Canada, being a country of extreme weather – intense summer heat paired with blistery winters – faces unique challenges when it comes to materials for home building. All materials must be carefully chosen to withstand humidity and heat at extreme temperatures, as well as precipitation and severe cold. With siding , there is no exception as well, making it a sometimes-confusing decision.

A house in canadian winter

During the winter months, the elements can wreak havoc on our homes, with so many different types of things to be conscious of. Things that would impact your siding (the protective barrier between the outside elements, and the interior framework of your home), include intense cold, winds, ice dams from gutters , flying debris, ice, moisture, hail, and salt.
A poor choice in siding can result in poor insulation (a cold house paired with high energy bills), siding that can’t withstand freeze and thaw cycles of nature, cracks and breaks. With each having their own effects when contact is made, the type of siding you choose should be one that works with the climate you reside in.

Within Canada itself there are so many drastically different climates, that the following siding materials should be chosen based on your needs specifically, with the underlying understanding in mind that you are choosing a siding that will withstand a harsh winter.

Vinyl

Snowy house in winter
Commonly known as the most popular siding choice, vinyl is appealing because of its low cost and low maintenance. For those who prefer to live a lower maintenance lifestyle, vinyl is ideal. It doesn’t require frequent exterior painting, it’s easy to install, and it’s available in a wide range of colours.

Vinyl is also water resistant and sturdy. To clean, a good power-wash is all that’s needed to remove dirt, discolouration, mold or debris. The only caveats are to ensure it is properly installed. Although easy to do, if not done right, vinyl siding can buckle and contort. It can also get brittle after a few years, making it susceptible to cracks and breaks if it gets hit. But overall, it stands up well next to other popular options like brick, faring well in most Canadian climates.

The cost of vinyl will depend on the type and qualities you are going for.

  • Georgia Pacific Dutch Lap Vinyl Siding: $9.60 per 10 square feet
  • Hampton Red/Woodgrain Dutch Lap Vinyl Siding: $13.06 per 9.09 sq. ft.
  • Coastal Blue/Woodgrain Vinyl Siding: $15.98 per 8.33 sq. ft.
  • Durabilit Blue Ridge Dutch Lap Vinyl Siding: $33.78 per 12.5 sq. ft.
  • Cellwood Evolutions 4.5 inch Dutch Lap Vinyl Siding: $150 per 200 sq. ft.

The best thing about vinyl is that it is durable, low maintenance, easy to install, resistant to color fading and very affordable when compared to other siding materials. On the flipside, it can be damaged by strong winds, it is not as waterproof and can crack and dent in extreme weather.

Brick

With a high aesthetic appeal, brick is also durable and long-lasting, making it a very popular choice. If done right, brick siding will last the life of the building, and all that is really required for maintenance is an occasional wash-down with a hose. Coming with a higher price tag than some of the other options, brick withstands the elements with ease, making it an excellent choice for Canadians.

Brick house in winter

While not water-resistant, bricks are unique in that they don’t become weak when they absorb water, allowing them to maintain their durability and reliability. Salt is the only element that might weaken the brick and mortar, corroding it over time. For anyone who might live along a coastline or in an ocean-side area, brick might not be a smart choice.

Of all the siding materials, brick is the most expensive both to purchase and install. You can expect to spend between $7.35 to $15 per sq. ft. and an additional $6.30 to $11 per sq. ft. in installation. The average cost of installing brick is thus between $14.70 and $31 per sq. ft.

All in all, even though the initial cost of brick is a tad high, the benefits are remarkable when compared to all other siding materials. For starters, the sophistication of brick is unparalleled. It radiates a natural strength and beauty. You will also count on lifetime durability, lavishness, extremely low maintenance, it can be painted and it is impervious to weather; fire and insects. On the downside, brick is expensive, costly to repair, installation is not easy and trapped moisture can lead to problems.

Aluminium

A material that’s been around for quite some time, aluminium presides even vinyl. One of the major drawbacks with this material though, is the fact that it dents very easily. Because of higher ground level traffic, contractors sometimes choose to only put it on the second floor, rather than all around. Despite the fact that it can dent easily, aluminium isn’t as sensitive to weather fluctuations, like vinyl.

Because of its ability to retain temperature control better, energy-conscious homeowners often opt for aluminium. Providing an even larger scale of options when it comes to colours, aluminium siding holds its shade and finish longer than vinyl, and it can also be painted to suit one’s personal taste. Standing up very well to damp areas, this type of siding will last a long time.

The cost of aluminum siding will depend on the type and quality of the materials you use.

  • Sell-Even Double 4” Aluminum Horizontal Textured Hollowback Siding: $199 per 100 sq. ft.
  • Sell-Even 8” Aluminum Horizontal Textured Hollowback Siding: $199 per 100 sq. ft.
  • Sell-Even Double 4” Aluminum Horizontal Textured Foamback Siding: $249 per 100 sq. ft.
  • Sell-Even 8” Aluminum Horizontal Textured Foamback Siding: $249 per 100 sq. ft.

