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House with grey exterior siding
Buying guide

How To Choose the Right Exterior Wall Cladding

The choice of exterior wall cladding is an aesthetic one that must also be appropriate for the climate you live in. Cladding is primarily a protective layer between your home and the external elements. Before you purchase, be aware of any regulations or bylaws in your area that could apply. Here is an overview of the benefits and drawbacks associated with the most popular cladding options.

Features and components

The cross-section diagram below is a standard type of construction in Canada. Even though new materials available may affect the composition of the wall, the layout and sequence of layers would be similar to installing exterior vinyl siding on walls.

  • Schematic showing exterior wall components

Exterior wall cladding

Siding is the exterior finish made of all types of materials - excluding masonry. Among the most popular are vinyl and aluminum siding, wood, wood fibre and fibre cement. Depending on the product and style desired, they can be installed vertically, horizontally or even at an angle.

Masonry includes natural stone, clay or concrete bricks, and all other earth-based materials, such as parging, used as an exterior wall finish for buildings.


The small strips of wood that support the exterior covering are called laths. They also create an air pocket between the exterior finish and the air barrier.

Air barrier

The air barrier material is a waterproof membrane installed between the frame of the house and the intermediate siding, covering the outside of the intermediate envelope so as to hinder air movement through the wall while still allowing any existing water vapour to diffuse back out.

Intermediate siding (also referred to as wall braces)

The intermediate siding is sheeting consisting of plywood, OSB, insulation fibre or insulation panels which cover the wall frame. First and foremost, the intermediate siding acts as a screen against wind and rain, and keeps the structure straight and steady.


Insulation (including polyurethane, cellulose and glass wool) is a material used to create a thermal barrier between the exterior and interior of a building.

Vapour barrier

The vapour barrier is a membrane used to ensure a waterproof barrier between the exterior and interior of the house.


Studs are the vertical elements that make up the inside frame of a wall. They are pieces of wood measuring 2" x 6" and should be spaced 16" apart.

Siding products

Often referred to as flexible coverings, siding includes aluminum, vinyl, wood, wood fibre and fibre cement products. Vinyl outstrips all other siding products in terms of popularity, due to its competitive price and easy installation.

Wood fibre or engineered wood siding is increasingly popular because it looks like natural wood, it's easy to install and durable.

Also in this category: new products made of polyurethane or polymer. Both imitate stone and are easy to install, indoors and outdoors.

Decor note

Different combinations of finishes and siding are possible for the exterior walls of a house. Thus, you can find brick and stone on the façade of the house, and vinyl siding, less expensive to buy and to install, on the side walls. Other combinations are also possible. This depends a lot on the budget and the importance given to appearance/aesthetics, by the homeowner.


Installation techniques vary according to the product. Acrylic coatings, for example, require particular expertise. You can, however, install aluminum, vinyl, wood fibre, treated wood, and wood siding yourself as long as you take certain precautions. You can also replace vinyl siding on exterior walls in the same manner.

If the installation is done horizontally, assembly should produce the same effect as a drip edge to prevent water infiltrations. For vertical installation, the joint covers used where two boards meet should serve to waterproof the installation. 

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Most exterior finishing products do not require any maintenance (such as brick, mortarless bricks, stone, wood fibre panels, treated wood). Only natural wood, except for cedar, requires minimal maintenance we suggest you apply linseed oil every 5 years.

All products with mortar joints should be inspected on a regular basis. Even though the mortar now being produced is highly durable, patching or replacing may be necessary in order to ensure that the exterior finish remains waterproof.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, certain finishes (ex.: aluminum, vinyl, acrylic coating, wood fibre panels) will benefit from periodic cleaning with a soft detergent, particularly in the city where air quality is lower.

Suggested products

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