Quick Reference: Siding and Trim

siding & trim quick reference

This article includes abbreviated information on the following categories of siding/trim:

  • Masonry Siding
  • Wood Siding/Trim
  • Fiber Cement Siding/Trim
  • Vinyl/PVC Siding/Trim

Masonry Siding

Masonry includes CMU, or concrete block, brick, stone and concrete.
Best practices for all types of masonry siding:

  • Masonry is not waterproof and hidden water damage can occur when it is regularly subjected to water (gutter/flashing issues)
  • Masonry siding, like brick or stone veneer, should be properly installed with adequate clearances and flashing
  • Gutters should be professionally installed and regularly maintained (because behind the masonry is framing and/or finishes that are prone to moisture damage)
  • Regular maintenance is needed to prevent settling and moisture damage (re-pointing, sealing, grout/crack repairs, etc.)

Solid Block/Brick/Masonry

Most homes have a masonry foundation but typically in our region any masonry observed above the floor framing is only a ‘veneer’- behind the masonry veneer is wood framing.  With masonry veneers the wood framing supports the roof framing- not the brick or stone.  Structural masonry walls above the floor framing that isn’t a veneer is rare in our area and in cold Northern Climates in general because typically a wood framing system is needed to hold the insulation.   ‘Stucco’ homes in our area are typically wood-framed homes- the stucco is only a finish over the wood framing.  True masonry homes in our region are more commonly older homes (Pre-1960)- these were typically brick houses but sometimes block or stone.   When the brick, block or stone is structural it is doubly important to direct water away from the walls and to maintain the grout because the siding is also the foundation walls– missing/deteriorated grout and stepping cracks can cause structural settling over the long-term.  Although masonry is a weather and decay resistant material, masonry can wick moisture to the interior– with inadequate water-proofing, decay and mold can become issues over time.

Brick veneer over wood framing

Brick veneer, also known as ‘anchored’ veneer, is common with Ranch style homes (50s-80s).  Brick veneer is installed over a wood framing system and is supported by metal lintels or the foundation walls– this system is not structural.  Brick veneer has a drainage plane behind it and is meant to drain through weep holes to prevent any water from getting trapped behind it.  It is common for these weep holes to get painted or sealed over time by owners or contractors that are not aware of their function.  Weep holes typically look like vertical slits between bricks– to some it looks like ‘missing’ grout.  Improper installation or poor gutter maintenance can cause issues over the long-term.  Brick veneer is generally a low maintenance and moisture-resistant material however grout maintenance and repairs are occasionally needed and steps should be taken to maintain the gutter system to prevent deterioration like spalling and other water damages.  It is common to find stepping cracks at the upper corners of windows, doors and garage doors and other openings supported by metal lintels.  Large open cracks, leaning veneer walls (wainscots) and other issues should be evaluated by a general contractor or an engineer.

Adhered masonry veneer over wood framing

Adhered masonry veneer over wood framing has been more common over the last couple of decades.  Brick or stone is adhered to wood framing over a metal lath, mortar and water proofing layers.  Improper installation and/or poor gutter installation/maintenance can cause issues over the long-term.  Some examples of installation issues are inadequate clearances from the roof/grade/etc… and a missing or improperly installed drainage systems.  Issues can manifest themselves as leaks/water damage, delaminating masonry, and stepping cracks/settling.  Adhered masonry over masonry foundation walls (below floor framing) generally does not cause issues.

For best practice illustrations for cultured stone see the installation guide by Boral:  CSI-Cultured-Stone®-Drawings-Cross-Sections

Stucco over wood framing

Consumer concerns about stucco are always about stucco over wood framing. ‘Stucco’ homes in our area are typically wood-framed homes in which the stucco is only a finish over the wood framing.   Stucco over masonry foundation walls generally does not cause issues.  As home inspectors we always evaluate stucco over wood framing more carefully because when it is not properly installed or maintained it can sometimes hide water damage to the framing and finishes.

