremely hot reflections from nearby windows can cause warping.

If a piece of vinyl siding becomes damaged, replacement is a simple matter of slipping an unlocking tool behind the bottom lock of the panel above and taking out the damaged panel. Remove the nails to dislodge the panel from the house, lock on a new panel and zip it up. If the damage is in a conspicuous location you can match the aged color by swapping out a similarly weathered vinyl panel from another part of the house and moving it into the compromised location. Then insert the new panel in the less-obvious place on the house.

Comparing Vinyl with Other Siding Stalwarts

For some homeowners choosing vinyl siding as a cladding material will always be a no-brainer since it eliminates the chore of painting. But it wins cost comparisons with other materials as well. When you compare vinyl to the traditional cedar clapboarding, middle-grade wood will cost twice as much. However, high-end vinyl will rival high-end cedar in material costs. Installation of vinyl will be cheaper than its all-natural competitor and will have no painting and other maintenance costs down the line.

Vinyl vs. HardiePlank Lap, Clapboard, and HardieShingle Fiber Cement Siding

fiber-cement-siding-on-a-large-house Image Credits: Kramer Construction

Vinyl siding also has a composite competitor: fiber-cement aka HardiePlank and/or HardieShingle siding. This product is fabricated from a blend of wood pulp and Portland cement that is extruded into long boards. Like vinyl, it is a relatively thin covering that does not provide the insulation of wood, although vinyl can be installed with insulated backing. Fiber cement boards can be cut into round and square shingles and can be textured and stained. They can even be purchased pre-colored. But even though fiber-cement siding has made huge leaps in aesthetics in past years, it still does not offer the range of decorative options that are available with vinyl. Fiber-cement siding carries a certain premium in costs versus vinyl. — An average cost to install fiber cement siding ranges between $400 to $600 per square. A typical mid-range fiber cement siding installation costs just a tad over $14,000, with a recouped value of 84% in 2015. Similar to high-quality vinyl, fiber cement siding should provide a lifetime protection for a house. The overall installation costs are lower for vinyl, with less mess and dust. And, again, you will never need that paintbrush. 🙂


One thought on “Vinyl Siding Cost vs. Fiber Cement in 2017

  1. Zachary T

    Def. agree that quality of siding materials and contractor’s expertise are the two most important factors in getting a quality vinyl siding product.

    Reply

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