Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Both steel and aluminum are popular siding materials in home construction. After your roof installation, the next and most important thing is your siding. It protects your home’s building envelope and provides curb appeal, but between steel and aluminum, which is better?
Aluminum is relatively affordable to install because it’s light and easy to cut. On the other hand, steel is commonly used because of its durability in extreme weather. Both are excellent construction materials for your siding, but there are differences you need to consider before making a purchase.
This article will give you a basic overview of both steel and aluminum as construction materials. We will also discuss the pros and cons of each to help you decide on the material that best suits your needs.
Steel Siding: A Basic Overview
Steel siding has grown popular among homeowners because of its durability. It is one of the toughest materials that offer fire and water resistance and can hold against extreme weather such as strong winds and heavy rains. In most cases, insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners who use steel siding because they are less likely to suffer loss.
Steel siding is more expensive than most of the other siding materials. Although it lasts long, its installation process is hectic because of its heavyweight. The process eats up time, requires specialized skills and machines, hence increasing labor costs. In the long run, steel requires low maintenance, like cleaning it once a year.
Steel siding, however, is not perfect. Although it creates strong visual appeal, it can rust over time due to its oxidative properties. It also dents when impacted by heavy objects and is a poor insulator, hence it increases energy bills. Counteracting these problems or making replacements only adds to the installation and maintenance costs.
Pros of Steel Siding
Steel is a popular material used for siding buildings due to the various advantages it has to offer. If you’re thinking of installing it, some of the benefits you will enjoy are:
Generally, carrying out maintenance on any part of your home is costly and will drain your savings. Unlike other siding materials, however, steel requires very low maintenance and minimal attention after a successful installation due to various properties. In Northern areas where there are severe winters, steel can hold up against sleet, snow, frost, wind, and rain.
It doesn’t absorb water, and therefore, it is not prone to pest infestation, growth of mold, or fungus that can cause illness to occupants, and it only requires simple cleaning annually.
Steel siding has grown more popular and increased in demand over the last few years because it offers an appealing look. Manufacturers are also offering textures and patterns that look like other materials, such as wood for example. If this is the kind of look you desire, you can easily achieve it. You can also achieve a rustic design or a classic, seamless style.
Corrugated panels and standing steel siding offer a seamless and modern look. You can also pre-paint it in different kinds of colors that will deliver service for over twenty years without having to worry about repainting. Your steel siding panels can be installed horizontally or vertically, depending on the look you find most suitable.
Steel siding is a highly recyclable construction material. If you’re planning on going green, steel is an excellent option. It conserves natural resources and lessens the project’s environmental impact. Even when considered as scrap metal or discarded material, you can still reuse 100% of the steel.
Newer products made of steel are made up of 25% recyclable components, enabling them to be recycled repeatedly without losing their quality and strength.
Fire-Resistant and Regionally Versatile
If you reside in an area where there is a risk of fires or lightning storms, steel siding, which is almost impervious to fire, will act as an excellent shield. Also, with steel siding, your insurance might grant you a discount. Steel siding is highly versatile in that it stands up to various regional climates.
During summer and winter, it will not chip or crack. Unlike other materials, such as wood, steel siding in rainy and tropical regions doesn’t absorb moisture and will protect against leakages.
One of the most attractive and practical qualities of steel siding is its durability and strength. It easily holds up against various weather conditions such as rain, snow, and heat. Also, steel siding resists corrosion, warping, and cracking. In areas where there is harsh weather, such as heavy thunderstorms and high-speed winds, steel acts as one of the toughest materials that don’t give into these conditions.
Equally, pests and insects find steel unattractive, unlike wood, where they love hiding under the siding. You won’t have to worry about your structure weakening due to pests or birds seeking nutrition from your construction material.
Although it has low insulation properties, steel siding has the ability to reflect the sun’s UV rays and divert them away from your building. This makes the house energy efficient by reducing air conditioning bills to keep the house cool in hot temperatures.
Cons of Steel Siding
Unfortunately, steel siding is not a perfect material. Though it is highly advantageous, you will encounter some disadvantages such as:
Susceptible to Dents
Just like your vehicle, steel siding is susceptible to dents. However, the impact depends on its thickness. Denting reduces the overall aesthetic appeal of the building. It is, therefore, advisable to use a thicker instead of a thinner gauge material. A thicker gauge will provide more strength to your panel.
If you’re working on a budget, this is one of the minor drawbacks you will encounter. Steel siding is relatively more expensive than other materials. The high upfront cost is a result of its heavyweight and stringent installation process. However, its durability covers up for it because it requires minimal maintenance.
