What Is It? What's the Difference?

Home Inspector with Helm Home Inspections

The following pictures are of three different siding materials that look quite a bit alike.  Knowing what each is and the pros and cons of each may be important when you purchase that next home.


Cement Asbestos Siding
Cement Asbestos Siding 


Asphalt Shingle Siding
Asphalt Shingle Siding 


Striated Cedar Siding
Striated Cedar Siding 


As you can see, each of these siding materials are similar.  The top, cement asbestos has been given a bad rap.  Asbestos is a problem when it is friable (fibres floating in the air where they can be breathed) but as long as it is intact and kept painted, it is one of the best and longest lived sidings ever invented.

The second siding, asphalt shingles, was popular in the forties and fifties (earlier in some farm communities).  This stuff is fairly rare in Whatcom County, but it does exist.  The picture was taken in Bellingham.  It doesn't  last much longer than an asphalt roof (generally in the twenty year range) and doesn't like hot weather because it softens and is susceptible to damage.

The third siding, striated cedar, is pretty common here in Bellingham and is often mistaken for cement asbestos.  It is a quality wood siding that, if maintained properly, will last a lifetime.

Thank you for reading this.

David Helm, Bellingham, Washington home inspector

Posted by

David Helm, Inspector, Helm Home  Inspections Bellingham, Washington  Licensed Home  Inspector #272                                                       WSDA  Licensed Structural Pest Inspector  #69844                                                                                    

Jeffrey Campbell
Campbell Property Inspections - Gardiner, ME
Maine's Home Inspector!



we have all three of these in Maine and people DO get them confused... nice article to identify the differences!


Good Job!

Feb 15, 2009 03:48 AM
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for the comment.  In my classroom work, teaching this stuff to prospective inspectors, I generally take them for a walk and have them identify sidings (from the sidewalk).  invariably, these three get confused for each other.  Once they have seen them and their differences, the students usually never make the same mistake.

Feb 16, 2009 05:43 AM
Paul Duffau
Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington - Asotin, WA
Caring for People, Educating about Homes


I did an inspection for my best friend, a construction engineer, and he has asbestos siding.  We talked about it, pros and cons - the major "con" being disposal issues if you remove it (on the Washington side - Idaho could care less).

He loves the stuff (holds paint better than anything else out there).  My advice to him was to make sure he's not snorting his siding, he'd be fine.  He already knows enough to handle it for minor repairs - most of his projects are demo and re-build commercial jobs. 

Feb 16, 2009 07:09 AM
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Paul, It's only people who don't know who get freaked out about cement-asbestos siding. 

Feb 25, 2009 07:29 AM