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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Siding for You Home – What’s the Best Option?

A close-up view of the exterior walls of this beautiful modern house that has two shades of gray for its exterior vinyl sidings.

If you find it difficult to decide between vinyl or aluminum for your home exterior siding, this is the right place for you. Let us show you their essential differences and a lot more additional factors to consider so you can have all the information you need to make an informed choice.

The exterior of your home provides more than just aesthetic charm; It serves a tangible purpose. When selecting the right material for covering the outside of your home, there are many factors that come into making the right decision. Trying to decide between aluminum and vinyl siding? Let’s examine the differences between the two.

Origins

This is a close-up look at the gray vinyl siding of a new home.

The older of the two selections, aluminum siding was invented in 1937 by an Indiana machinist named Francis Hoess. He patented the use of a locking joint that created a horizontal seam that was able to be watertight. After this accomplishment, Hoess created a small Chicago housing development that featured about 44 houses with aluminum siding. However, it wasn’t until after WWII that the use of aluminum siding became a popular choice for building homes.

As the name suggests, aluminum siding is made of aluminum coil stock, which is then chemically-coated and painted.

Vinyl siding was brought onto the market in the late 1950s by a manufacturer located in Columbus, Ohio. In the beginning stages, the blending of color was accomplished manually and was viewed as little more than a generic substitute for aluminum siding. In the 1970s, the manufacturing process of vinyl siding underwent a significant transformation. The speed of production increased, durability improved, and a larger range of colors developed.

Today, vinyl siding is the most commonly utilized siding material in the US and Canada for residential development. Essentially, vinyl siding is a plastic material that is manufactured mainly from PVC and resin.

Durability

A close-up view of this newly painted bright orange aluminum siding of this Industrial-style home.

Logically, durability should be one of your main considerations when selecting the right outer covering for your home. The last thing that anyone wants is a shabby-looking exterior.

In comparing the durability of vinyl and aluminum, both have their advantages. However, does one outweigh the other in regard to durability? The answer is yes.

Vinyl is more resilient because aluminum siding is vulnerable to becoming scratched or dented. The paint on aluminum siding can easily be scratched unintentionally, and a small dent can come about just as easily.

Vinyl siding is more robust and is oftentimes double the thickness of aluminum. The thickness of the material is the fundamental element that determines how durable the siding will be.

Whether you go with vinyl or aluminum, be sure to choose a heavy gauge over a builder’s grade to ensure that your siding will hold up to whatever Mother Nature or fate brings your way.

This is particularly important in situations such as hailstorms and other natural disasters when homes can become damaged from flying debris.

Do you live near the ocean, by chance? In this case, you may want to choose aluminum siding over vinyl siding. This is because aluminum is resistant to corrosion. The salty air near the ocean tends to corrode other types of siding materials such as vinyl. Aluminum is the clear winner in this situation.

Versatility

The beautiful blue sky complements the matte brown vinyl siding of this home contrasted by the white window.

Nowadays, homeowners are on the lookout for very specific ways to design their homes, inside and out. People want lots of options when it comes to colors and textures, and this definitely applies to siding options as well.

Whether you go with vinyl or aluminum, there are many different options to choose from. However, vinyl does carry more choices than aluminum does. Vinyl siding offers scalloped, shake and board, Dutch lap, clapboard, and beaded. Aluminum offers vertical, horizontal, and board and batten.

When you purchase the siding, both come completely colored ahead of time. With vinyl siding, the color goes all the way through the vinyl. With aluminum, the paint is enameled to the exterior of the metal. This is why if the aluminum siding gets scratched, you see the naked metal underneath.

What if you decide you want to paint your house a different color, years from now? If you are someone who is likely to want to change your paint color someday, you would be better to choose aluminum siding. This is because you can paint any aluminum siding whatever color you choose. However, you can’t paint vinyl siding. You would have to replace the vinyl siding instead.

Energy-Efficiency

AN Industrial-style home with a rustic earthy orange tone to its aluminum sidings.

To compare the energy-efficiency of vinyl vs. aluminum siding, one needs to consider the R-value of the material. The higher R-value that the material has, the more insulating value it contains.

For example, vinyl siding and aluminum siding both have an R-value of about .61. Logically, to get the most energy-efficiency out of vinyl or aluminum siding, the airtight wrap around the home must be sufficient, and the insulation within the walls must be in place. So basically, the real energy efficiency savings depend on how well the home is insulated and how airtight it is sealed.

