Comparing Aluminum vs Vinyl Siding, Costs, Curb Appeal, Maintenance & Efficiency

Aluminum Siding vs Vinyl Siding – That is the topic of this comparison. Which is a better choice for your home?

The exterior siding on your house protects it from the weather and plays a big part in the appearance or curb appeal of your home.  If you’re in the market for new siding and considering the aluminum vs vinyl siding question, the information in this article will help you decide the type of siding which works best for you.

Aluminum Siding Overview

From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, aluminum was the most common material used as siding for your home. Aluminum siding is made from aluminum coil that has been coated to protect the metal. The siding is covered with a baked-on powder coat to create a durable enamel finish.

Vinyl Siding Overview

Vinyl siding was introduced in the 1950’s but didn’t gain popularity until the 1970’s when production methods changed allowing for a higher quality, consistent product. Vinyl siding is an engineered plastic product primarily made from PVC resin.

Aluminum Siding Styles and Options

Here are specifications common to vinyl siding.

Thickness: Aluminum siding is available in thicknesses or gauges of 40, 44, and 53 in both horizontal and vertical profiles. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the siding is.

Appearance: Aluminum siding has the appearance of lapped wood.

Piece Sizes: Horizontal lap siding is available in a variety of widths ranging from 4 to 9 inches, though the laps, usually one to three of them, are molded into a single piece of siding. Aluminum siding vs vinyl siding is the same in this regard.

Vertical board & batten aluminum siding provides a rustic appeal and is available in 4, 5, 10, and 12 inch widths. You can find aluminum siding with a smooth finish or textured to give the appearance of wood grain, painted wood, or stucco. Aluminum siding is available in many colors.

Vinyl Siding Styles and Options

Here are the specs for vinyl siding, so you can compare aluminum vs vinyl siding head to head.

Appearance: Vinyl siding can be made to look like traditional painted wood, cedar shakes featuring straight or staggered edges, clapboard, bead board, cedar logs, or even half-round or scalloped profiles.

Vinyl siding is available in just about any color. The color is mixed into the material as the siding is formed, so it goes all the way through the product. Vinyl siding comes in various grades which indicate the thickness of the siding.  Builders Grade, at .40mm is the thinnest, Standard Residential Grade at .44mm is average, and Premium Grade is the thickest at .55mm and above.

Piece Sizes: Because vinyl siding is made of plastic and formed in a liquid state, it can be made in a variety of sizes, shapes and textures. Horizontal laps are most common in widths of 4, 5, 6, or 7 inches and lengths of 12 feet, but can be found in longer options. For example, CertainTeed offers what it calls “Long Length Siding” in some of its vinyl siding series. Lengths are 16’8”, 20’ and 25’. Other major brands also offer longer lengths.

Pro Tips: There are two benefits to long-length vinyl siding pieces. First, there are fewer visible seams. Secondly, longer pieces of siding go up a little faster, so it might reduce the labor cost. However, the potential downside is that a 20-25 foot piece of siding might require two people to handle it.

Vertical Siding Sizes: Vertical, or board & batten profiles, are normally 8, 10 or 12 feet long and 7 to 9 inches wide.

Aluminum Siding Cost vs Vinyl Siding Cost

The profile, style, and thickness will affect the cost of materials, but generally, aluminum siding will cost less than vinyl siding.  Aluminum siding materials will run between $4 and $9 per square foot and vinyl siding materials will range between $4 and $12 per square foot. These are installed costs.

Cost Tip: The higher cost of the most expensive vinyl siding is for siding made to look like wood shakes and shingles. This kind of vinyl siding is usually used in gables, and dormers and for accent areas to complement the look of horizontal vinyl siding, stone or wood siding. Of course, you can side the entire home with it as well.

Cost Factors: For both materials, siding will cost more if it is thicker, more heavily textured and has a richer/deeper color.

