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What are Siding Shingles?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Siding shingles are rectangular pieces of wood, aluminum, or fiber cement used to cover the sides of a house or building. The opposite ends of the shingles vary in thickness for seamless siding installation. The shingles are used to protect the house from elements like wind, rain, and sunlight. Siding shingles contribute to the house’s character and can enhance its property value.

Exterior siding is done using horizontal or vertical boards. They can be sawed by hand or machine for smoother and straighter edges. The typical method is for siding shingles to be nailed in rows from end to end and from bottom to top. Siding shingles are laid one on top of the other with the lower part exposed. Paint primer or protective coating is applied to protect them from decay and to increase their longevity.

Traditionally, wood is used for most residential siding. Cedar siding is the most common wood for siding houses because cedar is known for its grain and resistance to rotting, warping, and cracking, unlike spruce and hemlock. As wood is vulnerable to fire, siding shingles made of cedar are coated with fire retardant chemicals. The shingles require maintenance by regular varnishing of protective coating. Cedar siding can last as long as 50 years when properly maintained.

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One type of cedar siding is board and batten siding. Wooden boards are placed vertically, and the gaps between them are covered with small strips of wood called battens. This exterior siding is commonly found in barns, colonial houses, and country homes. Unlike other siding shingles, more architectural styles are possible with board and batten sidings. The advantage of board and batten siding is that insulating material can be inserted between the siding and an additional wall.

Composite siding shingles are made of sawdust, sand, or cement and called fiber cement boards. Composite siding is cheaper, fire and termite resistant, and requires little maintenance compared to wood siding. The drawbacks of composite shingles are its poor insulating properties and bumpy appearance. Composite siding makes a poor sound barrier and is not suitable for high traffic areas.

Aluminum siding has been used since World War II for residential and commercial purposes. Siding shingles made from aluminum can be smooth and plain or have wood grain painted to mimic natural cedar siding. Aluminum siding is maintenance-free, corrosion- and termite-proof, and recyclable. It will not rot like wood shingles. These advantages make aluminum shingles more durable and practical in the long run.

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