Clapboard siding and vinyl siding are the two most common types of exterior sheathing, especially in North America. Many new home constructions go with vinyl for its low cost and easy installation. However, many older homes have classic clapboard siding because of its traditional look and longer durability.
The debate has been going on for decades about which are better: clapboard or vinyl? In this article, I will compare these two very different materials to see which of them is a better choice for your house’s exterior siding. We’ll go over costs, benefits, maintenance, installation, and more to give you a complete picture of each option before you make a decision.
First let’s learn what exactly these materials are and how they differ from each other.
Clapboard siding is a traditional exterior material made of vertical wood planks secured with nails. It’s called “clapboard” because the boards used to be split by hand, just like clapping your hands together. The most common type of clapboard siding is pine, but many types of wood such as cedar and redwood can also be found on homes today.
As an exterior material, it resists weathering fairly well and only requires occasional painting or staining to protect it from damage against rain and sun exposure. However, if left uncoated for too long it will eventually rot and require replacement which adds to the cost of using this material. Clapboard siding can last up to 50 years with proper care, but should be replaced sooner if it becomes damaged by rot or other weathering.
If you’re wondering why clapboard siding is so much more expensive than vinyl siding, the answer is actually pretty simple. It’s harder to install and takes longer for professionals to put up. Because of this, many low-bid contractors will opt for cheap vinyl siding instead. Because they know there are customers out there who don’t want to pay extra money for quality construction. You may think that vinyl siding would be cheaper than clapboard because it lasts 30 years before replacement. But that’s only if the product itself doesn’t break down prematurely because of poor manufacturing or improper installation.
Vinyl siding is a very different material from wood siding but is still considered clapboard siding by the industry. When people refer to “clapboard” they are usually referring to any type of exterior sheathing. These days vinyl has become more popular than even real clapboard for this reason. Yet many professionals in the construction business will say that real clapboard is far superior to vinyl. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle as we’ll soon see two factors that contribute to each material’s overall value as an exterior sheathing product.
Clapboard Siding vs Vinyl Siding
So which one do you think is better: clapboard siding or vinyl siding? Well, it all depends on what you want from your exterior sheathing.
Staple of home construction
Clapboard has been a staple of home construction for centuries so most homeowners have a strong psychological preference towards this type of exterior material. They enjoy the historic look and long-lasting durability that clapboard offers, even though it is more expensive than vinyl. A downside to choosing real clapboard is that it will eventually need replacement. But many homeowners still consider the benefits well worth the extra maintenance cost.
The biggest benefit to choosing real clapboard as your house’s exterior sheathing is its classic appearance and traditional feel. Many people who go with clapboard siding also choose to use real wood shingles on the roof because it produces a unified look that follows tradition. When you opt for clapboard exterior sheathing your home becomes more valuable simply from an aesthetic perspective.
In addition, the installation process for real clapboard is much simpler than installing vinyl siding. Clapboard doesn’t require any special tools. Because of this, you could even install it by yourself if you have some free time and a strong desire to save money. It would cost less in labor to put up yourself since professionals will charge per hour. Rather than per square foot, but it is recommended that you use a contractor if the project is large enough.
Clapboard also requires less maintenance than most types of vinyl siding over time. For example, real clapboard only needs regular cleaning and painting to protect it against water damage and sun exposure. Whereas vinyl will need to be replaced after about 30 years regardless of appearance and upkeep. If your house were made with real clapboard exterior sheathing you would need to do some basic work every 5-10 years or so. Which may cost up to $400-$600 per job depending on size and difficulty. On the other hand, if your house had vinyl as an exterior material then you would have to spend extra money for new panels every 30 years on average. Which is usually enough time for the vinyl to become stained and damaged.
Initial installation of real clapboard exterior sheathing, however, does cost more than installing new vinyl siding. Installing real clapboard can be done in about 2 days by a professional contractor whereas most new houses with vinyl siding are completed within one or two weeks. Worse yet, some types of vinyl require special tools that require you to hire both a carpenter and an electrician. If your house doesn’t have any of these types of tools already installed. Then it will take several more weeks to complete the job based on the number needed.
Dependency on size of home
The biggest advantage that vinyl has over real clapboard though is price. Depending on the size of your house, real clapboard can cost up to $50 per square foot. This is over three times the price of vinyl. If you need a large amount then this price difference alone can be enough reason to choose vinyl. However, if your house isn’t very large and you don’t mind spending time every 5-10 years to keep it looking nice, then real clapboard exterior sheathing may not be worth it.
The bottom line is that real clapboard siding offers lasting durability and classic good looks at an affordable cost for homeowners who are willing to put in some extra effort every few years. Vinyl is less expensive but will eventually have to be replaced, so there are pros and cons to both.
Vinyl is far more cost-efficient, so unless the clapboard’s aesthetic value outweighs the costs of labor and maintenance, vinyl siding is definitely a better choice.