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Exterior Trim Materials That Withstand Elements

When considering trim for your house’s exterior, it’s important to make sure you select materials that are water resistant and hardy enough to make your investment last well into the future. 

Wood is -- and always has been -- a favorite since it is easy to work with, reasonably priced, and paints well. Unfortunately, wood is not what it used to be. Old-growth lumber, which is dense with tight grain patterns that make it durable, is not harvested like it once was. Nowadays we generally get fast-growth, "farm-raised" lumber that is less dense and has a wider grain pattern. The bottom line is popular exterior wood materials such as pine simply do not hold up to the elements like they did in the past. Even with back-priming and priming all cut edges we have seen wood materials start to decay within 18 months of the installation. That is simply not an acceptable application.

Think Past Wood

Many products today have the authentic look of real wood minus the ongoing maintenance issues when used in exterior applications. There are various options available for fascia boards, soffit, mouldings, columns, decking, and other outdoor uses making it possible to have an entire exterior that is extremely durable against the elements while still looking good.

Project using Azek trim boards, Hardie shakes and Hardie trim.. PVC Railing System

We now encourage clients to use alternative materials such as PVC or composite materials. Fiber cement siding and backerboard products such as hardie-board are also good choices. As with any product, they all have their pros and cons; of course, research should be done before your material choice.

An overview for today’s products: long-lasting durability with less maintenance generally tops the list of positives while the negative cited most often is the higher price. Let’s look at a few viable options.

  • Cellular PVC trimboard comes with either a smooth or natural wood grain finish that closely resembles cedar but outperforms wood in most exterior, non-structural applications. This choice will not rot, splinter, delaminate, or swell excessively due to moisture. There’s no need to paint PVC for performance, but if you want to, the paint will typically last for years. Since PVC is resistant to both insects and moisture, you won’t have to worry about repairing or replacing trim. While the initial cost may be higher than traditional wood, your investment will pay for itself in just a few short years because there will not be the maintenance necessary with wood. Kleer Lumber and Azek Building Products are two of our favorites for this category.
  • Cellular PVC core decking is another winner. It’s durable enough to last many years while resisting mold and mildew and without the need to be refinished regularly. With PVC you can also clean most spills with soap and water without leaving a stain on the deck. Again, you have the look of wood with a high level of scratch and stain resistance that can’t be found with wood or wood-plastic-composites. Again, we recommend the product lines of Kleer Lumber and Azek Building Products along with Trex and Timbertech
  • Composite trim product lines also boast the beauty of cedar with the long-lasting performance of an engineered product. Because it is not hardboard, this trim will not delaminate, and is moisture, rot, and termite resistant. Composite trim is actually more cost-effective over time than redwood, cedar, fir, or poplar, while also lasting longer and holding paint better due to a mildew-resistant primer applied at the factory. This is an ideal choice for applications comprising dentil trim, gables, corner posts, porch trim, fascias, windows, doors, column wraps, decorative trim, and other non-structural architectural elements. We like MiraTEC for exterior composite trim.
  • Hardie-board siding -- also known as fiber cement board and cement board siding -- is definitely one of the most versatile, longest-lasting exterior sidings available. This product offers a wide variety of planks and colors, complemented by diverse textures to give your home a unique look -- even if your next-door neighbor has also installed hardie-board. Akin to the way this product withstands extreme amounts of bathroom water, heat, and steam, exterior hardie-board siding stands up to extreme temperatures and weather including rain, wind, hail, and flooding. It’s hard to imagine an exterior wood siding could stand up as well. Plus, this siding comes pre-primed and ready to paint, saving a big step in the painting process -- in addition to your time and money. However, many homeowners opt to simply buy hardie-board from the pre-painted color selections. The refinished material is ready for installation and requires no painting.

Fiberglass/composite columns

Keep your options open. Think beyond wood for your home’s exterior decking and trim choices. By investing a bit more today you can relax further into the future as your materials last and last with minimal maintenance. It all pays off in the long run.

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