Exterior siding is the protective shell that covers the house from weathering damage. It keeps people and the things they own safe from the elements. As it turns out, exterior siding has a long and varied history and has evolved into an engineering marvel. It started relatively simple, from straw thatch and hardwood sidings to modern aluminum and steel. Innovation is the name of the game, and exterior siding has been innovated for millennia.
We hope we’ve piqued your interest. Take a look at the history and evolution of residential exterior siding below.
The Ancient Times
As it turns out, brick is the earliest used material for exterior siding. Our ancestors used it as far back as 7000 BCE in Turkey. It all began when clay blocks were accidentally left out to dry from shaping. The practice of using it as exterior siding quickly spread like wildfire.
Ancient Egyptians made bricks by mixing straw with clay. Aztecs did something similar. The evidence of brick is found worldwide across all ages, from the Americas to Mohenjo-Daro. There are even paintings of enslaved Egyptians tempering, mixing, and carrying clay into sun-dried bricks.
Unfortunately, the brick manufacturers then relied on the weather until 3000 BC. After that, the Romans started firing lay bricks in earthen kilns. This increased the bricks’ integrity, causing the brick-firing method to explode in popularity.
In the Baltic region, we find bricks used to build structures. After the Baltic people crossed the Atlantic, they had brick masons with them. In Virginia, we see bricks being used as early as 1611.
Thatch was another ancient method used for walls. It started gaining popularity during the advent of domestication, which is the reason why dry vegetation is used—it’s homegrown. Water reeds, long straws, and combed wheat reeds are popular materials used in thatching. Palm leaves are also used. You can see this in the thatchers that combine palm leaf roofs with reed walls. Thatching is done in various methods and has been passed down throughout the generations.
Using stone as siding isn’t new. The Roman Colosseum, Stonehenge, and the Egyptian pyramids were all made from stone, and we see modern stone siding making its first appearance in the late 1800s. In the 1940s, different technologies made stone much easier to manufacture and transport. As a result, the utilization of stone veneer popped up as a common exterior siding option. It’s still a popular choice for modern builders to this day.
We’ve used wood as an exterior siding material for hundreds of years. You can see them used in Georgian-style mansions and log cabins. While wood was initially used by early settlers, once the transportation costs of brick started to rise, builders turned to wood instead. Trees are always available right away, and they are typically nearby the house being built, so it’s easy to source materials.
Once the Industrial Revolution took place, brick-making machinery was on the rise, causing brick to explode into popularity again. A brick-making machine creates twice as many bricks compared to sourcing trees for wood, and is typically built much cheaper and quicker overall.
How Modern Materials Stack Up
So here we are. Today, manufacturers create many siding materials and siding companies them. So, what are these materials, and how do they impact housing today? Check out some of our picks for the most popular sidings used by modern homeowners.
Today, we make brick through an extrusion process that forces low-moisture clay into molds that are cut and set into small sections to form blocks. From there, they’re fired at high temperatures, which makes them more uniform. Bricks were popular a couple of hundreds of years ago but waned in popularity since. This is simply because transporting them over far distances cost more money than wood, which was far more affordable. This trend continues to this day.
Brick siding has a ton of benefits. It’s fire-resistant and can lower the premium of your homeowner’s insurance. When installed properly by a trained mason, it’s unaffected by moisture, as bricks have high water retention rates and can release water without siding damage. Bricks are naturally durable, but they can be expensive. Furthermore, since installing brick siding requires skill and precision, it can be difficult to find a competent mason capable of laying bricks properly. However, given the durability of bricks, when you can find a mason, you can rest assured your siding will protect your home without damage for years to come.
Stone is another incredibly durable material. It’s water-resistant and doesn’t decompose when it’s exposed to harsh weather over time. It gives homeowners a natural look and ruggedness, but many stone manufacturers use dense polyurethane as fillers for cost reduction.
Stone is expensive, and you’ll need to hire a specialty mason to do the job. This isn’t something you want to try and tackle on your own. On the other hand, stone veneer is more affordable and gives you the look and feel of stone, though it lacks the durability of regular stone. When we talk about the evolution of exterior siding, we would be remiss not to mention stone.
Modern wood siding gives homeowners a ton of attractive options. Homeowners can customize their homes with various finishes, stains, tree species, colors, and styles. Wood is environmentally friendly as well. It doesn’t emit pollutants, as well as being a renewable resource that’s biodegradable; it can also last for decades. Wood siding is where the magic happens if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option.
However, wood siding costs more both to install and maintain. You have to restrain and repaint it every couple of years. You’ll also have to combat pests and termites. Because of this, it may be wise to plan an annual pest control inspection for your siding.
Modern aluminum has great insulating properties, saving homeowners a ton of money on heating and cooling bills. It’s also lightweight and saves you time and labor due to its easy installation. Of all these options, it’s the most affordable choice. It’s also unaffected by extreme cold, unlike vinyl, which has a brittle texture in extreme environments, making it prone to warping and brittleness. That said, aluminum siding dents and scratches easily, and it’s difficult to mix and match colors if one of your panels is damaged. This is because aluminum fades over time in the sun.
This has been an overview of the history of ancient and modern exterior siding. We assume you might be interested in some new options if you’ve read this far. If you need your siding, roofing, or a variety of other services, we have them at Pro-Home Services. Shop our selection at Pro-Home Services today!