How does natural wood siding stack up against LP SmartSide, the most popular engineered wood siding?
There are several important points of comparison – maintenance, durability, and appearance among them – but we’ll start with the bottom line: Cost. The rest of the factors are covered in pros and cons below.
LP SmartSide Cost vs. Wood Siding Comparison
Engineered wood siding such as LP SmartSide is generally less expensive than natural wood siding. On average, you can expect to pay between $9.50 to $15.50 per sq.ft. for LP Smartside composite siding vs. $10.50 to $17.50 for a premium natural wood siding fully installed. This translates to an average difference of $1.00-$1.50 per sq.ft. between the two.
Did you know? Many online LP SmartSide cost estimates are lower than what should be reasonably expected. It appears they simply take the cost per square foot of LP SmartSide siding material, which can be as low as $2.50 per square foot and multiply it by the square feet of siding needed.
A somewhat random labor cost is added, and a total estimate is given. Estimating an LP SmartSide job that way fails to consider the many variables such as tear off and removal of old siding, supplies needed such as trim, wrap, building permits, professional warrantied installation, etc. and these costs can add up quickly.
LP SmartSide trim, for example, costs about $1.50 per linear foot and can add $600-$1,200 to the total job cost. Fasteners, construction glue, flashing, caulk and extra saw blades are among the accessories needed to complete the job.
Every job is different. Where on the cost spectrum your siding project falls depends on these variables.
Specific material: LP SmartSide ranges in price from about $2.50/sq. ft. for siding planks to about $4.50/sq. ft. for textured cedar shake siding, an increase of 100%.
Some homeowners don’t use any of the more expensive shake-look siding. A few homes use it exclusively. Most often, shake siding is used in gables and other select places to provide architectural interest.
In terms of wood, pine plank siding is the least costly. Cedar is most popular and in the middle of the cost range. Redwood siding costs the most.
Each type of wood is available in a range of grades too such as Clear or Heart (top grade), Select, A, B, C, Rustic and more. Each type has a slightly different grading system. The higher the grade, the costlier the siding.
The shape of the house: There is more material waste on homes with 6+ corners and complex design.
Installation difficulty: Labor costs are the biggest variable in engineered siding jobs. In term of complexity, installation takes longer on homes with a higher number of corners and architectural variations, so labor costs can be 50% higher. Installation above the first story adds about 35% to the labor cost.
This home includes material and labor factors that put the total cost near at the upper end of the range.
Where you live: Cost of living can swing installation prices up to 40%. Rural areas of the South and Midwest have the lowest costs. They are highest in major metropolitan areas on the Coasts. The rest of the country falls into the average range.
Who does the work: DIY installation costs nothing beyond the materials, accessories and specialized tools required.
Pro installation ranges from using an unlicensed handyman service at the low end to allowing a designer or builder to hire the installer while charging you a general contractor (GC) fee. 😉
Pro Tip: You’ll get the best combination of quality installation, pricing and peace of mind when you work directly with contractors that are experienced, licensed and insured.
Get several estimates from licensed contractors, and don’t be afraid to ask to see their current license and liability coverage.
Ask about the experience of the crew that will install your wood or engineered siding. Check Yelp and Google reviews, the BBB, and other sources. Hire a contractor with consistently good reviews and an experienced crew.
Did you know? LP SmartSide might not warranty its siding where you live!
LP SmartSide includes wax-coated wood strands at its core. The presence of wood raises a red flag. Moisture is the enemy of any material that contains wood.
Because some areas of the country receive so much rainfall and have high humidity levels, LP Building Products, the maker of SmartSide siding, does not warranty its products in these regions: Alaska, Hawaii, Northern California north of 1-80, and west of the Cascades in Washington, Oregon, and California.
If you live in one of these areas, it’s likely that your local building material suppliers won’t stock LP SmartSide or other engineered wood products.
In all other regions, SmartSide carries a 50-year warranty including the first five years of 100% coverage before the warranty starts being pro-rated through the rest of the coverage period.
Does Natural Wood Siding Come with a Warranty?
No, it does not. The producers don’t provide any warranty because they sell bare wood and have no control over how it is installed and finished. If it is not properly finished, warping, cracking, rotting and discoloration can begin in the first year.
Though the manufacturers don’t warranty the wood, whoever installs and finishes the wood with stain and sealer, or primer and paint should give you a warranty of at least 1 year on the workmanship. Some offer two years.
The materials applied will have their own warranty against manufacturing defects for 10-20 years. The warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and weathering, so the wood will require repainting or staining long before the warranty period expires.
LP SmartSide Siding Overview
How SmartSide is made: As noted, wood fiber strands coated with wax are the core of SmartSide siding.
The strands are bonded for hardness and strength. Zinc-borate SmartGuard solution, like the solution used on pressure-treated lumber, is added to protect against rot and insect infestation.
The coated strands are compressed and formed into planks before the planks are finished with a resin-saturated overlay.
