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Replacing the siding on your home is a major home improvement. It is also a one-of-a-kind opportunity to change the appearance of your home. Your siding color, style, and orientation give it personality and define its character. Want to spruce things up a bit? Now is your chance.

Before you turn your siding 90 degrees in favor of a completely new look, though, there are some pros and cons you should consider.

Horizontal Siding

Most houses in the United States have horizontal siding. In fact, most homes have the same type of horizontal siding, commonly called clapboard siding. This type of siding consists of overlapping, horizontal boards attached to the outer wall of the home. The boards are milled to make one edge thinner than the other, so they lay close to the exterior wall when installed.

This traditional appearance is what we are used to seeing. In many neighborhoods or HOAs, it is the only style you will see. It is not, however, the only option for horizontal siding. Cedar shakes installed individually or in strips are an attractive horizontal style. Shiplap and channel siding are both similar to clapboard in construction but offer a varied appearance.

Horizontal siding is both less expensive and easier to install than vertical siding varieties. Because horizontal siding can be installed directly on the home’s exterior, installation moves along quickly. This straightforward install often costs less and fits the budget for most homeowners.

The biggest drawback to horizontal siding is the maintenance. Because of the way it is constructed, horizontal siding is more prone to water penetration. As rainwater runs down the side of the house, it can get in between the boards and drip off the ridges where the boards overlap. Once there is water behind the siding, the chances of developing a mold or mildew problem increase significantly, as the water has no way out.

Thus, cleaning horizontal siding must be done carefully. A power washer can make short work of the job, but it may also force water up behind the siding boards. This problem can be worse if some of the boards are warped or cracked, leaving gaps.

Vertical Siding

If you are craving a new look, you might consider installing your siding vertically. Vertical siding is used more often on commercial buildings and is less commonly seen on homes. This unique appearance can give your home a more trendy or rustic appearance. However, this unconventional look may impact your ability to sell if you are thinking about moving soon. It might be wise to consult with a real estate professional about buyer preferences in your market.

The most important feature to understand about vertical siding is that the installation is complex. Instead of installing boards directly on the home, you often have to install furring boards first to ensure you have a smooth, even surface to which you can nail the siding. In most cases, this means affixing furring boards horizontally every 12-16 inches wherever you plan to install the siding. Some installers may choose to attach furring boards at a 45-degree angle to allow any water that penetrates the siding a quick path out.

The extra step of installing furring boards can double the time that your siding project takes. If you are doing it yourself, plan additional time to complete the project. If you hire a professional to do the job, prepare to pay more for labor and supplies.

The good news is that when the project is complete, the maintenance is simple. Orienting the siding vertically allows water from rainstorms to run off the house and straight to the ground. Similarly, if you choose to power wash your siding, the water should run off and away from the house, making spring cleaning a little easier.

Mix and Match

Do the pros and cons give you analysis paralysis? There is no rule book that says you have to use one type of siding or another unless you have a strict HOA code for siding. Many homeowners have successfully used both horizontal and vertical siding on their homes. Using them side-by-side this way takes some creative planning, though. Use the natural lines and angles of the house to dictate the best places to switch from one type to another.

If you prefer horizontal siding but want to add a little interest, put vertical siding on the dormers or the garage and horizontal siding on the rest of the house. Alternatively, you could install siding horizontally under the roof peak and vertically on the rest of the house. Victorian and Queen Anne style homes have been mixing and matching siding styles beautifully for decades.

Deciding which way you want to orient your siding is mostly an aesthetic decision. What is going to look best on your house and mesh well in your neighborhood? However, it is essential to understand that the way you install your siding may impact the way it functions and the way you care for it so that it can last for years to come.