Prone to Rusting
Steel siding will hold its color in place and won’t peel or fade like wood or turn chalky over time like aluminum. However, it contains oxidation properties that cause rusting in areas where fog and dampness due to rain is frequent. The rust results in discoloration and compromises its integrity, mostly where the finish remains unpainted for a long time or has acquired scratches.
Steel is a poor sound and heat insulator. Several homeowners end up complaining of hearing noises coming from outside. Compared to other materials like wood that is an effective insulator, steel siding results in high energy bills annually. You can counteract this problem by adding an insulating material under the siding.
However, this will only add more to the installation process and expense. Trying to remedy the problem after installation will also prove difficult, and hence you should not miss it during installation.
Steel is among the heaviest construction materials available. When used for siding on your building’s exterior, the installation process is complicated and will cost you more. Due to its weight, the installation process takes longer, increasing the time required to complete your building.
Finding contractors who work with steel is problematic because it requires special skills and machinery to cut and attach it to the siding. Overall, your installation cost and timeline will increase. You will also incur more charges due to labor.
Aluminum Siding: A Basic Overview
Aluminum siding was among the most popularly used materials in the 1940s when it was first introduced into the market up to the 1970s. It has several advantages, but it has been outpaced by other siding products for many reasons. It remains a desirable choice due to its coating and embossing technologies that enable it to resemble wood.
Aluminum siding is non-flammable, affordable, lightweight, allows for easy installation, and comes in different colors. For homeowners who want to go green, aluminum siding is recyclable. It is also durable, requires minimal maintenance like cleaning every 6 to 12 months, and is resistant to water, rotting, and pests.
The advantages of aluminum siding depend on your residential area and weather conditions. In extreme temperatures, it will shrink and swell, resulting in irritating noises. In some areas, your home value will reduce if you use aluminum siding, especially where there are high winds and frequent hail storms.
Its lightweight quality also makes aluminum siding more prone to scratches and dents. Over time, your siding may fade, hence requiring a fresh coat of paint. In the long run, though the siding requires minimal maintenance, you will incur more costs on repairs.
Pros of Aluminum Siding
Today, many homeowners are considering aluminum as an ideal siding option because of the various advantages it has to offer, such as:
Aluminum siding is made from hard materials such as recycled aluminum coil stock that makes it very durable. To prevent corrosion, the siding is coated with a protective chemical layer, while the finishing is done using a texture of your choice, ensuring it remains sturdy. In areas of extreme temperatures, your aluminum siding will not get brittle or crack during winter or warp and sag during summer.
Proper installation and maintenance of the aluminum siding will earn you service for around 40 to 50 years.
Aluminum is among the most affordable siding materials by about 80% when compared to other materials. This is because it is partly made of recycled materials, and it can be reused. You can pay a total of $9 per square foot to install the aluminum siding and heavy metal gauge.
Because of being a lightweight material, aluminum siding has an easy installation process that helps you save money and time due to its simplicity during installation and low labor requirements. Where a heavy-gauge is installed over existing aluminum siding instead of removing the siding first, it lowers the overall installation cost further.
Energy-Efficient and Eco-Friendly
Aluminum siding is made from recycled material, which is entirely recyclable. This means that it will never result in a landfill once your aluminum siding gets old. The fact that aluminum siding is energy efficient also makes it environmentally-friendly.
In extremely hot and cold weather, aluminum is an excellent insulator. During winter, it will retain the building’s warmth, and in the summer, it will retain cool air and keep warm air out.
Unlike other siding materials that are susceptible to rotting, pest infestation, or getting mildew, aluminum siding requires very low maintenance. You only need to rinse it a couple of times yearly to get rid of any lodged debris in the seams.
The fact that aluminum siding doesn’t rust, shrink, swell, or soak in moisture due to temperature changes makes it easy to maintain. It doesn’t require special chemicals to reinforce these qualities.
Aluminum is a perfect choice if you’re living in humid and coastal areas. It doesn’t absorb moisture like wood or rust. In humid areas, it will not swell, dry out, or shrink due to the heat. Mildew only grows on debris that surrounds the siding, if any. In areas where there are termites and carpenter ants, aluminum is an excellent choice because it is pest and insect-resistant.
Aluminum siding is non-flammable, meaning it won’t feed fires or ignite. Also, it won’t melt or burn under heat. Therefore, it doesn’t emit toxic fumes. The paint may scorch, but it can be cleaned and repainted. The non-inflammable property makes it popular among insurance companies, and they can offer you a discount on your house insurance premiums.
