The primary purpose of siding is to protect a building from the elements -- mainly precipitation and the negative effects of moisture. However, it also serves an aesthetic purpose and can dramatically affect the value of a home. According to the Minnesota Sustainable Housing Initiative, siding should be chosen based on its overall costs, maintenance requirements, aesthetics, durability and environmental impact. Cement, stucco and brick have different associated costs.
Overall Costs of Cement
Cement, or cement-fiber siding, is a 21st-century replacement for cement siding products in the 1970s that used asbestos. Cement-fiber siding consists of cement and 8 percent to 10 percent wood fiber. The average material and labor costs for this siding are between $2.31 and $2.75 per square foot. Ideal maintenance consists of repainting every five to seven years with an alkali-resistant paint and detailing sealants and joints to maintain tight water seals. With good maintenance, fiber-cement siding is expected to last at least 50 years. Though fiber-cement siding is initially more expensive to purchase and install than other options -- such as vinyl, which costs, on average, between $1.75 and $2.06 for materials and labor per square foot -- its lifetime costs are lower. This is because fiber-cement lasts longer and requires relatively little maintenance. The expected cost of fiber-cement siding per square foot per year is 5.1 cents; the same expected cost for vinyl is 7.6 cents.
Overall Costs of Brick
Brick carries one of the highest initial costs for purchase and installation, averaging between $9.70 and $15.30 per square foot for materials and labor. This is due to the elevated cost of required materials and the fact that an expert mason needs to install it. Primary maintenance consists of making sure the grout and joints, where water could leak into the building, are functional. Brick can easily last 100 years or more if it is well-maintained, keeping its average cost per square foot per year of expected life at 7.8 cents. That cost goes down for every year it lasts over 100.
Overall Costs of Stucco
Stucco costs an average of $4.18 per square foot for initial materials and labor. As with brick, materials are expensive, and expert installation is required. While maintenance is low and small cracks in the facade can be repaired by the homeowner, large cracks need to be dealt with immediately by an expert. If they are not, moisture will inevitably leak into the framing, causing irreversible damage. Stucco can last 75 years or more if properly maintained, so its average cost per square foot per year of expected life is 7.5 cents.
Environmental Costs of Brick, Stucco and Cement
To many builders and homeowners, the environmental costs of a product are just as important as its financial costs. The production of brick and steel siding generates the most pollution of all popular siding choices, while fiber-cement comes in third on that list. Brick and steel also generate the most carbon dioxide in their manufacturing process, and brick has the highest total embodied energy -- at least initially. When accounting for the longer lifespan of brick, however, its carbon dioxide emissions and total embodied energy are comparable to vinyl siding over time. This is because vinyl typically lasts one-third as long as brick. Stucco is somewhere in the middle of siding options when it comes to environmental impact. It does not generate as much pollution as fiber-cement or brick, but 21st-century stuccos often use polymer and other chemical additives that can be harmful. Brick, stucco and fiber-cement all have the potential to be ground up and reused, though few programs are available for this.