Stucco versus siding versus brick

lniaFebruary 5, 2012

Hello everyone,

I am curious as to what the opinion is on this forum about using all brick, or brick and some siding, or brick and stucco. We want to minimize long term costs associated with siding so we are thinking of all brick or possibly brick with stucco. I like the idea of using a different material because of the contrast it provides but am also fine with all brick. I realize the home becomes more expensive with brick but we are thinking about the maintenance through the years with siding.



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Just so you realize - hardiplank and similar siding doesn't require much maintenance. It does require paint but in our climate that is once every 10 years or so. So while it is some maintenance, it isn't that big of a deal. We found the breakeven point at the 2nd painting - so 20 years. That is assuming you pay a pro to paint.

Now - vinyl is the maintenance king. We have brick but still a fair amount of trim to paint. It is made of fiber cement (ie Hardi) so it isn't often but it still is there. When you do vinyl siding, you generally do vinyl trim and soffits so you are cutting out a lot of painting. While you can do some vinyl with brick, it isn't done often around here. Obviously vinyl isn't for everyone but if maintenance is your primary concern...

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 7:46AM
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Thanks for the comments. Vinyl won't be option but I will research hardiplank. Should mention home will be in upper midwest with 4 season climate!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 8:40AM
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In a 4 season climate I would try to avoid water reservoir cladding like brick, stone, stucco and fiber-cement siding and instead use pressure-treated southern-yellow-pine (or white cedar) shingles with triple coverage.

With shingles you should omit corner boards and you could even omit window trim with certain kinds of aluminum clad windows.

I have designed too many additions to brick houses to be comfortable recommending it as a cost saving option in the long run. It's the first thing I ask about when a potential client calls. When times were good I wouldn't do those projects. Does anyone remember those days?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:21PM
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Another thing to consider in choosing cladding is the cost of the transitions between materials or, if they are not done properly, the poor appearance of those transitions.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:47PM
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R-8, Am I reading you correctly? Are you saying that pressure-treated southern-yellow-pine (or white cedar) shingle with triple coverage are SUPERIOR to brick, stone, and fiber-cement siding in a 4 season climate???

This really surprises me. I can imagine that white cedar shakes or PT-yellow-pine shakes are probably better than stucco in a wet climate since stucco is really meant for dry climates like New Mexico. I can even imagine that properly maintained shakes might hold up better than improperly maintained fiber-cement. But better than brick and/or stone?

We don't see much shake in my neck of the woods (no woods - LOL!) so I really don't know much about shake siding, but until I read your post, I'd have bet money on brick and stone being the lowest-maintenance, longest lasting siding available for any climate... just not the least expensive in the short run!

What did you see in those additions to brick homes that made you uncomfortable with recommending brick as a cost saving option in the long run? And, approximately how old were the houses you were renovating?

Could you point us to any studies comparing how well the different sidings hold up under different weather conditions? And, how much maintenance is needed to keep each type of siding fuctioning optimally?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 1:02PM
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If stucco is rare in your area you might want to rule that out as it takes experience to get the lathing process right. The lathings underlayments, flashings, weep screed drainage planes are what keeps your verticals dry. If it's a new process for your contractor and they haven't researched the proper installs concerning not only the lathing process, but the mix of the scratch/brown coats, required times for them to set before topcoating, and if a flexible topcoat such as an acrylic or elasomeric used, you could be in for problems down the road. Dont even think about EIFS "stucco" applications.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:15PM
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"and if a flexible topcoat such as an acrylic or elasomeric used,"

Meant to say if an acrylic or elasomeric topcoat isn't used.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:28PM
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On a single-family residence the main advantage of a shingled wall compared to a brick veneer cavity wall is its simplicity. A shingled wall is relatively easy to construct so that it is weather tight but a brick wall is not.

A brick cavity wall is really two walls, an outer one that leaks like a sieve and acts as a water reservoir, and an inner hidden one that acts as a weather/air barrier, drainage plane, and ventilation space because the water has to get out at the bottom through weep holes that are often missing, buried, or blocked by mortar droppings and moisture driven out of the wet bricks into the cavity by the sun needs to get out of the cavity before passing through the highly vapor permeable weather/air barrier, sheathing, and insulation of the back-up wall where it might be stopped by an interior vapor barrier or high perm wall finish and cause serious problems that can be very expensive to fix.