SmartSide siding styles: LP makes 6 SmartSide horizontal lap siding styles:
1) Cedar-texture lap
2) Cedar-texture shake
3) 16” double/triple/quad lap profiles
4) 12” double and triple lap profiles
6) Colonial beaded
Panel and Vertical LP lap siding is available in:
1) Cedar Texture panel
2) Reverse Board & Batten
3) Stucco Texture panel
4) Smooth panel
Trim is produced in widths from 2.7” to 15.5” wide in 16’ lengths. Two types are sold: Cedar texture trim and Reversible trim that has cedar texture on one side and is smooth on the reverse side.
Soffit is sold in Cedar texture and Smooth styles too. It’s available in 8’ and 16’ lengths with widths of 12”, 16”, 24” and 48”. Vented soffit in limited styles is available.
Primed or Pre-finished: Most LP Siding in the United States is sold primed and must be painted after installation.
A second option is to buy the siding from one of LP’s authorized prefinishers like Diamond Kote, Coastal Coatings, PSPI and Northwest Factory Finishes.
The finishes are elastomeric coatings with resistance to fading, moisture cracking and peeling. These prefinishers have limited distribution ranges, so you might not find one in your area.
The advantage of prefinished siding is the 15-year to 30-year warranty that comes with it, depending on which coating you select.
There are two downsides. The added cost is $1.75-$3.15 per square foot. Also, many installers don’t have experience with coated siding, and they might easily damage it during installation. When that occurs, the siding’s moisture protection is lost and the warranty from the prefinisher is voided.
Wood Siding Overview
Wood siding is available in a wide range of types and styles too. Pine is cheaper but doesn’t resist weather as well as other options. Cedar and redwood are hardier choices for most climates.
Pine is typically made into lap siding of 3” to 6”. It is often painted rather than stained.
Red cedar and redwood can be stained and sealed to allow their natural beauty to be visible. Styles include lap siding of widths from 4” to 16”, tongue & groove siding and vertical Board & Batten siding.
A wide range of fascia and trim sizes and styles are available to match the look of the siding. Soffit is often made from plywood rather than solid wood, or aluminum vented soffit can be used too. Wood panel siding is always engineered plywood rather than solid wood.
LP SmartSide Advantages and Disadvantages
Here’s what we like and don’t like about this product:
The initial cost of primed LP SmartSide is less than natural wood. Maintenance costs are lower too since it requires painting less often.
There are enough siding and trim styles for most homeowners to find one that enhances the appearance of their home.
The 50-year warranty is good, not great. As noted, it gives you 100% coverage for material and labor to repair or replace the siding.
The warranty coverage is reduced by 2.22% every year starting in year 6. Of course, since wood does not come with a warranty, at least you have some protection with this product.
SmartSide holds paint about twice for as long as most wood siding, so you’ll have to repaint non-coated SmartSide siding in 8-14 years depending on your climate rather than in 4-7 years for painted or stained wood siding.
Siding a house with the 16’ boards reduces the number of seams compared with wood siding that is sold in lengths from 8’ to 12’.
Most certifiers of green building materials recognize engineered wood siding as being environmentally responsible. More than 95% of the tree is used to produce it. However, LP does not use recycled wood due to concerns about its structural integrity.
The siding must have a painted look; The natural look of stained wood isn’t an option.
Frankly, some of the coatings look like plastic, so be sure to see and hold genuine samples of any coated LP SmartSide you’re considering before you buy. Pictures aren’t sufficient, in our opinion.
The cost of prefinished SmartSide siding can be nearly as expensive as the cost of genuine cedar siding.
Wood siding has lasted on many homes for 200+ years when properly maintained. Since engineered siding, especially the newest formulation of SmartSide, is newer, we’re not sure how long it will last before the siding must be replaced.
The first types of engineered siding failed, mostly from moisture damage, and were the subject of costly class-action suits. It is expected that the current products are better, but only time will tell.
Cut ends must be primed and sealed before installation. If not, the material will quickly wick up water, expand and require replacing.
After the initial repainting of engineered siding, it will require paint every 4-7 years, just as genuine wood siding.
SmartSide has Class C fire rating; some treated wood siding products have a higher fire rating.
Wood Advantages and Disadvantages
There are ups and downs to consider with genuine wood siding too.
The beauty, texture and aroma of natural wood siding is superior to SmartSide.
Because wood can be made into unlimited styles, it gives you more freedom to customize your home’s exterior.
When maintained, wood siding lasts indefinitely.
Wood is considered a green, sustainable building material. It can be recovered and reused, and it is biodegradable. Engineered siding is not.
Replacing damaged wood siding and blending the new material is quite easy whether it is stained or painted.
Wood has a higher upfront cost and needs more maintenance than engineered wood siding.
If pine is exposed through scratches or chips, it might invite rot, insects and possibly woodpeckers within a year or two if not primed and painted. Cedar and redwood are more naturally resistant to insects and moisture but must still be maintained.