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Panel shingles systems, like these from Ecoshel, minimize waste without compromising coverage.

The Siding Decision

by Mary Ellen Polson on January 28, 2014

in Roofing and Siding

ABOVE: Panel shingles systems, like these from Ecoshel, minimize waste without compromising coverage.

Shingles that install quickly in rows? Stone veneer that’s a fraction of the weight of traditional materials? Historically correct siding has never been so high-tech or so user-friendly.

Classic sheathing materials from quartersawn cedar shingles to stone now come in formats that make the materials easier and more cost-effective to install.

Take the cedar shingle, a classic since the colonial era. The best are quartersawn (also called vertical grain), producing a tapered shingle, thinner at top, and thicker towards the exposed bottom. These days, shingles are precision-cut by machine, squared to install uniformly, and come pre-stained from the factory at a surcharge of just pennies per square foot.

Companies like Shakertown and Ecoshel have gone a couple of steps further without compromising on wear and longevity. Shakertown’s Craftsman Panels, for instance, are 8 feet long and cut from vertical-grain western red cedar. Not only do they waste less material than traditional shingles, they install up to six times faster. Ecoshels’ four-foot-wide panels are machined with ventilation ridges on the back that allow for air flow (a code requirement) while eliminating the need for a backing behind the shingles. Remarkable, they cost about the same as quality conventional shingles.

Stone veneer from Eldorado Stone has the look and depth of the heavier stuff, but with far less weight.

Stone veneer from Eldorado Stone has the look and depth of the heavier stuff, but with far less weight.

Thinking of rebuilding your porch piers or adding a bit of stone to your foundation? Stone veneers are made of natural stone that has been cut and shaped to be lighter, easier, and less costly to install. Stone veneers come in two general thicknesses. The first is about 4″ to 5″ deep, making it suitable as a facing material for walls and porch piers that require the appearance of depth. Veneers between 1” and 2” thick are ideal for flat surfaces like exterior walls and foundations.

What’s more, veneers are cut and color-mixed in patterns that recall high-end period facades, from square-cut ashlar foundations to Chateauesque limestone. Like face brick, stone veneers aren’t structural, and they are only finished on the side intended for exposure. Machining the stone makes it easier to produce items like keystones. There are even veneers that turn corners like ridge caps or V-cap tiles. Some river rock “patterns” (Eldorado’s for example) are actually composed of complete, small to medium-sized rocks.

Ward Clapboard Mill still cuts its lap siding radially, from a single tree.

Ward Clapboard Mill still cuts its lap siding radially, from a single tree.

As of yet, no one has improved on quartersawn lap siding, cut radially from a single, tightly grained tree, the way Ward Clapboard Mill does it. Those looking to re-side a house missing its original sheathing should choose wood with a tight grain, cut the traditional way. Those considering brick for repair or an addition will be happy to know that manufacturers like Old Mississippi Brick still turn out hand-pressed molded bricks, with just as many charming irregularities as the ones on houses built two centuries ago.

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