Composite Siding: A Rundown of Options & Innovations

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If you’re thinking about replacing or adding a new exterior to your home or business you may have landed on composite siding as your best option – and we understand why! 

Stronger, more durable and more energy efficient than traditional options, more and more US homeowners are choosing composite siding to clad their homes. It’s essential to make an informed decision about siding; beyond practical considerations around permeability, strength, and insulation, it’s also the first thing visitors will see and an important expression of your property’s design aesthetic. A beautiful, durable exterior will elevate curb appeal and add value to your home for years to come!

When it comes to siding, however, options abound. Traditionally, wood was the answer. Then came a range of composite materials: engineered wood siding, fiber cement siding, and vinyl siding, to name a few. We get it. It can be hard to know which will best fit your needs and take your property to the next level.

To help you make your choice, today at Outlive we’re giving you a rundown of the different composite sidings, their weaknesses and strengths, and a glimpse into the future of composite siding. Let’s dive in.

Traditional Wood Siding

For many years before it was surpassed by composite siding around the year 1994, wood was the undisputed champion of home exteriors. Its natural charm and rustic appeal adorned homes from the coziest of cottages to the grandest of mansions. The versatility of wood allowed it to be shaped, carved, and painted in myriad ways, making each home unique.

However, as we know, wood siding (be it solid wood, plywood, oriented strand board, or other compressed wood) is not only a fire risk which may drive up your insurance premium, it can also fall prey to moisture damage, rot, and pest infestation. 

Aged, unpainted wood siding on a home with garden furniture and a plant in the foreground.

Not only that, but it requires a lot of maintenance (think painting, staining, sealing, repairing, replacing boards– not to mention pest control!) and has a relatively short lifespan. 

It’s no wonder that composite siding, which aims to offer the beauty of real wood but with enhanced durability, began to take hold.

Pros of Wood Siding

  • Authentic, timeless aesthetic appeal.
  • Versatility in design and customization.
  • Biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

Cons of Wood Siding

  • Requires regular maintenance, such as painting or staining.
  • Susceptible to rot, termites, and other pests.
  • Can be costly to frequently repair or replace.

The Era of Composite Siding

In the 80s and 90s the cladding and siding industry responded to homeowners’ desire for more durable choices, and low-maintenance options: composite siding was born from the need for resilience without sacrificing aesthetics. 

By blending various materials—often wood fibers, plastics, and binding agents—composite siding provides a robust solution with a vast range of design possibilities.

Vinyl Siding

Made primarily from PVC, vinyl siding has become a popular choice because it is affordable, easy to maintain, and has varied design options. 

Just be aware that vinyl siding is less hardy than other options and won’t provide the same energy efficiency to your property as, say, fiber cement, unless you choose an insulated version.

Pros of Vinyl

  • Cost-Effective: One of the most affordable siding options available.
  • Low Maintenance: Doesn’t necessarily need painting or sealing and is easy to clean.
  • Variety: Available in a vast range of colors and styles.

Cons of Vinyl

  • Not as durable as fiber cement or engineered wood; can crack or fade over time.
  • Needs to be reinforced with insulation for optimum energy efficiency.
  • Although vinyl siding is generally recyclable, it is less eco-friendly due to the plastic content and manufacturing process.
  • Doesn’t provide as authentic an appearance as solid wood or engineered wood.

Engineered Wood Siding

Also known as composite wood siding, manufactured wood siding, or synthetic wood siding, this is most commonly a fusion of wood fibers and adhesive resins. Engineered wood siding aims to capture the best of both worlds: the natural appeal of wood and the durability of man-made materials. 

The degree to which this is achieved varies, however. Some products are extruded while others are printed with imitation wood grains and knots; often the result is that all the boards are more or less identical and the realism of this option takes a hit. Moreover, since engineered wood siding still contains wood to varying degrees it is still susceptible to moisture damage and pests. Some companies offer synthetic seals on their boards to combat this (the number of coated sides varies).

