Although they all fall into the category of mid-century design, homes of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s used different siding products, making the homes of each decade stand out from one another. The house siding used in each decade resulted from a response to economic or cultural drivers of the time. After World War II, affordability drove the development of new housing.
Servicepeople traveled back to the US in droves and entered college on the new GI Bill. Couples reunited, married, and purchased their “starter home.” These small bungalows typically contain five or six rooms total, taking up less than 1,000 square feet.
They contained the essential rooms – bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, living room, dining room, and a small alcove for a washer and dryer. The government strove to help make homeownership a reality for many with loan backing. Today, many of these post-war homes still stand and they offer a new generation a first crack at home ownership.
Although some home buyers purchase these classic homes only to redo them in a bid to create an ultra-modern look, others purchase them to restore them to their original glory. Let’s consider the various types of siding used during this design era by decade.
The 1950s Post-War Era Homes
Home designs of the mid-century featured the greatest variety of siding, using cedar shakes, faux shakes, asphalt shingles, Permastone, Lustron siding, asbestos siding, hardboard siding, and wood siding. The application of these various compositions also received the greatest variety, including frame siding, vertical siding, and horizontal siding.
Cedar and Faux Cedar Shakes for that Instant New England Look
Today, you typically use cedar on roofs, but in the 1950s, you sided the house with it. These rough-cut shakes or shingles went on both vertically and horizontally, one layer covering the other with a tiny bit of overlap that insured water didn’t get through between the shingling. Classy, yet costly, enterprising materials developers created faux cedar siding that looked just like the real thing at a distance.
As time passed, it turned out faux cedar became tough to replace when a storm tore off a few siding pieces.
Permastone or Formstone for that Instant Chalet Look
Developed in 1937, Permastone or Formstone, a faux stone product, didn’t catch on until the 1950s and 1960s. Check your “stone” house because this siding looks real. It actually came in large sheets that fastened as a veneer.
Despite this, a mason applied it.
Lustron Siding for that Instant Pastel Easter Egg Look
The Lustron steel siding used porcelain-enameled steel fashioned into two-foot-square panels to create the pastel siding that gives these brightly colored homes their unique look. Lustron siding came in four pastels — surf blue, dove grey, maize yellow, and desert tan.
Hardboard Siding for that Woodsy Look
The term hardboard siding refers to wood chips converted to fibers, then combined with binding agents using pressure and heat and pressure. Also called exterior plywood siding, builders first used it in the 1920s. The product hit its heyday in the 1950s but phased out of use in the 1980s due to EPA regulations.
The 1960s Raise the Question of Aluminum or Vinyl?
In the 1960s, homeowners often choose one of the two new choices for their homes – aluminum siding or vinyl siding. At first, only starter homes used vinyl siding, but its popularity grew as manufacturers offered an increased number of color and style options. Of course, many homeowners also chose to use one of the siding options from the 1950s, which all remained available.
Aluminum Siding Frees American Families from House Painting
Although wood remained popular, many lower-cost homes turned to aluminum siding. Invented in 1947 and originally used on World War II airplanes, this aluminum product baked on its color. The finish lasts many years and frees the homeowner from needing to paint their home every few years.
Vinyl Siding Offers the Dent and Ding-Free Look
Similar to aluminum in its prefinished colors that last, vinyl siding offers a low-maintenance method of covering a home. Although it took longer to catch on, it offers a superior product in some ways, since it proves more resilient, picking up dents and dings less frequently.
Maintaining the 1970s Brick and Wood Look
During the 1970s, brick and wood offered the two most popular home exteriors on new builds. A little more than one-sixth of the building projects used either cinder block, stone, or aluminum siding. While some homes choose a solid brick veneer – about 35 percent – other mixed materials.
Wood, or the look of wood, comprised 30 percent. Block, stone, and aluminum siding comprised a total of 22 percent.
Asbestos Siding or Hardboard?
Some homes continued to use asbestos shingle siding, while others wanted the look of wood without the expense, so they turned to hardboard siding. The latter had made strides since it first became popular in the 1950s. Hardboard diversified into pressboard, Masonite siding, and synthetic wood.
Due to its manufacturing processes, it took on the nickname cardboard siding. That doesn’t realistically describe it though. In its pressboard form, the manufacturer combined adhesive and processed wood pressed into a sheet of wood composite.
In its Masonite form, hardboard combines steamed wood chips pressed into a sheet of board. Although it costs less to purchase, maintaining hardboard of any design requires the perfect installation and constant upkeep. You can’t power wash it and, similar to decking, you need to renew its watertight sealant regularly.
Whether you need to repair siding on your mid-century home or you want to re-side it to update its look, you probably have questions. We address those questions here to help you get started more quickly on your project.
Do I need to take off the old siding, or can I side over it?
You’ll need to remove all of the existing siding before you can put on new siding. During the tear-off, you can identify structural issues such as rotted wood and insect or spider infestations. Call a professional to address these issues, especially any wood rot or foundation issues you discover.
You need the wood repaired and seamless before encasing it in siding.
Will I increase my home’s resale value by re-siding it?
Residing your home increases its curb appeal, durability, and, yes, that translates to increasing its value. According to Remodeling Magazine, using a fiber-cement siding offers the highest return on investment.
How long does it usually take to re-side a house?
Every residing job varies. A few things influence the length of time to complete the project, including the size of the home, the scope of work, and any problems found when removing the incumbent siding. When you discover no problems after removing the siding, the re-siding takes between two to three weeks.
If I hire a professional to re-side my home, do I need to remain at home while they work?
You won’t always need to stay at home when the siders work. They can side the house and install roof gutters without entering the home. If you want window updates, a crew will need interior access for that part of the project.
Can I find the same products today, so I can restore my home?
Some versions of the original products still remain in production today except for asbestos products. You can still find shingles or siding that look like asbestos products, it just won’t contain the dangerous additive. Other than that, aluminum and vinyl siding prove ubiquitous today.
You can also typically locate cedar shakes, faux shakes, asphalt shingles, hardboard siding, and wood siding with relative ease. Permastone and Lustron siding may offer a challenge to locate. If you luckily found photos of your abode from its earliest years, you have a vital reference for restoration.
Contact construction firms that conduct reclamation on older buildings. This can help you find classic materials in fabulous condition.