The exterior of a house is a big factor in how much maintenance expense a home owner will face as the years go by.

Wood looks great, but it must be painted or stained and is susceptible to rot and termites.

Brick is durable, never needs painting, is fire-resistant and energy efficient, but shifts in the soil and constant contact with rain and snow and can cause cracks in the mortar between the bricks. Re-pointing a house is expensive, so buyers should make sure the seller takes care of any problems with deteriorating brick.

Vinyl siding, if properly installed, is durable and needs little maintenance. Newer vinyls with insulated backing are rigid and energy efficient. From a distance, it looks like real wood. But vinyl tends to fade and can’t be repainted, and some people also think it looks cheap.

Fiber cement is a durable, low-maintenance siding that looks like wood. It resists fire, water and termite damage. It holds paint well and isn’t as expensive as it once was.

Stucco looks like concrete. It’s similar to brick in durability, maintenance and price.

Synthetic stucco applied over Styrofoam has had problems with rot and mold. Anyone interested in buying a house covered with this material should have it inspected by a stucco specialist before buying.

Source: Charlotte Observer, Kathy Haight (10/27/07)