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On the Outside | Exterior Materials for Timber Homes

From wood to vinyl, our quick guide to the materials used to cover your new home.

On the Outside

While you're busy mapping out plans for your masterpiece, don't forget about what will cover the home on the outside—in short, what your home's "skin&" looks like. Your choice can make a huge difference in the cost, design, energy efficiency and environmental soundness of your home. Here's a rundown of siding options, along with a few sneak peeks at new products on the market.


Pros: Conveys quality; blends your timber frame's interior with its exterior. Virtually limitless options of wood species, color and style.

Cons: Exposure to the sun and the elements affects the performance of wood siding. Periodic finishing reapplication and maintenance are necessary, typically every three to seven years.

Cost: From $2.50 to $8 per square foot installed.

Choose this option if: You want an authentic, premium look and don't mind the maintenance. Ideal for Cape Cod or farmhouse-style homes.


Pros: Durable, limitless color options, fireproof, holds up to hard blows from nature's elements, low maintenance.

Cons: Can crack if not finished properly, porous (especially synthetic stucco) and can lead to moisture absorption and potential rot damage for underlying wood.

Cost: From $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot installed.

Choose this option if: You want a Southwest Prairie, Adobe or Spanish-style home requiring little upkeep.


Pros: Virtually maintenance free, quickly installed and can be combined with other materials such as cedar or stucco. Pre-cast stone veneers (such as manufactured stone) replicate the look and feel of real stone at substantially lower prices.

Cons: Extremely expensive.

Cost: As high as $30 per square foot installed. Manufactured stone is about half the price of real stone.

Choose this option if: You can afford it. Also, stone is wonderful if you place a premium on low maintenance and want your new home to have a palatial feel.

Fiber Cement

Pros: An inexpensive alternative to authentic wood and stucco siding; more durable than wood; fire resistant.

Cons: Can require specialized carpentry skills and installation tools for cutting and application; won't fool the neighbors into thinking you have a real wood or stucco finish; potential to deteriorate with ground contact due to moisture weakening the fibers.

Cost: About $2.15 per square foot installed.

Choose this option if: You want the look and feel of wood but don't want the maintenance, or if you want the look of stucco but don't have the budget.


Pros: Durable and almost maintenance free, with many styles and colors.

Cons: Releases toxic chemicals when burned; any damage requires replacement; can crack, fade or split over time; can't be painted.

Cost: About $1.70 per square foot installed (but can be as high as $4 per square foot if the product is customized).

Choose this option if: Up-front costs and maintenance are big concerns. Read the full story in the June/July 2005 issue of Timber Home Living. Photo by J.P. Hamel

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