The natural beauty of wood has made it a choice material for exterior home siding for many decades. Wood siding choices include grooved plywood known as T-111, shingles, clapboard, solid planks and hardboard. Softwoods, such as cedar, pine and redwood, are standards because of their availability and low price compared to hardwoods. The latter material is more typically applied as shingles cut from short sections of oak or hickory. Potential problems temper the beauty of wood siding.
Ongoing maintenance is the single biggest issue with wood exteriors. Siding must be painted or sealed every four to nine years. Painting typically requires spot scraping and sanding where old paint has lost its adhesion to the wood, a coat of primer and a finish coat of paint. Stains and sealants are less labor-intensive but still require that the wood be thoroughly cleaned before application. Additionally, you must repair any damage to the wood — from woodpeckers, rock hits from the mower and similar issues — quickly.
When bare wood is exposed to the rain, ocean air and high humidity, the wood can be damaged from rot or swelling. Even end grain on wood siding and the edges of plywood need protection from the elements. Paint and sealants help lock out the moisture when applied properly. Long-term exposure to the elements can cause enough damage that the siding must be replaced, and it could also lead to structural damage to the home’s framework.
Termites love wood and will attack a home’s wood siding if they find a way in. Bare, exposed wood or rotted areas are open invitations for a termite attack. Other insects, such as ants and carpenter bees, also find wood an attractive place to nest.
Most woods used as home exterior siding are considered at least a moderately renewable resource. Replenishment of forests is ahead or at the same pace of harvesting for most woods used in siding. But many paints, stains and sealers are not environmentally friendly. Some, especially those that are oil-based, may contain ingredients that are toxic.
Installation of wood exteriors is labor-intensive and costly. A 1,250-square-foot installation, for instance, can cost between $6,500 to $7,500, as of 2013, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.