Modern Exterior Materials on a Modest Budget

"Is modern design scaleable?" 

When we started this process that was our biggest question. We toured many stunning modern homes... with crazy amounts of square footage chock full of expensive materials.  Could we build an equally attractive (and smaller) modern home on a more modest budget? 

Can being selective with exterior materials help your bottom line?

As we worked through the construction process, we realized that often the actual material cost is only part of the equation.  Finding skilled tradesmen willing to install a non-traditional material is another. Additionally, special materials can mean 'special order' and that can cause delays in the project schedule if not processed ahead of time.   

It's really a balancing act of each of those factors- Cost, Labor and Time.

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Our Materials:

  • James Hardie Artisan Siding
    • Fiber Cement Lap Siding, 5/8" thickness
    • Paintable
    • Thicker than typical siding and creates a stronger shadow line below each board for more dramatic appearance.
    • Can be mitered at outside corners or joined with a cap like we used.
    • More durable than wood
    • Approximately $12-18/SF
  • HardiePanel Vertical Siding, Smooth Finish
    • Fiber Cement boards
    • Paintable
    • Installs quickly.
    • Approximately $4-6/SF 
  • HardieTrim Boards, Smooth Finish
    • Paintable
    • Extra thick to match the depth of the lap siding
  • Tamlyn XtremeTrim
    • Aluminum Vertical and Horizontal Reveals
    • Paintable
  • Exterior Sheathing (carport and porch ceilings), painted
  • Cedar 4" Lap and Gap siding
    • Natural Wood, smooth sawn
    • Stain
    • Can source from your local lumber yard.
    • Approximate $4-7 SF 
  • Concrete
    • Used for walk ways, driveway, patio, porches and carport
  • El Dorado Longitude 24 Engineered Stone in Silent Grey
    • We had wanted to use this in the back of the house on the exterior of the fireplace wall.  As the design of our fireplace/ back patio evolved, we choose to save the money and eliminate this material from our pallet.  I am including it here because aesthetically, it is a perfect fit for this pallet of materials. We may come back to it in the future as we come back to develop that outdoor space more in years to come. 
    • Approximately $7-8/SF and $11-12 for corner pieces.
    • This is a longer lead-time item.  
    • Mix with El Dorado Zen 24 Engineered Stone in Nickel

Budget-Friendly tips:

  • Use your most expensive material judiciously.  Make it bold and a little can go a long way.
  • Use less expensive materials on less visible portions of the house.
  • Work in Phases.  Plan for bigger ticket "wants" from the beginning but install them at a later date.  Maybe add that stone fire pit in a few years, like we aim to do.
  • Choose items that can be sourced locally. You'll save on shipping costs.
  • Order special materials or trim pieces ahead of schedule to keep your project moving forward without delays. 
  • Work with your General Contractor to find experienced tradesmen skilled in more modern construction practices if you can. They will work more efficiently and make fewer mistakes if they are familiar with where to source materials and specialized installation methods.  All of this means, less wasted time and wasted materials! 
  • Don't always go with the lowest bid!  Remember the adage "Good work ain't cheap. Cheap work ain't good."

Love our color scheme?  Details in our post about Exterior Paint.

Amanda Croft

The Woodlands, TX