Aluminum offers a wide range of benefits. The grand benefit is the fact that it can be used in coastal homes and homes that are exposed routinely to water. It is also easy to install, offers great insulation benefits, it does not rust, it is insect-proof and recyclable. The main drawbacks are that it is prone to being disfigured, it is noisy and not as attractive. Its color will fade over time.

Wood

Wood is classic and rustic, giving your house a timeless appeal. With the finish changing with the wear and tear of time, wood naturally weathers and ages gracefully. Wood siding can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some being vertical like board and batten, or horizontal like clapboards, shakes and shingles.

Shakes are installed in rows that overlap each other, making them extremely weather-tight and long lasting, especially when made from cedar. Clapboard siding is placed in vertical or horizontal rows in varying lengths. They often come untreated, making them easily susceptible to rot over time, so ensure that you have them finished or sealed (unless they are made from cedar or redwood, then just priming is fine).

The beauty of your wood siding doesn’t come easy though, as the maintenance is much higher than with other siding options . Things to think about are rot resistance, splitting, checking or cupping. Additionally, not all types of wood work for your climate, so choosing between pine, spruce, fir, cedar, and redwood can be a bit more limited.

Wood siding should most definitely be primed before installation, as this will prevent moisture from getting in behind the siding. If the wood isn’t sealed, snow removal from the surface will be an absolute necessity, even though not at all convenient. Moisture is extremely damaging to your home’s framework, and fixing it is very expensive. With the right installation methods and proper steps taken to ensure utmost protection, wood siding is a great option for Canadian homeowners, and one that will last the test of time.

The cost of wood siding will also depend on the quality and type of wood that you want. There are many wood species to pick from. It is also good to note that the cost will also vary from one year to another and by location. If you are going for the cedar wood species, the cost will range from $50 to $78 per 25 sq. ft. For plywood, you can expect to spend between $32 and $35 per 32 sq. ft.

Wood is preferred for its aesthetic appeal, wide range of options, ease of replacing damaged siding, eco-friendliness and ease of customizing with stain and paint. The main disadvantages are that you will need routine maintenance to prevent rot, warp, cracks, and splitting. Wood needs to be painted every 3 to 5 years and it is prone to water and insect damage.

Wood Fiber

Wood fiber is a wood-composite product, such as MDF or molding. When used in siding, it is made from wood fibers, glue, and other fillers. The product is then molded into clapboard and then textured like real wood, with options to be painted as well. A very cheap and easy to install option, wood fiber is available in a range of colours and makes for a good siding option for homeowners.

The downfall with this type of siding material is that the ends have to be sealed, otherwise moisture can cause swelling at the joints. Additionally, any bumps or nicks present in the surface can also cause this problem, making maintenance higher than what is ideal.

So, while the material and installation process is relatively cheap and easy, the long-term maintenance might not be. Not ideal for wet environments, wood fiber can withstand winter conditions, but won’t fare well if damaged.

This engineered wood is preferred for the DIY projects. On average, you will spend between $3,000 and $5,000 in installation. Needless to say, the cost will vary depending on the type and quality of wood fiber that you use:

  • SmartSide 38 Series Beige Engineered Treated Wood Siding Panel: $27.48 per 1440 sq. ft.
  • SmartSide 76 Series Beige Engineered Treated Wood Siding Panel: $11.44 per 1600 sq. ft.

Wood fiber offers a number of advantages. They are cost effective, offer authentic appearance, are eco-friendly, easy to customize, durable and strong. The main problems are that the material can trap moisture in the humid areas and improper installation and maintenance can lead to problems.

Fiber Cement

Made to appear like wood or brick, fiber cement is easy to install. With similarities to wood clapboard, fiber cement siding cuts, nails and installs just the same way. Made up mostly of cement, this type of siding is fire and insect-proof, strong, and will not twist, warp or rot. Fiber cement also reflects and diffuses heat, meaning that in the hotter months, your home will be cooler, and in the colder months, your home will be warmer.

Fiber cement fares very well in fluctuating weather conditions, as the swelling of freezing and thawing won’t affect it. With the ability to hold paint longer than wood siding, your fiber cement siding will look cleaner and fresher for longer.

These siding materials have been around for decades and are low-cost and durable. On average, you will spend about $34 on a 5/16 inch x 48 inch x 96 inch siding. The advantages of fiber cement siding are what have made the material so popular. They include:

  • High durability
  • Insect and rot resistance
  • Non-flammable
  • Weather resistant
  • Appeal like wood without the drawbacks of wood siding
  • Easy to pain & repaint

Just like all other sidings, this material also has its share of disadvantages. The sidings require a high installation cost because more manpower and time is needed. They are heavy and difficult to replace and need to be repainted before the end of their lifespan.