Hard Stucco over wood framing

Most homes with stucco over wood framing after 2001 are ‘hard stucco’– hard stucco over wood framing is generally much less prone to water damage than Barrier EIFS over wood framing (below).  Hard stucco is known for its ‘hard’ surface as opposed to the spongy surface of EIFS systems (see below).  Cracks and other issues with hard stucco should be professionally repaired by a hard stucco specialist.  Hard stucco over wood framing should be properly maintained and should have proper clearances from roofs, patios and other transition areas.  Decks, additions and other non-original penetrations should be professionally installed and flashed to prevent expensive water damages over the long-term.  Hard stucco (over wood framing) is generally a very good material unless it is improperly flashed (especially at decks and other transition areas) or when it is regularly exposed to water (overflowing gutters, grade too high, etc…).

Pre-2000 EIFS over wood framing

Most of the consumer concern about ‘stucco’ is about Pre-2000 ‘Barrier’ or ‘Non-draining’ EIFS.  Residential barrier EIFS or ‘synthetic stucco’ systems installed before 2000 are known to have installation/design defects that may be the source of hidden water damage over the long-term– these EIFS were not designed with a drainage system that could allow trapped water to escape.  Homes with pre-2000 EIFS siding should by professionally evaluated and maintained and in some cases the buyers may need to replace the siding.  Common issues are cracks, delaminating, and visible and hidden leaks/water damage.  Common causes of issues are improper installation/design, improperly flashed decks/additions, and gutter maintenance issues.

Wood siding and trim

Wood siding is vulnerable to decay, wood destroying insect damage, splitting and cupping.

Best practices for all types of wood siding:

  • Premium grades and finishes of wood will last longer than cheaper materials
  • Should be properly installed with adequate flashing and clearances (from ground, decks, patios, etc…)
  • In our area, wood siding should be treated annually for carpenter bees to prevent damage
  • Wood siding of all types should be painted every 5-8 years and stained every 3-4 years.
  • Gutters should be professionally installed and maintained to prevent decay.  Drip edge installed over gutters, kick-out flashing at gutter/wall intersections, and other preventative details help prevent decay.
  • Timely repairs prevent framing damage

See our article for Best Practice Siding/Trim Installation information 

Cedar siding/trim

Cedar is an insect and decay resistant material compared with other types of wood siding.

Spruce/Pine/Fir Siding and Trim

Spruce/Pine/Fir are less decay and insect resistant than cedar and regular maintenance and repairs are needed to extend the service life expectancy.  Premium grades and finishes and regular maintenance will extend the life expectancy of these products.

Finger-jointed wood

Finger-jointed trim is often used at doors and windows and because it is made from young trees is vulnerable to pre-mature decay.  They also sell finger-jointed lap board siding and other products.  Short sections of lesser quality rated spruce/pine/fir wood are joined together with ‘finger-joints’ to make longer pieces and then are pre-primed and sold as an exterior trim or siding product.  It is common to find decayed or dis-connecting pieces of finger-jointed wood trim or siding even after just 10 years.  Buyers of homes with this product should budget for selective repairs and replacement.  We often recommend to replace decayed finger-jointed trim with PVC to prevent further decay.

Plywood siding panels (T1-11) (Older engineered wood products)

Plywood siding, like T1-11, is fairly durable when it is well-maintained and installed.  When it is not regularly painted it is common to see soft/swollen edges and de-lamination– especially near the ground and at flashing/transition areas.  Regular painting and gutter maintenance can do a lot to extend the service life of this product.  Neglect could shorten the life-expectancy to 20-30 years. 

LP SmartSide OSB siding panels (Newer engineered wood products)

This newer product has become more prominent over the last 20 years.  Although it is made from wood strands (OSB), it has proven to hold up well over time because of adhesive resins that are more decay resistant than older wood panel products.  Like all wood siding products, Engineered OSB panel systems like SmartSide are still prone to water damage when regularly exposed to water which is why it should always be properly installed and maintained.

Hardboard or ‘Masonite’ siding (Older engineered wood products)

Hardboard or ‘Masonite’ siding was a first generation wood fiber engineered product that is now known to be more prone to swelling, decay and hidden water damage than other types of wood siding– the manufacturer of this siding lost a class action lawsuit in 1996.  Buyers of houses with hardboard or Masonite siding should budget for replacement or expensive repairs/maintenance over time.

Wood Composite trim (MiraTEC)

Wood composite trim, like MiraTEC, has become one of the most common and popular trim materials over the last decade.  MiraTEC is an engineered wood fiber product that contain more advanced resins and preservatives than earlier wood fiber products (like Hardboard/Masonite).  Although we do not have the benefit of observing how MiraTEC performs over several decades evidence suggests that it is a fairly durable product as long as it is installed and maintained properly.  Like all wood products, if it is regularly exposed to water, it will decay.