Available in Different Textures and Patterns
Aluminum siding is available in different textures and patterns. You can also place them vertically or horizontally, and they come pre-painted in the color you choose. You can decide to do the painting yourself, therefore giving you the freedom to design your look of choice.
Easy Installation and Maintenance
If you’re working on a budget, you can easily opt to install the aluminum siding yourself, thus cutting on labor costs. However, this will require that you follow the instruction manuals given by the manufacturer. In case of any dents, the area can easily be repaired with a new one that integrates seamlessly with the old one.
Unlike other sidings such as Vinyl, aluminum siding can be repainted to make your home look fresh without having to change the entire exterior.
Cons of Aluminum Siding
Here are some of the downsides that you will encounter with aluminum siding:
Susceptible to Dents and Scratches
Aluminum, being an easy and soft metal to work with, is susceptible to scratches and dents. In areas where there is heavy traffic or frequent hailstorms, your house will need more siding repairs.
If you have children who enjoy playing football, baseball, driveway hockey, or riding bicycles, they will easily impact dents and scratches that require you to replace the aluminum siding.
Every house has its unique noise problems. It could be creaking on the floorboard or attic for example. However, aluminum siding contracts and expands when exposed to temperature changes that result in ping or popping noises in these situations.
High winds, hail storms, and heavy rainfall cause loud noises on aluminum siding. For homeowners who notice these noises, it can prove to be irritating and annoying.
Appearance Wears Out Easily
In the past few decades, aluminum siding texture has drastically improved. However, it still possesses a metal-like look that makes it have an industrial and rustic look.
In extremely hot temperatures, aluminum siding tends to warp. Exposure to natural elements such as wind and rain also causes its coating to wear out or fade with time. As a result, it becomes more difficult to match colors during siding replacements.
Style Is Becoming Outdated
Currently, there are several advanced materials used for siding. Depending on where you’re having your construction, aluminum siding may be considered obsolete and out of style. In this case, your home value will reduce, causing potential buyers to choose other houses over it when the time comes and you decide to sell.
Which One Should You Choose?
Based on the pros and cons of each, you can decide which one works best for you. While you may pick aluminum siding over steel because it is less costly, steel performs exceptionally in harsh weather conditions. Though expensive, steel will offer you long-term service with minimal maintenance requirements, while aluminum siding will cost you more to maintain it in the long run.
Steel is fire and water-resistant, while aluminum siding will contract and expand, resulting in ping noises. Steel and aluminum are both eco-friendly due to the ability to be recycled. However, aluminum requires frequent repairs due to easy scratching and denting. Insurances will offer discounts to homeowners who install steel siding, while aluminum siding will reduce the home’s value.
Neither aluminum nor steel siding are perfect materials – each has its pros and cons. Depending on factors such as weather, cost, environmental friendliness, and installation process, you can decide which one between the two works best. The impact of the siding’s disadvantages should be balanced by your needs, both long-term and short term, local weather intensity, and your area of residence.
As a homeowner, ensure that the advantages of the siding you choose outdo its disadvantages or balance them. If possible, research your area residents or get the opinions of suppliers and contractors before making a choice.
- Everything Exterior Store: Aluminum Sidings vs. Steel Sidings
- AllStar Construction: Pros and Cons of Steel Siding
- KRAVELV: Aluminum vs. Steel Siding: Which one to Choose?
- Allura: 4 Major Problems with Steel Siding
- Rollex: 6 Things you Need to Know about Steel Siding
- Networx: All About Aluminum Siding
- Better Homes & Gardens: Is Aluminum Siding Right For You?
- Community Roofing & Restoration: Considering Aluminum Siding? Here Are The Pros and Cons
- Advanced Roofing: The Numerous Advantages of Aluminum Siding
- Siding Authority: Aluminum Siding: 9 Pros, Cons, and Alternatives
- Beauty Harmony Life: 8 Pros and Cons of Aluminum Siding
- MEI Minnesota Exteriors: The Key Advantages of Aluminum Siding
- FELDCO: Aluminum Siding Problems that are Unavoidable
- Your NHPA: Study guide: Siding & Roofing
- Green Homeguide: How can I make my new siding more energy-efficient?
- World Aluminum: Aluminum Recyclability and Recycling
- FED: Early 20th-Century Building Materials: Siding and Roofing
- FEMA: Siding Installation in High-Wind Regions
- Metal Architecture: Sound Isolation and Noise Control
- Advanced Plating Technologies: WHAT CAUSES METALS TO OXIDIZE OR “RUST”?
- AISC: Sustainability
- Britannica: Siding
Share this Post