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Horizontal Siding Types

Siding products are built to run two ways: vertically and horizontally. Horizontal siding is usually called lap siding because the clapboards overlap each other as they work their way up an exterior wall to protect against wind and rain penetration. Horizontal lap siding is one of, if not the most, popular siding styles in existence.

Common horizontal siding materials include wood, fiber cement, and vinyl.

Wood lap siding is the traditional choice, typically made of pine, redwood, or cedar. The wooden boards or “clapboards” run in horizontal rows or “courses.” Some horizontal wood siding may also be “shiplap” style. In shiplapping opposite ends of the board (top and bottom in horizontal applications) have a step-shaped mortise, or rabbet, on opposite sides. That rabbet then matches the rabbet on the next clapboard as the two overlap—with the upper course essentially resting on the lower—to form a tight seal against weather.

Wood lap siding is very versatile and can be painted to just about any color specification. Wood does, however, require more maintenance than its counterparts, usually required refinishing every five years or so.

Fiber Cement horizontal siding (also a composite siding) is extremely popular because it is cheaper and more durable then wood siding. Not only that, fiber cement siding mimics wood siding quite well and, once painted, it is very difficult to tell the difference from even a short distance. Many fiber cement products are rated to last up to 50 years, they need not be primed, and are porous enough to hold paint very well. Fiber cement is also less susceptible to fluctuations in size due to weather and it will not warp, buckle, or crack. Fiber cement siding may mimic rows of wood shingles or simply wood clapboards.

If fiber cement or concrete siding has one downside, it shows during installation. On one hand the siding can go up very quickly, without much regard for gaps. On the other hand, the clapboards (typically 12 feet long) are heavy and will bend and break if not carried properly. Also, special saw blades should be used for cutting fiber cement siding and respirators should be worn as well—the silica dust emitted during cutting is commonly considered harmful. Installation is best left to a professional crew who can install the siding fast and effectively.

Vinyl siding again mimics wood siding but offers very low maintenance and ease of installation. Many say that installing vinyl siding is easy enough for any homeowner, but it is more difficult than one might think and many considerations must be made. Horizontal vinyl siding comes in roughly 12” clapboards that have steps built into them every 3-5 inches to give the illusion of wood lap siding. They have a nailing flange that should be nailed loosely and is covered by the subsequent course of siding (the bottom of one vinyl clapboard “snaps” into a groove just below the flange of the other). Vinyl siding is susceptible to movements from temperature fluctuations, that is why it should be nailed well but loose enough to allow for flexibility. Vinyl siding has a large color palette, although all will be brighter, reflective shades because vinyl products degrade fast if they absorb too much heat, which limits vinyl siding applications to more temperate regions of the country.

Insulated vinyl siding is growing in popularity as a more efficient siding option. The back side of each siding “board” is filled with rigid foam insulation that brings the product flush to the exterior of the house when installed. This can reduce energy use up to 20 percent. Not surprisingly, insulated siding products are usually Energy Star qualified. The foam also provides added durability by creating a more solid, weather-resistant piece of siding.

Siding products are built to run two ways—vertically and horizontally. Horizontal siding, also known as lap siding, are basically clapboards overlapping each other as they work their way up an exterior wall to protect against wind and rain. Horizontal lap siding is one of the top—if not the most popular—siding styles in existence.


Wood Siding: Lumber prices change depending on the year and region, but on average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $6,500 and $9,000 for a 1,250-square-foot home. The price varies based on the materials used as well.

Vinyl Siding: Vinyl siding costs anywhere from $1 to $7 per square foot, depending on the material used and the cost of installation.

Fiber Cement Siding: Slightly more expensive than vinyl, fiber cement rings in at approximately $4.50 to $9 per square foot, give or take the cost of installation and materials used.


Vinyl requires very little maintenance and is easy to install.

Wood lap siding is very versatile and can be painted just about any color shade.

Fiber cement siding is cheaper and more durable than wood siding, and even mimics the look of traditional wood quite well.


Fiber cement siding is more complicated to install and should be done by a professional.

Vinyl siding is susceptible to movement/shifting from temperature fluctuations.

Wood is harder to maintain throughout the years than its counterparts.


Although all three siding options will hold up with the proper care, fiber cement siding may be the most durable choice with an expected life of 50 years or more. Wood siding, on the other hand, can be easily affected by water or insect damage. Vinyl falls somewhere in between the two, with thicker materials lasting longer than thinner materials.


Since fiber cement and vinyl are both synthetic materials, they require very little maintenance. Wood siding, however, should be routinely inspected for damage and refinished every five years or so.

Common Questions and Answers

What are the most common wood types used for horizontal siding?

Pine, redwood and cedar are the most common.

What siding option is best for making a home energy efficient?

Insulated vinyl is a great option for making a home energy efficient. The back of each siding board is filled with rigid foam insulation that brings the product flush with the exterior of the house when installed. This can reduce energy usage up to 20 per


Wood was the siding of choice for early settlers and is still popular for new home construction. Vinyl, however, came onto the market in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and after overcoming manufacturing problems, became a leader in siding materials. As far as fiber goes, Europe may have actually been using fiber cement for almost 100 years, but America is still new to this siding material. It continues to grow in popularity as homeowners discover all of its benefits.

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