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Brief Introduction to Home Siding

By HHr Staff ~ Colbyt

Siding is the outer covering or skin of a house. It protects the structural components and the interior of the home from the elements. It also serves as a key element in the aesthetic beauty of the structure and directly impacts the property value.

Siding has been and is made from a wide variety of materials and styles. All are meant to serve the primary purpose of shedding the elements. Siding may be made of horizontal or vertical boards (weather boards) in either wood, composite or concrete, shingles, or sheet materials.

Regardless of material or style, avoiding wind and rain infiltration through the joints is the major challenge, met by overlapping, by covering or sealing the joint, or by creating an interlocking joint such as a tongue-and-groove or rabbet.

Siding may be attached directly to the building structure (studs in the case of wood construction), or to an intermediate layer of horizontal planks, plywood or OSB called sheathing. In better grades of construction the sheathing is covered with felt paper or house wrap before the siding is installed. In older lower cost construction it is quite common to find an overlapped layer of 30 pound felt attached directly to the studs and the siding nailed in place over that.

Wood siding was the first type of siding to be used here in the United States. Wood shingles or irregular cedar "shake" siding was used in early New England construction. This style was revived in Shingle Style and Queen Anne style architecture in the late 19th century. Its use continued into the early 20th century and a few homes are still built that way in today. In colonial times, Eastern white pine was the most common material. Today cedar is the most common.

In Charleston, South Carolina the pre-1800 buildings are covered with a variety of types of wood siding. Included are beveled and square edged weatherboard siding and flush siding like shiplap and tongue and groove siding. These weatherboards were sawn and tapered at the top for a tight overlap and beaded at the lower edges. So you can see that lap siding and beveled lap siding were among the earliest types of siding.

Lap siding was usually made from 1" x 6" or 1" x 8" boards. These may have been nailed along the top edge so that the nails were concealed by the overlap of the board above. Exposed face-nailing is also quite common and is often evidence that lap siding has been nailed directly to the studs. When face nailing is used the spacing of the studs can easily determined. The exposed face and edges were usually planed. In areas where more sophisticated milling tools were available, the beveled and rabbet type of siding were more commonly used and this resulted in a tighter fit.

The more modern composite fiber lap siding was sold in 8" and 12" widths and was installed with a nail at the top and the bottom of each board. Currently in my area it is only available in the 12" width at selected locations.

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