Engineered Wood Siding Review: Part 2

By: Kate HambletJune 15, 2018

This article is Part 2 of my Engineered Wood Siding review. Part 2 will dive into some of the other siding choices out there and uncover how we ultimately decided on engineered wood siding.



Vinyl SidingBylerBarns

Cons:  Vinyl siding is primarily made of PVC which is a product that has a dangerous manufacturing process.  It is harmful to the workers that make the products and is linked to cancer.  The production process has harmful effects on the environment as well.  It releases greenhouse gases and dioxins.  At the end of its life, vinyl ends up in landfill where it will either be burned (releasing even more chemicals) or stay forever. 

Once install in a house, vinyl will continue to off-gas harmful chemicals and if it catches fire it is incredibly dangerous to be anywhere near the toxic fumes.  Vinyl is brittle and can damage easily.  Vinyl can’t be painted so there is no changing the color of a home once installed.

Benefits:  The benefits to vinyl is that is it low maintenance (if not damaged), easy to clean, and is cost effective.

Bottom Line:  For us, the negative impact to human health and the environment outweighed the benefits of low cost and low maintenance.


Fiber Cement:

Fiber Cement Siding


Cons:  Fiber cement is made of sand, cellulose fibers and cement.  It uses some recycled content such as fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal.  Fiber cement is heavier than a solid or engineered wood siding.  The two biggest pit falls with fiber cement siding are the special cutting tools and safety gear needed to install the siding and the very specific installation process needed to ensure the siding will not fail.  Environmental drawbacks are the high embodied energy in the Portland cement and the long shipping distances for some of the wood fiber.

Benefits:  Benefits include low cost, recycled material in the product, options of having the siding come pre-painted, durability, and long lifespan if installed correctly.  The siding is also termite and rot resistant and is non-combustible.

Bottom Line:  We chose not to go with fiber cement because it is a much heavier product than engineered wood siding and we have concerns with hanging a heavy product on the fiber board sheathing on the house.  The installation process was not something we wanted to make our installers have to deal with.  We also prefer the look of the LP Smartside engineered wood siding.


Pine Lap Siding:

Pine Lap Siding


Cons:  Pine clapboards (aka lap siding) are low cost but high maintenance   Pine boards need to be painted every 2-5 years.  That adds time, expense, and negative environmental impacts to the product.  Pine boards are pretty rough looking since they fray and can look stringy.  This makes painting the boards ever more difficult.  They can also warp over time.

Benefits:  The biggest benefit to pine boards is that they are made from a renewable resource and are not treated with chemicals.  (Though this may get evened out by the fact that they need to be painted so frequently.)  Look for the FSC label to ensure that the boards have come from sustainably harvested forests.  They are also a low cost siding option.

Bottom Line: It didn’t make sense for us to choose a product that needed so much maintenance   We don’t want to be painting our house every few years, and knowing that we plan to sell in a few years, we don’t want to pass that burden on to the next owners either.


Cedar Lap Siding:

Cedar Siding


Cons:  Cedar siding has few negative aspects in my book, but the biggest one is the cost.  They are not absurdly expensive, but they are out of our price range.  Cedar siding needs to be maintained just as often as pine siding if not left to weather naturally.

Benefits:  Being rot resistant is the greatest benefit to cedar siding.  And if the home owner likes the natural weathering look of gray cedar siding, then maintenance is not that frequent.

Bottom Line:  The main reason we did not choose cedar siding is because of the initial cost.  Another reason is that engineered wood siding should be more maintenance free than even unfinished cedar siding.


Thermally Modified Wood:

Thermally Modified Wood


No cons, is this siding perfect??  This is a new product to me, and so far I can’t find anything bad to say about it besides the cost.  Thermally modified wood is wood siding boards that have been heated at such high temperatures that the wood is protected against rot and termite damage.  No chemicals are involved in the treatment of this wood, just high heat and steam.  It has the smell of smoked wood which I think is fun.  

The wood can be installed horizontally or vertically and comes in a shiplap or tongue and grove installation.  It is not a lap siding like the other clapboard products mentioned above.  

Another great thing about this product is that it has the look of exotic wood but comes from common trees found in the US.  The manufacturer located in New Hampshire uses Poplar and Ash as their main wood sources.  The siding can be stained or left to fade naturally.  It is durable and should last a long time.

This is a relatively new product and it will be good to watch its growth through the years.  Hopefully it will gain popularity and become a trusted siding option.

Good to Know:  The siding must be installed with a rainscreen system to allow any water that goes behind the siding to drain down the wall.  It is a good idea to install a rainscreen with any of these siding options (except vinyl), but the manufacturer requires a rainscreen on the thermally modified wood siding.  Curious what a rainscreen is?  Find out more about them here.

Bottom Line:  We won’t be choosing thermally modified wood siding for our current project because of the cost, but I hope to use it in the future.


Engineered Wood Siding:

Engineered Wood Siding


In Part 1 of this post, I covered the pros and cons of engineered wood siding. Engineered wood is a dimensionally stable wood product made from strands of wood that are treated to protect again rot and termite damage as well as water intrusion.  

This siding is a low cost, low maintenance and highly durable siding that has up to a 50 year warranty.  The boards come in a longer than normal board length, allowing for faster installation.  No special tools are needed to cut and install the boards.

The down side is that installation must be done right to avoid water damage.  This requires a homeowner to have confidence in the siding installer.  The other downside is that the wood strands are treated with chemicals to give it the protection and durability that makes it low maintenance and gives it a long life span.

Bottom Line:  We chose engineered wood siding because the pros have outweighed the cons in our mind.  We want a product that is going to be durable and low maintenance for us and for future home owners.  We are impressed by the look of the cedar textured product.  We can choose to have the siding pre-painted which saves us time.  

The product requires a certain degree of focus during install to ensure clearances are maintained and all cuts are primed, and we are willing to oversee the installation to make sure it is installed correctly.


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