Pros of Engineered Wood

  • Improved Appearance: Mimics the look and texture of real wood better than plastic or vinyl options.
  • Cost-effective: Generally more affordable than traditional wood when considering upfront and maintenance/repair costs.
  • Enhanced Durability: More resistant to common problems like rot and insect damage.

Cons of Engineered Wood

  • Requires some maintenance, though less than traditional wood.
  • Not as long-lasting as some other composite materials.
  • Can be susceptible to moisture if not properly sealed; may cup, shrink, or swell depending on the weather.
  • Falls short of achieving the beauty & texture of real wood.

Fiber Cement Siding

Made from a combination of cellulose (plant) fibers, sand, and cement, fiber cement siding is a very durable product that can, to an extent, mimic the look of wood, stucco, or masonry. It is termite-resistant, water-resistant, and non-combustible, and can be painted any color. Fiber cement siding is one of the most popular forms of composite siding today, but it does have some weaknesses, like a tendency to absorb moisture and a need for regular maintenance.

Pros of Fiber Cement

  • Fire Resistant: Offers better fire protection compared to many other sidings.
  • Versatility in Design: Can be manufactured to mimic wood, stone, or brick; can be painted.
  • Durability: Resistant to termites, rot, and UV damage.

Cons of Fiber Cement

  • Heavier, requiring specialized installation.
  • Can be more expensive than vinyl or some engineered wood options.
  • Maintenance, like repainting, might be required over time; can absorb water leading to rot and discoloration.
  • Less wood-like realism than other composites.

So, composites have a lot going for them, that much is clear – they’ve become a very popular exterior option since the 1990s despite a few common drawbacks. But moving forward, innovators in the siding industry need to focus on solving these problems without compromising on form and functionality.

Outlive is proud to be the exclusive US distributor of Millboard products – and we feel they’ve been doing just that.

Enter Millboard: Hyperealistic, Wood-Free Composite Siding

Millboard’s unique fiberglass-reinforced resin mineral board construction and artist-informed design ensures that while it emulates the aesthetics of real timber, it won’t suffer from its vulnerabilities.

Why Millboard Composite Siding?

Lasting Beauty 

Molded from actual timber, Millboard composite siding captures the intricacies of wood grain, ensuring a truly realistic finish. With our focus on the most stunning, hand-selected oak boards as our design base, we’ve got the aesthetic edge in composite siding.

Plus, Millboard siding boasts a unique Lastane® coating that flexes back over screws leaving almost no trace.

It’s the faux-wood that fools everyone.

Design Versatility 

Millboard offers two superior siding lines in a wide range of colors. Our Envello® Shadow Line offers a crisp, wood-authentic look, while the Envello® Board & Batten Line brings a unique profile to your home’s exterior. It also features an innovative tongue and groove profile which only requires fixing through the tongue – for quick and easy installation! 

No matter what your architectural style is, we’ve got you covered.

Durability Meets Design 

Resistant to the challenges of moisture, algae, and UV rays, Millboard products contain no wood and are built to stand the test of time. They don’t expand and contract as much as wood and timber-based composites, and also require very minimal maintenance.

Eco-Friendly Approach 

Though wood-free, Millboard places sustainability at the forefront, focusing on eco-friendly production methods and materials

Composite Siding: The Future is Here

Thanks to advances in technology and design over the years, composite siding has emerged as a go-to choice for homes and businesses, combining the beauty of wood with the hardiness and versatility of synthetic materials. We hope we’ve been able to provide you with some helpful insights as you select the siding for your project – if you’re in the market for composite siding, you know how overwhelming the choices can be!

But here’s a tip: Go with Millboard.

While each siding material has its merits, Millboard stands out as a premium choice for those seeking the best blend of aesthetics, durability, and sustainability. Whether you’re renovating a historical home or building a modern abode or business, Millboard’s composite siding lines promise a finish that’s both timeless and future-proof.

Ready to see our Envello® composite siding for yourself? Order your free samples today, or contact us to discuss your project!

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