3 Wood-Look Siding Materials Without the All-Natural Consequences

3 Wood-Look Siding Materials Without the All-Natural Consequences

Across the US, the all-natural movement has taken off in virtually every industry – from food to building materials to consumer products – netting record sales in recent years as more consumers buy into the trend. One area in which these products have yet to make inroads, however, is siding. Step outside of almost any house, and one will routinely find that even if the siding resembles natural wood, it is almost always made using a synthetic material.

Why the discrepancy?

Though widely viewed as the most visually attractive siding material for its grainy, organic look, natural wood makes up a miniscule share of total US siding demand – about 1.0% of volume demand in 2016. This reflects two notable shortcomings of the material – its paltry durability and stringent maintenance requirements. Wood siding must be repainted, stained, sealed, and eventually replaced due to the threat of rot or warp in the siding, a major hassle to homeowners. These costly drawbacks have created opportunities for producers of competing siding materials to develop products that resemble natural wood but have superior performance properties.

Here are three wood-look siding alternatives that are more popular than natural wood siding:

1. Vinyl

Vinyl is the most commonly used siding material in the US – and the best imitator of natural wood for the lowest price. Ply Gem’s Cedar Dimensions wood-like vinyl siding is one popular example; the siding resembles natural wood but is impervious to moisture and generally does not require painting. While less expensive than fiber cement or engineered wood siding products – which contributes to its widespread use – vinyl siding is considered to trail wood-like fiber cement products in terms of attractiveness and performance qualities. Vinyl can be susceptible to denting or cracking, and the color of the siding can fade over time, diminishing its appearance.

2. Fiber Cement

Ever since James Hardie introduced the first asbestos-free fiber cement siding products in the 1990s, the company has been a top supplier of siding and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the trend for natural-look products, as fiber cement is extremely versatile, aesthetically speaking – easily fabricated to convincingly mimic natural wood, stone, or brick. HardiePlank is the company’s bestselling product, combining durability and low maintenance requirements with an appearance that is considered by many to better resemble natural wood siding than vinyl varieties. Although fiber cement siding is generally more expensive than vinyl products, which limits its presence in the wood-like siding market somewhat, the material will nevertheless continue to see healthy gains through 2021 and be the second bestselling siding material behind vinyl.

3. Engineered Wood

In 2016, engineered wood represented over 90% of wood siding demand (with natural wood comprising the remaining 10%). Lighter in weight and easier to install than fiber cement, and with better performance and aesthetic properties than vinyl, engineered wood has seen increasingly widespread adoption in recent years.

For example, Louisiana-Pacific created its SmartSide brand of engineered wood siding to offer homeowners the look of traditional wood siding with more durable treated engineered wood. The chemical treating of the engineered wood helps protect the siding material from harsh weather and insect attack. While previous generations of engineered wood siding products have had performance issues including rotting and swelling (which led to a class action lawsuit in the 1990s), Louisiana-Pacific has largely resolved these matters in its SmartSide offerings, to the benefit of sales.

For more information on wood-like siding materials, as well an in-depth analysis of the overall US siding industry complete with historical demand estimates as well as forecasts, check out the Freedonia Group’s study Siding Market in the US study, available now.

About the Author:

Nick Cunningham is an Industry Analyst at The Freedonia Group where he covers the US and global construction and building products industries.