Preserving History: The Right Siding to Give Your Old House New Life

As a home improvement contractor, I am consulted by homeowners on all aspects of home renovation and repair. Not a day goes by that I’m not asked what to materials are best used for certain parts of the home, and why.

Preserving History The Right Siding to Give Your Old House New Life

Most recently, a friend of mine purchased an old historic home in a pretty sorry state of disrepair. Now, even for experienced old-timer builders like me, old homes present a bit of problem: you want to stay as close to possible to the original—preserve and stay true to the historic elements of the home, and to capture accurately the original feel of the home. At the same time, you have to balance that with durability, i.e., ensuring that the materials chosen will last for a few decades (if not centuries) to come, as well as affordability, i.e., no need to break the bank to bring the home back to its former glory.

Apart from roofing and windows, one extremely important aspect of the home to consider is the siding.

Vinyl is an extremely popular material for siding, and in many instances, I have recommended that homeowners use this material. However, for projects that involve old or historic homes, vinyl is never my material of choice, nor is it the first pick of other experts in the industry. For one thing, installing vinyl over old wood can improve things aesthetically, but the downside is that it can also mask (if not cause) water damage. Moreover, vinyl siding can act as an exterior vapor barrier, which can encourage decay. Two other important considerations are that vinyl can crack easily in extremely cold weather, and its color tends to fade over time.


Fiber Cement Siding

With materials such as brick, stucco, or wood, it’s hard to find a good balance between great aesthetics, durability, affordability, and easy maintenance—at best; you’ll get two or three of the characteristics you’re looking for. There is, however, one other material that manages to meet all four conditions with ease: fiber cement.

Fiber cement is, in fact, possibly the only other material that costs a fraction of what the other materials do, yet manages to look like the real thing, whether it’s made to mimic shingles, painted wood clapboard, brick, or stone.

Made from 4 components—water, wood pulp, fly ash and Portland cement—fiber cement requires little to no upkeep, is hardly ever affected by cold, wind, rain or hail, and is rot and pest-proof as well as fire-proof. Not surprisingly, 15% of new homes and many homes in historic districts are now clad with this material.

Fiber Cement Siding

Not convinced yet that fiber cement is the way to go? Let’s look more closely at a few more of the important considerations we’ve listed, then.


The most common type of fiber cement siding is painted wood clapboard.

Uninstalled, prices can range from $0.70 per square foot to $5.25, thereabouts. Comparatively, shingles will cost from $2 to $8 per square foot. Prices will typically vary based on finish and size.


Only minimal upkeep is needed. Give your fiber cement siding a good spray with a hose every 6 to 12 months or so; check caulked joints every couple of years.


Fiber cement warranties run from 25 years or more against defects. Some even have limited lifetime warranties. Finishes also usually carry a factory warranty against fading and flaking of 15 years. Fiber cement siding is best installed by pros. The product can crack if not handled properly, and requires specialized tools to install correctly.

Author Bio: Bob Smith is a marketing coach for Twin Cities Siding Professional. Over the past 20-plus years, he’s handled several important restoration projects involving old historical homes and has become somewhat of an expert in this specialized field of home improvement. He shares his knowledge in the industry through blogging.

Erin Emanuel