Installation costs for siding are influenced by a number of factors including the size, style, and complexity of your home. The area you live in is also a factor; you’ll find higher costs in large metropolitan areas, especially in the NE, NW and along the Coasts.

Energy Efficiency of Vinyl Siding vs Aluminum Siding

Both materials offer about the same R-Value of 0.61 and will add some insulation to your home. If you choose insulated siding in either aluminum or vinyl, the R-Value will increase to between 2 and 3.5, depending on the quality and thickness of the insulation. Most is around R-3.

If you consider energy efficiency from an environmental perspective, aluminum siding is more efficient than vinyl siding since it requires less energy to produce and is also recyclable. Vinyl siding takes more energy to manufacture and is not easy to recycle.

Pro Tip on Insulation: Paying extra for insulated vinyl or aluminum siding is not considered a good investment. The increased cost isn’t offset by the energy cost savings for at least 10 years – maybe never, depending on where you live.

A better option – one with a better ROI or “bang for your buck” is to add foam 1-inch XPS foam insulation. Secure the rigid foam insulation to the sheathing of the house, over Tyvek or similar vapor-barrier/house wrap, and nail the vinyl or aluminum siding over it. You’ll enjoy a boost in insulation value of up to R-5, maybe even R-6.

Durability and Maintenance

For starters, we recommend you choose a mid-grade or premium siding, whether vinyl or aluminum.

Quality Counts: When you’re looking at the durability of vinyl siding vs aluminum siding, the key is really the quality or grade of the siding. For both aluminum and vinyl, the thicker the material, the stronger, more weather resistant, and durable the siding will be.

Damage: Aluminum siding can be scratched or dented, although today’s industrial-grade coatings help reduce these issues.  A scratch in the enamel coating will show the raw metal underneath, but aluminum won’t rust if exposed to the elements. Over time, aluminum may become chalky or the color may fade, but again, technological advances in the last decade have improved color fastness and reduced chalking. Aluminum can be repainted but it must be cleaned well first. Aluminum is also very fire resistant.

Vinyl siding doesn’t dent, and scratches aren’t usually as noticeable because the color goes through the material. An extremely hard impact to a vinyl plank can crack or puncture it, especially in cold weather when older vinyl can be brittle.

Climate Impact: In a very sunny climate, vinyl can eventually fade and since it cannot be painted, it may need to be replaced. Also, vinyl must be properly installed or it can trap water underneath it, which will lead to damage to the home’s infrastructure.

If you live in a region with extremely cold winters, your best choice is aluminum siding vs vinyl siding. Aluminum is unaffected by the cold; vinyl can become brittle and crack in temperatures below freezing.

Curb Appeal – Vinyl vs Aluminum Siding

Even though aluminum siding has advanced tremendously over the years, it can still have a flat metallic appearance and lack an aesthetic appeal. Vinyl siding can create a more natural appearance because it can be deeply textured to mimic wood. Vinyl siding is available in more styles and profiles than aluminum, so it’s easier to find a siding choice that will better complement your home’s architecture.

Overall – Is Aluminum Siding Better Than Vinyl Siding?

Every year, tens of thousands of homeowners consider aluminum vs vinyl siding. And most choose vinyl. In fact, vinyl siding owns more than 65% of the siding market. Nothing else comes close in sheer numbers.

However, with the advances in aluminum siding, vinyl and aluminum both have advantages. Which is best for you depends on your budget, climate and your architectural style. If your budget is on the low end, vinyl will probably work best for you. If you live in very cold region, aluminum would be the best choice.

Aluminum is a greener choice, if that’s a top priority for you. As noted, less energy is consumed in its manufacture. Secondly, while vinyl can be recycled, most of it isn’t because recycling plants get overwhelmed. There isn’t enough capacity to recycle it, and when they can’t handle the load, the excess goes to the landfill.

Aluminum is easier and more readily recycled, mostly into new aluminum siding and roofing.

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