Your beach house is subject to salty moisture, which can be a tough environmental condition that makes choosing the right siding particularly important when it comes to durability and maintenance.
What about strong storms or hurricanes? What about your HOA? You should consider all of these factors when choosing a siding (also called cladding).
There are a variety of options that differ in cost, appearance, durability, and maintenance requirements.
Why the right siding matters
It is essential that you have a properly installed, intact, continuous surface called a moisture barrier behind every type of cladding. This barrier is necessary to prevent moisture from penetrating the structure, especially near the coast
In this post, I’ll break down a few different options for your beach house. Cost comparisons here are ranges that should only be used to get a basic idea of what these cost in comparison to one another.
You always want to get quotes on the exact sidings you want to compare on your house in your location.
1. Wood shake siding
Many people choose cedar shakes or shingles. Shakes are not uniform and split over time to become even less uniform, which gives them a certain aesthetic appeal. However, the original rich, warm hue that makes cedar shakes so popular also tends to discolor over time, with irregular streaking and grey and black patches.
You’ll occasionally find clapboards and wood panels, and many of the same considerations apply
If your beach home is your second home, you’ll put in a lot of work maintaining a wood shake or wood siding.
To start, you’ll have to seal all four edges of the shakes and paint or stain both the front and back of each shake before installing it.
Painting wood shake siding
You’ll also have to repaint or re-stain your wood shake siding every 3 to 5 years. Shake can last a very long time if properly maintained, but that requires a lot of maintenance relative to the other choices.
Pressure-treated shakes have a solution of metal salts forced under pressure into the wood, penetrating a fraction of an inch; this helps prevent rotting and attack by insects (and reduces the need for sealing the back and edges).
But you’ll have to allow the wood to dry completely, which may take months before it can be painted if you want the paint to last.
Cedar shakes can resist wind a bit over 100 mph but they can be damaged by debris and stronger winds from category 2 hurricanes.
The cost: typically around $8.50 to $14.50 per sq. ft. Notably, many of the non-wood sidings look like cedar shakes.
2. Vinyl/PVC siding
Several manufacturers produce shakes and shingles in different formulations of vinyl (polyvinyl chloride). You don’t need to paint these, which are available with different characteristic appearances from one brand to another. Some are quite durable and resistant to damage from coastal moist salt air.
Downsides of vinyl siding at the coast: weather and the elements
Vinyl becomes somewhat brittle as it ages and increasingly susceptible to damage from flying objects in a hurricane. Typically vinyl can resist winds up to 110 mph if properly installed, but strong hurricane winds can pull the siding off.
Life expectancy is generally 20-40 years, depending on environmental conditions. It comes in various thicknesses, with the thicker ones being stronger. PVC siding helps insulate the building better than many of the others, and the thicker versions add some structural strength.
You’ll find CertainTeed, Variform, Royal Building Products among the well-regarded brands. Azek uses a different formulation and gives you a limited 50-year stain and fade warranty and a limited lifetime warranty.
The cost: Expect to spend anywhere from $2.00 to $9.00 per sq. ft., or $9.00 to $13.00/sq. ft. for Azek.
3. Aluminum siding
Aluminum siding is a durable siding with a similar cost to wood, but it is subject to damage from any impact and does not stand up well to hurricanes.
The cost: Generally, you’ll spend $2.75 to $4.50 sq./ft.
4. Polymer/polypropylene siding
Polymer or polypropylene cladding is produced in patterns that look like wood shakes; Tando makes a premium product that you’re sure to come across.
While polymer is similar to vinyl, it is stronger.
The cost: due to its strength, polymer tends to be around 50% -75% more expensive, starting at $4.50/sq. ft. and requires little maintenance.
5. Stucco siding
Stucco is a durable, hurricane-resistant choice of cladding. However, you’ll have to paint it to prevent the porous structure from absorbing water and repaint it as necessary to keep a fully intact coating.
Special care must be taken to install flashings and corners in coastal areas.
Considerations when installing stucco
One downside is you’ll have to repair any cracks immediately. A metal framework like chicken wire supports the stucco. If salty moisture penetrates cracks and attacks the metal, this could cause the stucco to fail.
The cost: These factors give stucco disadvantages compared to other sidings, although its cost is comparable at $5.00 to $10.00 sq. ft.
6. Fiber-cement board siding (like HardiBoard/HardiPlank)
You might consider the popular fiber-cement board, a composite of cellulose fiber with sand and cement textured to look like wood.
It is tested to withstand the moisture and humidity of a coastal environment, as well as to withstand hurricane-force winds.
The HardiBoard brand has gained popularity recently, but over time all fiber-cement board becomes brittle and may crack. Also, these boards are heavy compared to most other sidings, making installation more difficult.
The cost: You’ll pay $7.00 to $13.00/sq. ft. installed, roughly comparable to other fiber-cement products, and get a 30-year warranty.
7. Brick or stone siding
Although solid brick buildings can withstand hurricanes, buildings with brick cladding—or any other cladding—are only as strong as their wooden structures.
Brick and stone are probably the most resistant to the salt-water environment and last the longest. But they are also the most expensive;
The cost: Expect to spend $10 to $30 per sq. ft. for stone veneer.
8. Engineered or composite wood siding
This siding is made from wood fibers mixed with epoxy resin. Like most others, and unlike wood, it is not affected by moisture or insects. It looks like natural wood, and you’ll have to maintain a paint coating, but you can buy it prefinished with a 15-year finish warranty.
Top brands include KWP and LP Smartside. LP Smartside has additives that make it particularly suitable for a coastal environment, and you get a 50-year warranty. Also, it is rated at 200 mph wind resistance and has superior impact resistance.
People tend to evaluate this relative to fiber-cement board, which is similar in some ways. For a video demonstrating wind and impact resistance of LP Smartside vs. Hardiboard, click here.
LP Smartside is available in a thicker version than HardiBoard, which can add structural integrity to your house to withstand hurricanes better. Also, it comes in longer lengths (16 ft vs. 12 ft), which makes for a better installation with fewer seams.
The cost: You’ll find it both easy to install and inexpensive, at $3.50 to $8.50/sq. ft. installed.
Although there are several sidings you could install on your beach home, composite wood is a great choice especially if you live in a coastal area subject to hurricanes.
Why composite wood is a great choice for beach home siding
Composite wood products like LS Smartside is a great choice for coastal home because it lasts a lifetime, holds up well in wind, and is more resistant to salt air since it doesn’t contain organic material.
In fact, it is approved for Dade County (FL), which has the most stringent building codes.
However, a premium vinyl siding product like Azek could be your second choice if you don’t need the proven hurricane resistance; it might also be less expensive and require less maintenance.
Need to cross a few more items off your list? Check out my post, 21 Routine Beach House Maintenance Items after you take care of your siding.
Good luck and let me know what choice you decide to go with
This post was updated on August 6th, 2022.