We’ve probably all seen the vertical lines that appear on the walls of some structures and wondered what it is. We’ve also seen traditional horizontal siding on the majority of residential homes.

Although they serve exactly the same purpose, the two materials are very different in the way they are purposed, constructed, and installed.

The first example describes vertical siding, which is usually provided in large sheets, while the second describes horizontal siding, which is usually in small pieces.

Vertical siding can be heavy and awkward, while horizontal siding is often light and easy to work with.

Today, we will discuss the main differences between the two materials and attempt to provide some insight to help the homeowner choose the best siding for their home.

Which is Better: Horizontal or Vertical Siding

The answer often depends on what type of structure the siding will be used on and the available budget. To illustrate, vertical siding is generally a little less expensive than horizontal siding, while horizontal siding often performs better than vertical siding. Vertical siding is usually installed faster than horizontal siding, yet horizontal siding offers more selection and styles.

Some siding materials look great on a house but seem out of place on a storage building. Others appear quite simple, and would not add much visual appeal to a home. 

For most homeowners, the solution lies in asking themselves what the most important elements of the project are.

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Is the look more important than the function? Does regular maintenance seem like too much hassle? Is the budget quite small or generous? Once these questions have been answered, the available options usually come into focus. 

For the vast majority of homes with some form of siding, horizontal lap siding tends to check the most boxes. Horizontal lap siding has been around for decades, as has vertical siding, yet most consumers choose horizontal siding for homes. Whether just looking to improve on the look of vertical siding, or to take advantage of the durability and low maintenance of horizontal siding, most consumers spend the extra money and purchase the horizontal version, especially on houses.

This is not to say vertical siding has no place in modern construction. In fact, vertical siding is still commonly used to solve an array of building concerns, among them being cost and installation. Vertical siding has the advantages of being simple to install, fairly inexpensive, and with regular maintenance, durable.

Vertical siding is usually sold in 4’ x 8’ sheets, making it one of the fastest siding materials to install by the square foot. These sheets contain 32 square feet of siding per sheet, and can often be installed in a matter of minutes. Vertical siding can also be installed with simple carpentry tools, making it a popular choice with do-it-yourselfers.

Which Should I Use On My Home, Horizontal or Vertical Siding?

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Both horizontal and vertical siding do a great job of protecting a home from the elements. Although horizontal siding is usually considered to be more attractive, this may be simply due to the belief that vertical siding is old technology and is considered by many as inferior.

This actually isn’t true. In most cases, vertical siding is much more impact-resistant and a better insulator than horizontal siding. However, many homeowners would simply prefer to trade additional durability and a small R-value increase for a low-maintenance product.

Vertical siding is typically made from wood and wood products to create a stable, uniform, durable siding that can last for years. The caveat, however, is that wood-based siding will require regular sealing and painting (approximately every 10 years), or the material will quickly disintegrate in the elements.

This sealing should be done with high-quality exterior paints and sealers, adding additional costs, not to mention the additional labor involved. Therefore, when comparing the total cost of ownership of the two products, vertical siding is often more expensive than its horizontal counterpart.

Just because a siding product is installed horizontally, however, does not indicate that the siding will be low maintenance. Although many horizontal siding materials are very low maintenance, such as vinyl and aluminum, some products such as fiber cement board and engineered siding are not. For example, fiber cement lap siding requires just as much maintenance as wood siding, is more expensive to install and requires special tools and safety gear just to work with the material. 

Engineered siding is usually a horizontal siding product that combines wood products with resins and chemicals to improve its moisture and rot resistance.

Typically pressure-treated, these siding panels install much like fiber cement or hardboard siding, in contrast to vinyl siding or aluminum siding. This makes engineered siding a more popular choice among do-it-yourselfers, as normal carpentry tools are usually sufficient to install the product.

However, although the material is specifically designed to be more durable, the regular maintenance required should be considered in the total cost of ownership. Engineered wood siding will usually come already primed, however, making installation of the product a little faster. 

Can I Install Horizontal or Vertical Siding Myself?

The average DIYer probably has the skills to install either horizontal or vertical siding, with the exception of fiber cement products. Fiber cement siding comes in both horizontal and semi-vertical versions, and these products require special training and safety equipment to work with safely. Unless a homeowner has advanced skills and the necessary gear, fiber cement siding is generally not hand-person friendly.

Most other siding products, such as T1-11 vertical siding, hardboard, engineered wood, vinyl, and aluminum are much more DIY-friendly and are often within the skill set of the typical homeowner. However, it should be noted that installing siding can be dangerous, as the project often requires power tools and ladders. Professionals will generally not recommend do-it-yourselfers attempt a two-story siding project unless they are comfortable working on ladders and walkboards. 

Average Cost Comparison: Horizontal vs. Vertical Siding

Horizontal siding tends to require less labor to install due to its lightweight and flexible nature. Horizontal siding (especially vinyl and aluminum products) will often cost about the same or slightly more than vertical siding. But, since these horizontal products are so much easier and faster to install, the overall cost of the project using them often goes down.

  • Horizontal Lap Siding Average Cost Per Square Foot: $3.00 – $11.00 
  • Vertical Siding Average Cost Per Square Foot: $4.00 – $12.00

What Should I Consider Before Making a Decision?

Just as with most any building materials, the region where siding materials are purchased can have an effect on the cost. A home built in Tennessee will usually cost less than the same home built in Maine, so planning materials purchases as carefully as possible is time well spent. 

Fortunately, most siding products are made from common materials, so the prices tend to be more affected by the logistics than the actual material.

As mentioned earlier, for those customers whose focus is squarely on low maintenance, horizontal vinyl or aluminum are hard to beat. In contrast, for those homeowners more concerned about errant baseballs than regular painting, vertical siding (such as T1-11) offers an extremely durable and impact-resistant surface.

Fiber cement siding was originally designed to address the lack of impact resistance concerning vinyl and aluminum products while providing the clean look of the horizontal siding. However, as mentioned earlier these materials will require regular maintenance to remain durable.

Achieve the Look You Want With the Design You Need

There are literally hundreds of different styles of both horizontal and vertical siding. So many in fact, that customers can easily become overwhelmed by the available choices. The smart move for most homeowners is to first decide what the project requires in terms of lifespan, required maintenance, and appearance. Narrowing down the important elements of a project can illuminate which materials to use and where. The most important, however, is to choose a material that protects, looks good, and lasts.

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Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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