What's the Difference Between Clapboard and Vinyl Siding

Roofing
Siding
By Alex Mikayelyan November 24, 2021

Using the right material for your siding versus the wrong one can mean many things. It can mean the difference between a house that is comfortable toasty in the winters versus impossible to heat up. It can also mean a home that stays in one shape for the majority of the year versus requiring you to perform regular maintenance on the exterior. And at the center of these comparisons lies the infamous clapboard vs vinyl siding discussion.

Both of these exterior siding options have proven to be both practical and stylish in their own right. However, as with anything else that requires you to choose, making the decision on which one to install isn’t always as straightforward as one might think. By comparing the most important aspects of these two siding types, you can potentially decide which option is right for your home and which one may miss the mark.

Clapboard

Clapboard Siding Through the Ages

Clapboard Siding Through the Ages

Clapboard siding has been used in architecture as far back as the 17th century. Over the four centuries that this siding has been around, it has more than proven its worth as one of the best ways to line your home’s exterior. While in the olden days of siding, clapboard was made out of wood, which was durable in its own right but had its downsides. Today, you will find clapboard made of other alternative materials such as composite, a type of compressed wood held together by chemicals. 

Durability

The Benefits and Downsides of Clapboard Siding

The Benefits and Downsides of Clapboard Siding

Wood clapboard siding is known to be quite durable in its own right. While it may not be the strongest material for exterior siding today, it is still quite strong and can withstand a lot of damage. It is typically made out of cedar, which in itself has several benefits such as containing natural pest-repellent chemicals and even being sound-resistant, allowing it to block out the noise from the outside. This makes it a great option for insulated siding.

However, as with pretty much any other wood out there, cedar does have its downsides. First and foremost, there’s the imminent danger of rotting. After enough contact with moisture, the wood will begin to deteriorate and wear out as time goes on, eventually resulting in major problems with the structural integrity of the siding. There are ways to counteract this by using a specialized wood finish that prevents rotting and protects the siding from water and heat damage. But this requires regular maintenance and can be quite time-consuming.

If you’re willing to put up with the extra responsibilities, however, wood siding is a great option for anyone looking for that classic exterior look for their homes. 

Cost

How Much Installing Wood Clapboard Siding Costs

How Much Installing Wood Clapboard Siding Costs

The cost of installing wooden siding depends on a lot of factors, from how many square feet of siding you will need to the type of siding you are using, as well as the company that is going to be doing the installation. A general average for wood clapboard siding is around $10,000 for 1,500 square feet of siding. 

Nevertheless, consider the fact that the cost of wood siding goes beyond the initial installation. Clapboard siding is meant to last anywhere from 15 to 40 years. Throughout the years, however, your siding is going to experience damage, be it from moisture, wind, or hail. So you should also take into account the cost to replace the siding when calculating the overall cost involved, as this will give you a more accurate estimate of how much you will be spending in the future. 

Appearance

The Aesthetic Benefits of Wooden Siding

The Aesthetic Benefits of Wooden Siding

From the classic white clapboard siding to more modern takes such as rich brown cedar, you have a lot of options to pick from. What makes clapboard siding so preferable over artificial siding options is that no two planks are going to look alike. The human eye is very good at spotting small details and you can definitely tell the difference between wood siding and vinyl. 

Each plank has its own unique vein pattern, which means no two houses are going to look the same. Even when covered in paint, clapboard siding looks unique, making for a very visually stimulating exterior design element. 

Vinyl Siding

Why You Should Consider Vinyl Siding

Why You Should Consider Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is one of the most popular alternatives to the traditional wooden clapboard siding that we’re all used to. It was first introduced into the market in the 1950s and it was marketed as a more practical alternative to the often costly wood clapboard. It was a plastic siding that came with its own set of advantages that regular wooden clapboards did not have. And while there are a few downsides that come with installing vinyl siding, there certainly are plenty of benefits as well.

Durability

Why Vinyl Siding Is Durable

Why Vinyl Siding Is Durable

One of the best vinyl siding advantages out there is its durability. This isn’t to say that wood isn’t durable, but it is susceptible to certain issues such as moisture damage, impact, and pest infestations. This can cause the wood to weaken and rot and this is the case with many natural materials out there — not just wood. Vinyl has the advantage of being an artificial material, which means it is not vulnerable to pest infestations, nor does it rot as traditional wood does.

As a result, homeowners with vinyl siding have to worry less about maintenance since the possibilities of vinyl being damaged are lower than wood. Also, even if it does get damaged, thanks to the streamlined design of the vinyl siding planks, they are much easier to install than wood and a breeze to replace when damaged. 

Cost

What You Can Expect to Pay for Vinyl Siding

What You Can Expect to Pay for Vinyl Siding

The vinyl siding cost will vary depending on the size of your home as well as the type of vinyl siding you’re using. To cover 1,500 square feet of exterior wall surface, vinyl siding would cost anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000, which is significantly lower than natural wood clapboard. 

You also need to consider the fact that vinyl siding requires less maintenance than wooden siding.  This means you can save even more money than you would have otherwise spent on replacing broken planks. So, for those looking for more cost-effective siding, vinyl is a great option. It may not look like natural wood, but it will save you a lot of money that would go into wooden clapboard installation and maintenance. 

Appearance

How Vinyl Siding Looks from the Outside

How Vinyl Siding Looks from the Outside

Because vinyl siding is not bound by the natural structure of wood, manufacturers have a lot more freedom to work with when designing each individual siding plank. For example, creating vertical clapboard siding is difficult and can get quite costly. Vertical vinyl siding, on the other hand, is much easier to produce as the manufacturer simply has to make a different type of mold.

The one downside to vinyl siding is that it does look fake, especially when observed from up close. Even though from a distance it may be somewhat indistinguishable from real wood, vinyl can look clearly fake in certain kinds of lighting. If you don’t mind this then it shouldn’t really be a problem, as this option does look aesthetically attractive. However, if authenticity is something you’re after you may not find it in vinyl siding.

Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan