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Choose Home Exterior Materials

Exterior of Home

Curb appeal lies within the details. So when selecting exterior materials for a new home or remodeling an existing abode, review all the options and assess the pros and cons. We’ll discuss a few popular exterior materials and the considerations to make when selecting them.

Fiber Cement Board

"It’s so great for so many reasons," says Karen Smuland, owner of Karen Smuland Architect, LLC, based in Bend, Ore. "The material is available in many different styles, such as horizontal siding, shingles, flat panels, and board and batten." Also, Smuland says it’s long-lasting — usually coming with a 50-year or even lifetime warranty.

Fiber cement boards are especially ideal for regions that experience harsh winter and summer weather. Pablo Solomon, an independent artist and designer in Lampasas, Texas, recently designed his home with new window casings and trim made of hardy plank, a type of fiber cement board. Solomon says it’s held up in the region’s 100º summer heat. "In Texas, the weather is so extreme, and you have all these problems of expansion and contraction," he says. "Hardy plank is just so durable; it won’t warp or rot."

Smuland adds that fiber cement board is also easy to construct. "You can get the boards preprimed and painted," she says. "You can just hang it up and you’re done. It really reduces the amount of work done on a job site."

Contractors who prefer green materials will be happy to know that fiber cement board is composed of recycled materials, such as fly ash from coal burning as well as recycled concrete and wood.

Natural Wood

Wood is another popular exterior choice, which can be used in a variety of styles, such as lodge, craftsman, contemporary or rustic. And because many forests are being managed with sustainability in mind, wood certified by programs, like the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), is harvested using sustainable practices. Certified wood, however, can be expensive. As another option, Smuland encourages contractors to use local wood suppliers, and research where it comes from and how that forest is being managed.

In terms of its ability to stand up to harsh weather, wood will resist the elements if properly constructed with air circulation in mind, Smuland says. However, she wouldn’t recommend it in some applications, such as hot and humid environments, where termite infestation, mold and mildew risks are high.

Stone Veneer

Fred Cann, owner of JRS Solutions, a construction management and building company in Long Island, says he sees more and more people choose stone veneer over brick. "It looks identical and provides the same thermal protection," he says, "but it’s much easier to use and handle and also cheaper to install." Also, stone veneer is very convenient because it’s available in preformed panels, so all you need to do is to connect the joints. This process is much simpler than laying mortar and heavy bricks, he says, making it an obvious choice.


Smuland says she’s been seeing a lot of metal, like steel and aluminum, on home exteriors. "It’s another material that can be very long-lasting and durable in the right climate," she says. "There are also many finish options including rust." However, Smuland wouldn’t recommend metal with a rusted finish in hot, humid climates because the moisture would cause it to continue to actually rust to an undesirable extreme.

It’s also a great option for going green because most metal contains a high percentage of recycled material.

Although there are many choices with exterior materials, a careful evaluation of the climate and your customer’s preferences will ensure you make the right choice.