Q: We need to replace the siding on our house. We live in San Francisco, and our house is often in the damp fog. A contractor said vinyl siding is the best choice, but another one says synthetic fiberglass siding is better. A third recommends redwood. What is the best siding for lots of exposure to fog, wind, rain and sun?

A: Based on the choices you’ve given us, we’d have to go with the vinyl siding over redwood. Without more information, we really can’t comment on synthetic fiberglass siding.

Vinyl siding will stand up well to fog, wind, rain and sun and, if installed properly, will be watertight. Vinyl siding is comparatively inexpensive and it does not require maintenance. It will retain its original look for years. In our view, the drawback to vinyl siding is aesthetic. We don’t think it’s very attractive. But we are not the final word here. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and reasonable minds can differ.

We’d recommend against choosing redwood or any other natural wood in the wet and windswept environment you describe.

Because wood absorbs moisture, it will expand and contract with changes in the weather and humidity. Because of this it does not hold finishes as well as nonorganic material and will require repainting or restaining every five to eight years. In addition, wood siding is expensive, redwood particularly so.

We think you should also consider other alternatives to the siding choices you mention. Engineered lumber siding products are widely used in new construction today. Because they are a composite material, made from wood byproducts, they tend to be very stable and hold paint very well.

Bill spent a week up on ladders and planks installing this type of siding on Kevin’s house 10 years ago. It has held up very well. In fact, the house was repainted last month, and the only part that needed significant scraping and sanding were the sills and trim, which were made of natural wood. The paint on the siding simply became faded and needed to be recoated.

We understand that you might have some reservations about composite wood products in the wet climate in which you live. Another alternative to explore is a product called Hardy board. Hardy board is a composite made of wood fibers and cement. It’s very heavy, very durable, looks like wood and holds paint well. Both Louisiana Pacific and Georgia Pacific make composite siding. You can see samples at any lumberyard or home center. For more information on Hardy board, do an Internet search using keyword “Hardy board.”


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