Since the dawn of time, man has continually searched for products to surround his dwelling that offer protection from the elements. As we became more refined, we began to search for products that not only protect our dwelling but offer an element of design as well.

Each year, we see new technology that allows manufacturers to improve both the durability and visual appeal of our exterior wall coverings. It is now very possible to side your home with products that are extremely durable, visually appealing, and require very little maintenance. Much more so than even just a few years ago.

Over the last 100 years, we have seen a significant shift from solid wood siding products that require regular painting and are susceptible to moisture intrusion (potentially leading to mold, rot, and decay) to man-made products such as aluminum, vinyl, fiber cement, and engineered woods. Though these products have improved in appearance to look more like real wood, they have become increasingly complicated to install. There are also limitations to their visual appeal and ability to perform at a high level based upon their material properties.

It is difficult to make aluminum look natural because let’s face it, it is metal. Vinyl can be produced with more texture than aluminum and can offer variegated colors, but it still looks and feels like plastic for the most part because of how it is made. Fiber cement has become a dominant player of late because it has the look and feel of wood and is produced in a wide variety of prefinished colors. Similarly, engineered wood products can achieve the same result in a product that is lighter weight and easier to install. However, neither of these products can escape the challenges of moisture and movement. If moisture penetrates these products, it causes the siding to expand and contract, rot and decay, and can ultimately fail if not addressed immediately. Moreover, the installation process is long and tolerance requirements tedious. If not followed to the letter of the law by your siding installer, you could be the one on the hook for costly repairs and replacements.

The good news is that we are now entering an era where siding products offer incredibly realistic visuals, are not susceptible to moisture and movement, are simple to install, and offer long-lasting durability with ultra-low maintenance. This is all thanks to research and development at major companies that want to provide visually stimulating siding products that perform at a high level. There are plenty of options out there that fit into this category, but only a few are offered by large companies with brand name awareness that have earned consumer confidence over many years.

The following are a few of the products highlighted at this year’s International Builders Show.

CertainTeed Icon siding sets the standard for performance, durability, and speed of installation. Made of a proprietary blend of materials, Icon absorbs only minimal moisture, making it significantly more stable when it comes to expansion and contraction. As a result, butt joints remain tight, paint does not crack, and the product will not rot or decay. Further, the product incorporates a unique stack lock design that self-aligns and requires no clips. This makes for significantly faster installations and improved wind resistance compared to alternative products on the market. Most appealing, however, is how it looks on the wall. Icon provides a 7-inch reveal to emulate real cedar wood planks in 12- and 16-foot lengths with an authentic cedar woodgrain texture.

Boral Limited is an international manufacturer of building materials ranging from roofing to cultured stone to trim and siding products, to name just a few. Their TruExterior trim and siding products are produced here in the United States and provide numerous advantages when it comes to performance in the field. Also made with a proprietary blend of materials, TruExterior trim and siding products are fine for ground contact and come in a wide variety of profiles. Trim products are available in both 4/4 and 5/4 thickness and are offered in traditional board widths from 4 to 12 inches. Siding products are all 16 feet in length and are produced in 6-, 8-, and 10-inch widths. What separates TruExterior siding from the competition is the profiles that they offer. These include V-Rustic, Cove/Dutch Lap, Channel Lap, Channel Bevel, Shiplap, Nickel Gap, and three traditional Bevel Siding profiles. Best of all, the installation guide is simple. Cut it, fasten it, and paint it.

The Tapco Group out of Wixom has recently introduced Grayne, which is an engineered composite shingle. Grayne is offered in a 5-inch exposure designed to emulate an Eastern White Cedar shingle and a 7.5-inch exposure designed to emulate a Western Red Cedar shingle. As a direct result of this new rigid PVC composite substrate, they can manufacture the product with crisp edges and lifted grain patterns resulting in the most realistic alternative to wood available today. Grayne comes in six prefinished colors as well as a primed version that can be field painted any color a homeowner desires. Best of all, Grayne is easy to install, easy to maintain, and will look as spectacular well into the future as it looked the day it was installed.

When considering siding for a new home or a remodeling project, the choices are endless. Colors, styles, and profiles improve curb appeal, but the value is the combination of these factors and the long-term wall performance. Ask your builder, siding contractor, or local building materials retail dealer for options and consider how each product performs in dealing with moisture and movement. This will ensure that you get the most value out of your siding choice and have a great-looking exterior for years to come.