A shingled wall has a primary weather barrier of three overlapping layers of dense rot-protected wood over a secondary air/weather barrier that can be detailed to act as a drainage cavity in an excessively wet climate but since shingles do not act as a water reservoir this is not often necessary.

So, for both of these residential wall claddings, if the materials are well selected, detailed and installed, they should last far longer than you will own your house and require incidental maintenance but in my opinion there is a far greater chance that the shingled wall will be built properly, the initial cost should be lower, and the cost of modifications (for any purpose) should also be lower.

In my opinion, the quality of typical residential brickwork took a bad downward turn in the 60's and another one after the '73 Oil Embargo and again in the developer years of the 90's. It is certainly possible to find a contractor who will provide a good brick wall but from what I have seen just in this forum, homeowners not familiar with brick cavity wall detailing, or who don't hire someone to oversee the work, are too often relying on luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: water management in brick walls

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Thanks for all the feedback. I have decided against stucco based on the advice. We do need to have majority of house brick (subdivision requirement) but will Do some comparisons between the hardiplank and shingles (price, aesthetics, I'll assume shingles win for maintenance.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 7:19AM
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Take the precaution of having someone other than a builder design/review the brick walls and the transition details between brick and siding. When siding is above brick the brick wall should look like a solid masonry structure that supports a wood framed wall so the cladding should overhang or overlap the brickwork with a molding or drip. This looks better and is easier to do at a floor line where the floor can cantilever over the brick wall.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 8:36AM
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This is one of the common developer details you should avoid.

The setback makes it painfully obvious that the brick is only a veneer, excessive water will inevitably enter the cavity through the rowlock sill, the absence of a standard "brick shelf" notch in the foundation at the lowest brick will inevitably allow water to enter the house on top of the slab, and the missing notch also allows too much foundation to be visible.

You need to remember that when water contacts a horizontal tight space it will always be drawn into it. You need to make it work harder to get inside your house.

Here is a link that might be useful: details to avoid

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 8:57AM
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Alex House

How much "safety" effect is created by increasing the size of the roof overhang? The rain shadow effect of overhangs works to keep rain/snow off of walls, to some degree, so is there a point of diminishing returns?

I know that a larger overhang creates additional uplift pressure on the roof so there would be some costs associated with employing a better roof attachment system but I would think that these onetime costs could be recaptured by decreased degradation of building materials on the walls, and in the case or brick, rock, stucco, less water on the walls puts less stress on the water barrier systems.

Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:52PM
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You have to consider moisture build behind the claddings not just physical rain water intrusion, although it would be worse in some areas than others. Wind driven rains would still catch a large part of the wall at the lower level despite larger overhangs and the damage is often worse at the sill/foundation. You also want to consider splash back from the overhangs which you are going to get some amount even with gutters on heavier rainfalls.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 7:21PM
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Alex House

I wasn't positing an either-or situation, where one skimps on wall details and hopes to protect the wall by enlarging the rain shadow effect of the overhand. I was wondering if the "extra insurance" is worth it. The less stress you put on a system the lower the chances of the system failing. For instance, put a wood door right on the front of your house and you'll have to refresh the door after, say, five years due to sun damage, wind damage, rain damage, etc. Put the door under a deep overhand or extended walkway and now it is so deep that rain and sun never touchs it and the finish on the door will last, say, 10 years. Going that route doesn't mean that you don't put a weather finish on the wood door. Same principle with walls - protect them when you can. Wind driven rain will mostly bypass the extended overhangs, but directly falling rain/snow won't hit the walls. Secondly, a system designed to handle x amount of a factor has more slack available to it when it must only handle x/2 or x/3 of the factor.

I'm simply thinking aloud on the question of trade-offs - I wonder how cost effective the trade between extended overhangs and reduced stress on walls/windows/doors would be.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 8:07PM
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Poor workmanship and incorrect detailing, usually through ignorance, will render any exterior surface problematic.

In my neck of North America, brick and stone have been the Number One choice since in the wake of the Great Fire of 1849 wood buildings were banned in the downtown core. (Not that this prevented the even more devastating Great Fire of 1904.)

I know that detailing looked familiar. It's what I used in building my only partially wood-sided home. The architect couldn't convince the owners to go all brick!

The board and batten terminates at a stone ledge. Aluminum flashing is attached
to the sheathing behind the b&b and comes out about 1/2 inch on top of the stone.
Over the roofing, housewrap is used the same way.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:55PM
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