For new energy-efficient homes and superinsulated retrofits, I prefer steel siding to wood, fiber-cement, and vinyl siding. Wood cracks and cups, hail can destroy vinyl, and fiber cement is heavy and needs painted. Steel is lightweight, easy to cut, and recyclable. There are some tricks to installing it but steel siding isn’t any more difficult to install than the other siding options.
My information from estimating websites and from Means Estimating Guide is that steel siding is about equal in labor and material costs to the more popular fiber-cement siding. I don’t know why anyone would choose fiber-cement over steel though, given that you have to paint the fiber-cement siding. Not only is steel siding factory-painted but the enamel paint is guaranteed for fifty years. Not only is the paint guaranteed for fifty years, a house I used to own has steel siding that is more than fifty years old and still in great shape.
I used steel siding in two superinsulated retrofits that I’ve done in the past five years. Steel siding’s light weight is perfect for installing on top of foam insulation. All the fasteners in a strip of siding are hidden by the strip above. Steel siding has weep holes to drain water that leaks behind it. On one superinsulated retrofit, I removed 15-year-old steel siding and installed four inches of foam underneath it. I bought more steel siding to finish the newly insulated wall and mixed the old siding with the new, which were both the same brand and color. Now you can’t tell which strips of siding are four years old and which are 19 years old.
With the newer superinsulated retrofit, I used steel siding, fiberglass windows with baked-on enamel paint, and a standing-seam white steel roof with steel soffit and facia. Dirt washes off all these building components with cold water. I’ll be 120 years old before I’ll need to think about any exterior maintenance on my home beyond hosing off a little dust.