Search for Great Deals on Siding
What are you looking for? (check all that apply) What is your Zip Code?

Tigerwood Siding?

Scott Gibson, Contributing Editor

I am the owner of a 1800s house in Philadelphia. I am replacing the aluminum siding on an extended kitchen nook with Tigerwood, an extra hard Brazilian wood. The company I plan to order it from does not show how to install this as siding, just decking. How do I install it, and how do I maintain its beautiful color? I'm guessing some kind of vertical installation will be required.

Tigerwood is a common trade name for a dense hardwood with beautiful mottled coloration that grows in Central and South America. It's often called Goncalo alves, but it also is sold under other trade and common names.

It may make great decking and fine furniture, but for a couple of reasons it's not used as siding.

Overkill for a wall. Hardwoods like Goncalo alves and ipé, another South American hardwood, are extremely durable. They are a good choice for heavily trafficked decks and floors. But that's not really what you need on the side of a house. Walls are not subject to a lot of wear and tear, so the great durability of these species is not really an advantage.

Hardwood species like these are extremely heavy and dense. They have to be pre-drilled when installed as decking so they won't split. It's not the kind of material that siding installers want to deal with.

They're also quite expensive, and forest practices in that part of the world are not always environmentally friendly. If you do buy this or similar hardwoods for decking or some other appropriate purpose, it should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC uses "chain of custody" to track lumber from forest to retailer to make sure it's harvested in a way that doesn't harm people or the environment.

Finally, this kind of lumber isn't typically milled into tongue-and-groove or beveled profiles appropriate for siding.

Try something made for the purpose. I'm not sure what kind of siding your house originally had, but it could have been beveled siding or even shingles. The siding probably would have been softwood like pine.

If you want to match what was there, you could check with your local historical society for a recommendation. High quality beveled siding and shingles are readily available. If you're interested in the more contemporary look of vertical siding, that's easy to find, too.

Better yet, consider fiber cement siding. It's available as horizontal siding and as shingles and shingle panels, and it has a lot of advantages over many species of wood. James Hardie is one well known manufacturer.

Fiber cement holds paint well and is very durable (warranties run to 50 years). It's also much cheaper than the best grades of clear cedar or redwood and most installers are used to working with it.

Vinyl siding is very popular, too. It lasts a long time and doesn't need much maintenance. But polyvinyl chloride (PVC) carries some environmental baggage that for me outweighs its advantages. Because of its recyclability, the aluminum you're taking down is preferable.
So by all means take a look at Tigerwood when you're building a deck. But for siding, you have better choices.

About the Author
An accomplished woodworker and carpenter, Scott Gibson is the former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, and a former editor at Today's Homeowner and Fine Homebuilding magazines. He also is former managing editor of the Kennebec Journal, a daily newspaper in Maine.

Search Improvement Project