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How To Tell If Siding Is Aluminum Or Steel

Aluminum and steel siding are easy to confuse because they can look quite similar. We've done research on how you can easily tell which is which. If you're trying to differentiate between the two, keep reading for helpful information.

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Using a magnet is the easiest way to tell if siding is aluminum or steel. Magnets stick to steel but don't stick to aluminum, so this should be your telltale sign.

Aside from this, check for the sound your siding produces. Aluminum siding typically has a metallic, hollow sound, while steel doesn't. Additionally, siding that has rusted is probably steel.

Read on to get more information. We've included the pros and cons of aluminum and steel siding, so you know what to expect with each. 

How To Determine If Siding Is Aluminum Or Steel

Magnet attract house

Different factors will reveal if siding is aluminum or steel. It's pretty easy to tell the two apart. The quickest and surest way to tell them apart is by trying to put a magnet on the siding.

Siding that attracts a magnet is steel, because this type of metal contains iron that causes it to become magnetic. Meanwhile, siding that doesn't attract a magnet is aluminum.

You can also try tapping the siding with a coin or other solid item. If the sound you hear seems hollow, the siding may be aluminum. If the sound is metallic but seens solid, it's probably steel.

You can also check to see if there's rust on the siding. (If your siding is brand new, this method won't work.) If you see that rust is present, your siding is steel because aluminum doesn't rust—it tends to corrode.

Pros And Cons Of Aluminum And Steel Siding

Pros and cons of aluminum and steel siding, How To Tell If Siding Is Aluminum Or Steel

Do you need more information on aluminum and steel siding? Even if you've already brought siding, knowing the pros and cons will help you understand what to expect.

Pros Of Using Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding was once very popular but is not often used on homes today. However, that doesn't mean the siding doesn't offer a wide range of benefits if you're using it. Here are some of its pros:

  • Durable: Pests and insects cannot infest aluminum. Also, mold and mildew are unlikely to form.
  • Non-flammable: This type of siding doesn't ignite, so if you live in a place prone to fire or want to ensure that your house is safe, aluminum siding is a good choice. 
  • Can be painted: You can choose from a wide range of colors for aluminum siding. If the color fades, you can safely apply new paint, as it won't affect the siding.
  • Weather-resistant: When the temperature in your area changes, aluminum doesn't react. Furthermore, it doesn't break or crack, even after prolonged usage, because its compound, aluminum oxide, serves as its protective barrier.

Cons Of Using Aluminum Siding

People mostly dislike aluminum siding due to its appearance, which is why many manufacturers make it look like wood or use earth-toned colors. However, this isn't the only disadvantage of aluminum siding. The cons also include:

  • Easily dented and scratched: Aluminum siding is lightweight, so it's easy to dent and scratch it. You can avoid this issue by installing a heavier gauge of siding, like 53-gauge. However, this means that you will have to spend more money.
  • Color quickly fades: This type of siding needs to be repainted at least every 1o years, as the sun can cause it to fade over time. When this happens, the texture of the siding can become chalky. 
  • Noisy: If you live in an exceptionally windy area, you may frequently hear a pinging noise from your aluminum siding. It's normal for this to happen, but it can be bothersome for the homeowner.

Pros Of Using Steel Siding

Unlike aluminum siding, steel siding looks better with various patterns and textures. Along with this advantage, here are some other pros that you should know:

  • Durable: There's little to no chance for mold and mildew to form on steel siding because it doesn't absorb moisture. Additionally, just like aluminum siding, pests and insects can't infest it.
  • Doesn't damage easily: Any debris that might easily damage other types of siding won't scratch or dent steel siding. However, this doesn't mean that it will never get scratched or dented, so you should still be careful with it.
  • Non-flammable: Just like aluminum siding, steel siding is non-flammable

Cons Of Using Steel Siding

Even with its many benefits, steel siding still presents some disadvantages, such as:

  • Rusts easily: Exposure to moisture in an area with a very wet climate or along a coastline will cause rust on steel siding. Also, steel siding exposed to fog or salty air will develop more rust over time.
  • Isn't heat-resistant: Steel siding cannot insulate a home well during summer or periods of scorching heat. If you plan to rely solely on steel siding for insulation against heat, it won't work.

How Do You Install Metal Siding?

Installation of a siding on a house

Metal siding is often made from steel. However, metal siding can also be produced from copper or aluminum. That is why the process for installing steel siding and aluminum siding are similar.

Here's a guide for installing metal siding:

1. Remove old siding

If old siding is attached to the area where you want to install new siding, you will need to remove it. Additionally, if you find holes or cracks, you should repair them.

2. Attach drip cap

Insert drip caps on your doors and windows using nails or siding screws. Be sure to cut the caps to the width where you'll install them with an additional inch for adjustments. You should use a continuous piece for each spot.

The caps should hang over the openings by half an inch on each side. The edges should be cut and bent to make a drip tab.

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3. Install house wrap

From the lowest section of the house, install the house wrap. Staple it on the higher levels using a tack hammer. You can use one staple for every linear foot or one for every two to three square feet of the wrap's edges.

Working from top to bottom, repeat these steps and overlap the wrap for up to six inches. Tape the seams of the overlapped edges.

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4. Attach bottom trim and channels

At the bottom edge of the siding, mark a line and install the bottom trim along it. Then cut its corners at a 45-degree angle. Secure it every 12 inches using siding screws. Then seal the seams where the two pieces overlap with silicone caulk. 

You may have J-channels or C-channels, depending on your manufacturer. Attach the channels on the sides of your door and windows.

5. Put up the siding

Starting from the bottom corner, install the siding. You can slide the siding into the J- or C-channel at the opening and secure it with siding screws or clips.

For siding on corner trim pieces, overlap them by four inches or more and apply silicone caulk at their seams before fastening them. Use silicone caulk around each door or window where the J- or C-channels and siding are attached.

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Which Type Of Siding Lasts Longer?

Which type of siding lasts longer, How To Tell If Siding Is Aluminum Or Steel

Steel siding lasts longer than aluminum siding. Typically, steel siding can around 50 years, while aluminum siding lasts only 20 to 40 years. Note that the lifespan of your siding depends on how well you take care of it.

In Closing

Aluminum metal siding on building

It's easy to tell aluminum and steel siding apart. A magnet will stick to steel but won't stick to aluminum. Also, aluminum siding typically makes a hollow sound, while steel doesn't. Siding that has rusted is probably steel.

Both types of siding have pros and cons. If you have more questions about siding, check out these posts for additional information:

How To Replace Siding On A House [Step By Step Guide]

Can You Paint Vinyl And Metal Siding To Look Like Wood?