Logs (siding)

With log homes the log siding is also the framing and structural system which is why it is doubly important to prevent decay and other issues.  The longevity of the wood depends on many factors including the species of wood, the curing of the wood, proper chinking and finishing, and of course timely maintenance and repairs.  Log homes in our area should be treated for carpenter bees annually and should be re-stained every 3 years.

See Buying a Log Home.

Fiber Cement Siding/Trim

Fiber cement has, over the decades, proven to be a durable siding material.  Fiber cement siding is dimensionally stable meaning that it does not expand and contract like wood does during extreme temperatures- this feature can extend the service life of paint coatings.  Fiber cement is not prone to wood destroying insects or decay but Fiber cement siding can, despite containing cement, deteriorate and become mushy if regularly exposed to moisture.

Best practices for fiber cement siding:

  • Should be properly installed with adequate flashing and clearances (from ground, decks, patios, etc…)
  • Gutters should be professionally installed and maintained to prevent decay.  Drip edge installed over gutters, kick-out flashing at gutter/wall intersections, and other preventative details help prevent decay.
  • Fiber cement siding should be painted every 10 years
  • Timely repairs prevent pre-mature decay

See our article for Best Practice Siding/Trim Installation information 

Asbestos fiber cement siding (older)

Older asbestos containing fiber cement siding has proven to be a durable material but these materials are typically 50 years or older.  Older fiber cement siding (pre-1980s) is likely to contain asbestos fibers which is a health hazard when it becomes friable (crumbled) and air-borne.  Properly maintained asbestos containing siding is less of concern but when homes with asbestos siding are under-going extensive exterior renovations/repairs/additions a specialist in asbestos mitigation should be consulted.

Newer fiber cement siding (Hardie, Certainteed, Nichiha, etc…)

Newer fiber cement siding (within the last 30 years) does not contain asbestos and has superior durability and decay/insect resistance.  Newer fiber cement siding is prone to deterioration when it is not installed correctly or when it is regularly exposed to wet conditions.

Certainteed ‘Weatherboard’ Durapress Fiber Cement Siding

Certainteed Durapress fiber cement siding was involved in a class action lawsuit– the complaints were that the product is prone to shrinkage, warping and cracking due to using a by-product of coal (fly ash) that makes the product more brittle than its competitors.  The product can be identified by identification on the back that says ‘Durapress’ or the following initials of the plant manufacturers:

  • TH (Terre Haute Plant)
  • WC (White City Plant)
  • RR (Roaring River Plant)

These products were installed between 1998 and 2013.  We have inspected a number of houses with this type of siding and although more than typical cracks are observed the siding is typically still serviceable.  We have yet to see how this product will fare over the next decade or two (after 30-40 years)./

Vinyl / PVC

Vinyl siding is not vulnerable to decay or insect damage but it is prone to heat damage from (grills, reflected light from windows, Western Sun/UV) and is also vulnerable to wind-blown impact damage and weed trimmer damage.  PVC trim has proven to be a durable product at exterior doors and windows (where decayed wood trim is common).  Newer higher quality PVC based materials are coming to market which will likely be more UV and impact resistant and will more closely resemble the visual appeal of wood products

Metal Siding/Trim


Aluminum siding/trim is a low maintenance corrosion resistant material that is not vulnerable to decay or insect damage.  Aluminum siding/trim is typically thinner than steel which is why it is prone to dents and impact damage.  Improper installation, especially at doors and windows, can sometimes result in hidden water damage.


Steel siding/trim is is not vulnerable to decay or insect damage and is typically thicker than aluminum siding and less prone to dents and impact damage  Steel siding is more prone to corrosion than aluminum siding which is why is should be painted regularly.  Improper installation, especially at doors and windows, can sometimes result in hidden water damage.

Asheville Siding/Trim Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for Wood siding Inspections, Fiber Cement Siding Inspections, Stucco Home Inspections, Stucco Siding Inspections, EIFS inspections, Metal siding inspections and more in the Asheville area.  We also provide Radon testing, Mold testing, Water testing, Well Inspections, and Septic Inspections.  Schedule online or call with questions.

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