Calgary homes come in many shapes and sizes, and the siding used for different houses varies greatly too. Vinyl, wood, hardie board, and stucco are all common choices, but deciding which of these materials will serve you best can be much harder than most people think.
The fact is that not all of these materials perform equally well in Calgary’s unique climate, which can go from pleasant and mild to extremely harsh literally overnight. Cowtown has variously experienced long dry spells, flooding, snowstorms, and windchill temperatures of minus forty or more… sometimes all in the span of a single season. What’s more, experts predict that the city’s weather will likely become even more erratic over time. That means homeowners who want to invest in siding now have to plan carefully for the long term.
Fortunately, such important decisions don’t have to be made alone. We’ve put together a handy guide to each of these common siding materials below, so that you can understand their respective advantages and associated risks before investing in new siding for your Calgary home.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Siding in Calgary
It’s obviously vital to take Calgary’s climate into account when choosing siding, but there are other factors to consider too. Anyone planning to purchase new siding should think carefully about the following criteria:
How much are you willing to spend on your new siding? The answer to that question might help you narrow down your options right off the bat. Remember also that there are actually multiple costs to getting new siding; after you purchase the siding itself, you’ll also have to pay for the installation. Installation costs will vary depending on what material you choose, since some types of siding are easier to install than others.
Siding can’t just be judged based on its ability to resist inclement weather. It also affects your home’s energy efficiency. Some types of siding offer considerably more insulation than others, making it easier for your home to retain heat — which should be a key consideration for Calgary homeowners, since cold weather tends to grip the city for roughly eight months of each year.
Investing in energy efficient siding can also offset the initial costs of materials and installation over time, assuming you intend to keep your home for long enough. That means energy efficient siding is a good investment for your future — and for the future of the planet, since it helps reduce your carbon footprint!
You shouldn’t base your decision entirely off of how your siding options look, but let’s be honest — ugly siding can make for an ugly house. That can impact more than just your neighbours’ sensibilities, too. In fact, it can actually affect your ability to sell the house, since many buyers place high amounts of value on fairly superficial criteria. Homes that have more “curb appeal” often sell quicker than those with less, even when the less flattering houses are better investments from a practical standpoint.
How Each Common Siding Choice Stacks Up
Now for the good part, where we tell you how each of the previously mentioned siding choices ranked according to the criteria established above.
We’ve awarded three possible points each for weather resistance and energy efficiency, and two possible points each for cost-effectiveness and aesthetics (making for a ten-point scale overall).
Vinyl: Inexpensive and Appealing for Short-Term Owners
Vinyl is a popular choice for siding because it usually comes in a variety of different colours and tends to rank highly in curb appeal. It also has a lower up-front cost than other materials — but with siding, you tend to get what you pay for. Yes, it looks nice, but don’t expect standard vinyl siding to offer anything special in the way of insulation or protection from the elements.
Vinyl is basically just made from layered strips of plastic, which makes it prone to cracking damage from extreme weather over extended periods of time and only gives it an R-value of about 0.61. You can buy special insulated vinyl siding that offers an additional R-value of 2.0-2.7, but bear in mind that this usually comes with a 20-50% cost increase.
We recommend vinyl siding for homeowners who want to increase the curb appeal of their home so that they can sell it quickly, but not for those who are interested in energy-efficient long-term investments.
- Weather resistance: 1/3
- Energy efficiency: 1.5/3
- Cost-effectiveness: 2/2
- Aesthetics: 1.5/2
- Total: 6/10
Wood: Gorgeous, Fragile, and Costly
There’s no denying that wood siding offers a beautiful, classic look — which is probably why it’s managed to remain popular for so many years. However, it’s important to note that wood is a great deal more susceptible to the elements than most other materials used for contemporary siding. It warps and expands when temperatures change, and soaks up moisture over time. This can eventually cause wood siding to soften, and can even rot or begin to grow mouldy.
Any wood siding purchased for use in Calgary should be treated carefully with a high-quality water-resistant sealant, and will require regular maintenance to prevent it from deteriorating. That comes on top of an already high initial cost, making wood an impractical (albeit attractive) option for siding in Calgary.
As for energy efficiency, most wood siding improves on standard vinyl, with wood shingle siding offering an R-value of 0.87.
- Weather resistance: 0/3
- Energy efficiency: 2.5/3
- Cost-effectiveness: 1/2
- Aesthetics: 2/2
- Total: 5/10
Hardie Board: Tough Stuff with Good Value
Named after its creator James Hardie, hardie board was originally designed to enjoy a long lifespan with little maintenance. It’s made with cement fibres, which make it immune to problems like rot and incredibly resilient in the face of aggressive weather. Better yet, hardie board can easily be configured to look like most other materials — including wood boards and cedar shingles. It isn’t usually much more expensive than vinyl either, although you’ll pay higher installation costs for it because of the added weight of the cement.
Perhaps the most significant drawback to hardie board siding is its lack of energy efficiency, coming in with an R-value of only 0.50. Our verdict? Hardie board siding is an excellent material for long-term homeowners in Calgary, with the caveat that if you’re going to use it you should also invest in some extra insulation.
- Weather resistance: 3/3
- Energy efficiency: 1/3
- Cost-effectiveness: 1/2
- Aesthetics: 2/2
- Total: 7/10
Stucco: Jack of All Trades, Master of None
Stucco is a mixture of sand, cement, lime, and water that is usually applied in coats over concrete masonry. Because the materials that make it up are so inexpensive, stucco doesn’t cost much; however, it almost always requires professional installation, and since the layering process can be time-consuming, you can expect this to drive up the overall price.
Stucco also offers decent weather resistance against rain and snow, although it can shrink and crack over time. It also isn’t very energy efficient — basic stucco only has an R-value of about 0.20, although like most of the other options on this list it can be improved with extra insulation.
Aesthetically, stucco scores points for being uniquely customizable since different colours can be mixed into the material and it can easily be arranged in various patterns and swirls. However, some buyers may consider it out of style since it was popularized primarily in the 1980s and can come off as unfashionable.
- Weather resistance: 1.5/3
- Energy efficiency: 1/3
- Cost-effectiveness: 1.5/2
- Aesthetics: 1.5/2
- Total: 5.5/10
When Choosing Siding, Consider Your Priorities
There’s no clear right or wrong answer for Calgary homeowners who are choosing new siding (although to be honest, we can’t really recommend wood). Vinyl makes a great choice if you want an inexpensive option that might help you sell your home quickly, whereas hardie board is an ideal choice for people who plan on living in their homes for years and want low-maintenance protection from the elements. Even stucco can be a decent choice, depending on whether you like the look and are willing to keep it looking nice.
Of course, given Calgary’s frequently challenging environment, we suggest that you complement any siding you choose with extra insulation in order to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. Doing so can help you save money on heating bills, which is a great way to compensate for the costs of new siding over time.