Wood Siding vs. Vinyl Siding: Which One is Better?
Wood and vinyl are the most popular materials used as siding. Known to stand the test of time, weather, and aesthetic scrutiny, they’re both top-notch, quality materials. But the question here really isn’t one of wood siding vs. vinyl, pitting them against each other and determining which one is better. Instead, it’s about finding out which one – wood or vinyl – is better for you.
We’ll compare and contrast wood siding and vinyl siding below, take a look at the cost and durability, and analyze different types of wood and vinyl siding to help you make the right decision.
Wood is an in-demand material for siding because of its classic and understated appearance. It can blend in seamlessly with your home and the rest of your outdoor structures, but it can also stand out with an eye-catching finish.
Types of Wood Siding
- Southern Yellow Pine is a gorgeous and durable wood. Highly resistant to wear and weather, yellow pine is a go-to for exterior use. If you’ve ever walked the boardwalk, then you’ve probably stepped on this material before. It’s also a popular option for decks, patios, and of course, siding.
- Western Red Cedar is another excellent choice for outdoor use, as it’s known for its durability against the elements and insect attacks. Red Cedar lumber is also harvested from some of the most sustainably managed forests, so it looks great and is good for the environment.
- Spruce is a quality substitute for traditional pine (it’s a member of the pine family) and is easily accessible to those on the East Coast. It often comes in longer lengths than pine while possessing many of the same characteristics. Spruce is not a naturally resistant wood, however, so it’s essential to re-seal it regularly.
- Engineered (composite) wood is manmade lumber. Designed to be the strongest wood on the market, it’s highly durable and is often a composite of different materials. The cost of engineered wood siding vs. vinyl, for instance, is going to run much more expensive than traditional lumber vs. vinyl, but it’s a great fit for people in harsher climates.
Maintaining Your Wood Siding
Wood, for its many benefits, does require more upkeep than other materials. To keep it looking its best and holding up over time, we recommend regular maintenance, such as power washing every year or every other year, and repainting and re-staining it with the same frequency. If you choose a durable wood and follow these regular maintenance tips, you shouldn’t run into any trouble, and your outdoor shed, gazebo, or pavilion will last you many years.
Finish Options for Wood Siding
Another benefit of wood is the array of options it presents when selecting a finish. While quality lumber in its natural state looks great, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different paints and stains. Most manufacturers offer various options, but they can also customize it with a simple color match. This way, you can ensure consistency with your home or other outdoor structures.
Vinyl Siding Options
Vinyl is available in just about any style and color you like. While it isn’t as customizable in appearance as wood, it doesn’t require repainting or restaining, meaning the color you choose on day one will, for the most part, carry on years after its installation. You can’t repaint vinyl, as the material won’t hold color. Because of this, we recommend finding a distributor that can meet your color and design preferences from the get-go.
Is Vinyl Siding Cheaper Than Wood?
Vinyl is easy to install and requires less maintenance than wood. With an average lifespan of 40 years, vinyl siding is inexpensive, highly durable, and less affected by insects. It also comes in at a lower price point. On average, vinyl’s installation cost is around $2 a square foot, compared to $7 a square foot for wood.
Tips for Vinyl Siding Care
One of the benefits of vinyl siding is that it requires much less maintenance than its wood counterpart. But that doesn’t mean you want to abuse it or treat it carelessly. There are a few simple TLC tips you can implement to make sure your vinyl siding lasts as long as possible, including:
- Washing vinyl with a soft cloth or soft bristle brush
- Power washing to avoid mold and mildew build-up
- Using a cleaner free of organic solvents as these can be aggressive and damage the appearance
Vinyl is a durable, long-lasting material, but it’s not immune to everything the elements will throw at it. While not affected by humidity (like wood is), vinyl siding can crack in extremely cold temperatures, and grow soft and melt under extremely hot temperatures.
To avoid unnecessary damage, try to place your outdoor grill away from your structure with vinyl siding. If zoning permits, you can also try placing your shed, gazebo, pergola, or outdoor play structure with vinyl siding in a shady spot away from direct sunlight. While extreme heat isn’t an issue in most parts of the country, it is something to be aware of in hotter climates.
Can You Replace Wood Siding with Vinyl?
The short answer is yes. But to do so, you need to make sure the existing wood siding is in good condition. This means the wood must be free from any mold or rot. Another thing to consider is whether your wood siding is beveled. If so, you’ll need to use furring strips and foam board to make a flat surface for the new vinyl siding. You’ll also want to be conscious of preventing any moisture from getting beneath the new vinyl siding and the old wood. To prevent this, place a moisture barrier over the top of the existing wood.
Can You Replace Vinyl Siding with Wood?
The best option here is to simply remove it, as vinyl siding is surprisingly easy to take off. Since it’s installed from bottom to top, you’ll want to start at the top and work your way down. This typically doesn’t require any special tools, as a pry bar, screwdriver, and wooden block to protect the underlying surface should do the trick.
Wood Siding Vs. Vinyl: Pros & Cons
Wood Siding Pros:
- Wide range of style options
- Many installation choices
- Not affected by extreme temperatures
- Has good ROI and maintains the value
- More eco-friendly
- Lasts 20-40 years
Wood Siding Cons:
- Needs more maintenance
- Harder to install
- Requires painting/scraping
- More difficult to insulate
- Susceptible to wood-eating insects
- Impacted by moisture
- More expensive
Vinyl Siding Pros:
- Easy to install
- Requires less maintenance
- Does not require painting
- Many styles and colors are available
- Unaffected by moisture and humidity
- Can be used with foam insulation
Vinyl Siding Cons:
- Can crack in cold weather
- Can melt when exposed to heat
- May detract from resale
- Not environmentally friendly
- Fewer options for appearance
In the end, wood siding vs. vinyl is a matter of preference. Your budget, aesthetic preference, and location all contribute to whether wood or vinyl siding makes more sense for you. Regardless of what you choose, the most important thing is to make sure you purchase quality materials and receive a professional setup.
This blog was originally published on May 1, 2018. It was updated on Feb. 15, 2021.