Best Home Siding Options: Reclaimed Wood, Oriented Strand Board, Fiberboard and More

From wood to vinyl, find which siding material meets your needs.

| January/February 2003

  • Salvaged barn siding is a responsible and ­pleasing option.
    Photo Courtesy Old Grain
  • Engineered wood siding and trim makes use of milling by-products.
    Photo Courtesy Georgia-Pacific

Siding works a lot like skin. It serves as the first line of defense against unwanted air infiltration (pollen, dust mites, drafts) and moisture penetration (mold and rot). If that isn’t enough, siding is the single largest exterior element. Faded, weathered siding can make a home look old before its time; new siding can make an old house look brand new.

Trying to perform this homeowner hat trick—accomplishing protection, good looks, and longevity—isn’t easy. Add environmental and health concerns to that mix, and choosing among the options gets even more confusing. Dozens of products claim to be the “ultimate answer,” but most offer only a partial solution.

Selecting the right type of siding involves balancing all of the immediate costs (material, installation, maintenance) with future costs (longevity, effects of long-term exposure, eventual biodegradability or recyclability). If possible, also try to factor in the unseen environmental costs of manufacturing and transportation.

For those considering residing, sometimes the best advice might simply be a fresh coat of paint.


Solid wood siding continues to be the most popular choice in North America because, in many ways, wood is still the ideal siding material. Renewable, locally available, requiring little production energy, and ultimately biodegradable, wood siding—bevel lap, ship lap, board-and-batten, shingles, and shake siding—is safe to cut and easy to install. But wood siding installation generates a fair amount of waste and requires frequent maintenance. Of additional concern, the desire to mill the heartwood from the most weather-resistant woods, cedar and redwood, has led to overharvesting and clear-cutting.

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