Considerations

A beautiful charcoal gray aluminum siding on the wall exterior with small windows of different shapes.

What is the climate like where you live? If you live in an extremely cold region, aluminum siding may be the best selection. This is because vinyl tends to become quite brittle as the temperature drops, while metal remains completely unaffected. This means that the vinyl may crack and moisture can enter the home, causing mold to grow on the very framework of the house. Speaking about aluminum, the constitution of aluminum siding is completely unaffected by extremely cold weather.

Let’s consider the opposite end of the spectrum. What if you live in a very hot climate? As you may imagine, aluminum may have a tendency to heat up as the temperature rises. This could cause the inside of your home to heat up as well. This could translate into you having to crank up your AC to keep your home cooler. Vinyl siding is not going to absorb the heat like aluminum will.

Maintenance

This is a close-up view of a vinyl siding on the exterior wall of a house being power washed.

As a homeowner, you may also wonder which material is easier to maintain, vinyl or aluminum siding. No one wants to have to worry about spending your money, time and energy on repairing the outside of your home to maintain curb appeal.

As we talked about earlier, aluminum can become dented fairly easy, so we need to talk about the possibility that little Johnny next door might accidentally not catch a baseball thrown his way and it could hit your house and dent it instead. If this scenario happened with vinyl siding, the baseball would likely just bounce off, instead of leaving a telltale dent.

If the aluminum becomes dented, it either needs to be repaired, or the panel replaced. This all falls under the umbrella of maintenance. Scratches are in this category as well. When the aluminum gets scratched, the bare metal shows underneath. With vinyl, the color goes all the way through, so you don’t have to worry about scratching.

Another consideration to make regarding maintenance is the fact that the paint color on aluminum siding tends to fade over time. This means it will need to be repainted every now and again. Since vinyl siding can’t be painted, this isn’t a situation that comes into play.

In regard to maintaining vinyl siding, all you really need to do is clean it with a garden hose from time to time. You will also need to clean aluminum siding in this same way to keep it looking its best.

Environmental Considerations

This is the front view of a beautiful suburban house with white aluminum sidings on its exterior walls to complement the gray roof and window shutters.

Are you concerned about which one leaves the biggest environmental footprint of the two? It turns out that aluminum siding takes very little energy to produce, and it is completely recyclable. There is no reason it has to end up in a landfill, since it can be melted down and reused.

Now let’s talk about vinyl siding. The complete opposite situation occurs with vinyl. It ends up in a landfill when all is said and done. In addition to this, vinyl contains the chemical ingredient known as polyvinyl chloride that does not decompose. With that being said, it is this very chemical that helps the vinyl siding to last so long when installed on the outside of a house. When this chemical is produced in the factory, an extremely toxic byproduct called dioxin is released into the air.

So, who is the winner when it comes to being environmentally-friendly? Aluminum siding clearly wins this category.

Affordability

A colorful row of similar townhouses with the same vinyl sidings on their exterior walls in varying colors.

Whether you are building a new home or refacing your current one, logically the cost factor comes into play. Let’s compare the cost of aluminum siding vs. vinyl.

You should expect to pay $3 to $6 per square foot installed for aluminum siding. How does this translate into real numbers? For example, if your home has 2800 feet of exterior space, you can expect to spend between $8,400 and $16,800 to install aluminum siding.

For vinyl siding, the cost ranges between $2 and $7 per square foot installed. On this same house that has 2800 feet of exterior space, you would be spending between $5,600 and $19,600.

You may be wondering why there is such a wide range in prices of vinyl siding. Quality of the siding is a key factor, along with the design style. Thicker vinyl will cost more, and so will vinyl that mimics the look of wood or cedar shingles.

Conclusion

Is there a clear winner between aluminum vs. vinyl siding? Vinyl does appear to win in more categories. With that being said, there is one element that we didn’t yet take into consideration, visual appeal. Do you like the look of aluminum siding over vinyl? There is definitely something to be said about curb appeal. If you prefer the look of aluminum over vinyl, then what difference does it really make to you if you have to work harder to maintain the look of it? It’s all about priorities, folks! Let your intuition tell you which one is the right choice for you.

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