i own a house built in 1930. it's a center hall colonial. looking at it from the front, the first floor is stone venere (though fairly thick venere), and the second floor is cedar shingles that looks like clapboard (i've been told that it's called "perfection cedar" and supposedly they are unusually thick). the roof is vermont slate that kind of matches the color of the stone venere.
my question: the house is not insulated at all and the windows are old. i need to move / enlarge some windows, replace other windows, and add insulation. my contractor is suggesting removing the old shingles, insulating via blown cellulose and foam boards on top of the sheathing, and replacing the shingles with hardieboard. insulating the stone part will be trickier and may require blowing in cellulose from the inside.
supposedly leaving the cedar siding on the house would make insulating / dealing with the new windows much more difficult.
does anyone have any comments on this approach? i'm a bit concerned about what a house would look like -- half stone, half synthetic siding material with a slate house. at the same time, i think it's extremely important to have a well insulated / comfortable house.
Hardie board, if properly installed, does not look synthetic. If you paint it, it will look just like wood clapboard. I for one favor the smooth board as opposed to the board with the wood-like texture which I think ironically makes it look instantly fake. We added an addition to our previous house, which was a 1934 wood clapboard bungalow and we did the addition in Hardie board. It was impossible to tell what was wood and what was Hardie when it was finished.
You contractor's main concern is that when you pull old shingles off it's very hard, and often impossible, to do so in a way that renders them reuseable. Shingles are by their very nature a labor intensive installation and so that is something to consider, and your contractor is probably experienced with Hardie board and has confidence in the material and his ability to install it properly. He is certainly correct that it will be easier to do the insulation and window work with the shingles off. The Hardie board is for all intents and purposes permanent so from a cost and value perspective it is the clear winner.
All that said, if you really like the look of the shingles, and you're willing to pay the price to keep them, go for it. If well cared for they last a looooong time.