Memo to the three little pigs: You now have more exterior cladding choices for your houses. And, they sure beat sticks and straw.
Although the National Association of Home Builders says the majority of new houses in the Midwest are still clad with brick, wood or vinyl siding, the "other" category is gaining on these favorites.
Two forces are at work here, says Stephen Melman, director of economic services of the NAHB. "One, home buyers want their houses to be low-maintenance," he says. "Two, they want environmentally friendly and energy-efficient materials." So, while brick holds it own among buyers who can afford its steep price tag, other earth-friendly choices such as fiber-cement siding increase their market share.
Although it didn't even appear in the NAHB statistics until 2005, fiber-cement siding had 8 percent of the market in the Midwest by 2008. It appeals to wood lovers because it resembles wood, but doesn't require repainting. Made of cement, recycled fly ash and wood fiber, it is a green product and has warranties as long as 50 years.
Now, though, some contractors are abandoning fiber-cement siding for the new kid on the block, LP Building Products' SmartSide. Like fiber-cement, this engineered-wood siding has a wood-grain surface, does not require repainting and is fungus-resistant. It comes in traditional clapboard profiles, plus shingle, board-and-batten and stucco-like panels.
"With the LP product, you have longer board lengths, so there's less chance for water infiltration, and it just looks better," says Libertyville-based home builder Brad Meyer. "Cutting it doesn't require special blades. And, it generates regular sawdust, unlike the cloud of cement and silicone dust from fiber-cement that bothers the workers and neighbors."
For wood zealots, EcoVantage makes a new type of wood siding called EternaClad, available in clapboard or tongue-and-groove. It is wood that's thermally modified to resist moisture, rot, mildew and insects. You can stain it or let it weather naturally.
While vinyl siding is not new, it has entered a second generation, reports Melman. "Used to be, it was pretty noisy inside a vinyl house when it rained," he recalls. "But the product improved in strength, sound-proofing and energy efficiency." Some brands, including DuraPlank, are insulated sandwiches of vinyl, foam and air pockets.
At the same time, vinyl siding manufacturers have added colors to their formerly drab lines of beiges and grays. This suited Patty Egan of Northbrook, who used a deep-green version of Ply Gem's Variform insulated vinyl siding to clad her house when she added a second floor. "It adds a layer of insulation and gives us the wood look without having to paint it," she says. "We're all about maintenance-free!"
For home buyers who like the shake shingles that clad Long Island houses, but don't want wood upkeep, some manufacturers offer non-wood facsimiles. The Foundry, for example, uses shake-shingle molds to create the authentic-looking imperfections on its vinyl siding. Unlike its wooden counterpart, it is fire-resistant, doesn't shrink or crack and comes with a fitted, foam backing.
Style Crest makes rounded vinyl siding for a log-cabin look. For an unconventional façade, it offers WildSide Exterior Cladding with a camouflage pattern.
Synthetic stucco got a bad rap in the 1990s, when some contractors installed it incorrectly and mold grew between the walls. Whole subdivisions ditched the stuff. Now, this finish is worth another look. Installed correctly, this finish can create an energy-efficient and sound-proofed house that requires minimal exterior maintenance.
At the high end of the housing price ladder, stone still rules, at least as an accent. In fact, in the NAHB's 2007 Home of the Future report, home builders predicted that stone will reign in upscale homes for the next 10 years.
"Stone costs three times as much as brick, so rarely does a buyer want the whole exterior in stone," says Steve Lecas of Frankfort-based Gander Builders Inc. "Typically, he wants stone accents on a brick or fiber-cement house."
But today's buyer doesn't want the same-ole-same-ole stone, adds Lecas. "Instead of the typical Midwestern stones like limestone, they want something different, like bluestone from Pennsylvania."
For the look of stone for a fraction of the price, consider manufactured stone. Manufacturers, including Owens Corning, have expanded their product lines. Made of Portland cement, aggregates and iron oxide pigments, it doesn't require the brick base that real stone needs because it weighs less. Contractors attach it directly to the houses' substrates.
Lecas' favorite product for the brick-and-stone fan club is PastelCote from Boral Bricks. This heavily cobbled brick comes with an acrylic finish to give the house a "been here for 100 years" look. For existing brick, Boral sells ReCote finish.
If the clapboard Colonial bores you to tears, check out some of the new forms of cladding that give a house a sleek, modern look, while providing energy-efficiency.
EcoClad from Klip Bio Technologies LLC, for example, is a 50/50 blend of wood and bamboo fibers, plus recycled paper. A co-polymer resin gives these 48- by 96-inch sheets a scratch-resistant finish. Choose a matte color for an industrial look or a wood grain for a furniture-like appearance.
Another option for wood lovers who prefer modern architecture, says Chicago architect Paul Florian, is Parklex Facade, which are high-density, stratified-timber panels made of paper and resins.
"Parklex is a warm contrast to our metal roof," says Florian client Tim Goodsell, who used it to clad the addition to his 1880 Chicago cottage. "We chose it because we like the way it looks, but the zero maintenance and the energy-efficiency are pluses."
Although the Midwest falls behind hurricane-prone regions with concrete choices, we are catching on, says Jim Baty, technical director for the Concrete Foundations Association. Concrete exteriors fall into four basic types:
The removable concrete form (RCF) is a solid, monolithic, wall-and-roof shell with no joints. It can be clad in brick or siding, or coated and used as the exterior. The insulated concrete form (ICF) is similar to RCF, but must be clad.
The Panel System comes precast (built in a plant) or tilt-up (built on site) and has joints. "Erect it and, voila, you have a house," says Baty. "You can add cladding or coat it, but typically it's coated."
The autoclaved eerated concrete (AAC) system is like building a house with Legos, says Baty. Lightweight, porous, concrete blocks are usually clad with stucco. This is more common in the South, though, because it doesn't perform as well in our climate and is difficult to insulate, he adds.
For pictures of concrete houses, Baty suggests visiting concretehomescouncil.org or cfawalls.org.
Overall, says Baty, concrete is a durable, sustainable product that makes an efficient house. It may cost 10 percent more than stick-framing, says Baty, but your concrete house could be the last one standing after a tornado.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times