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How to Get the Look of Cedar Shakes and Never Paint Again

Our “Why You Should Fake It” series launches today with vinyl shake siding that, unless you lick it, is a dead ringer for cedar.

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Vinyl cedar shakes on a home

These vinyl shakes look exactly like cedar, but at a fraction of the price. Image: Yuriko Hirsch, Designer

Fake used to be an ugly word, but not anymore. Beginning today, we’re celebrating fabulous fake finishes that give you the look of luxury for the price of pressboard in our “Why You Should Fake It” series.

First up: We’re talking about vinyl shakes that look so much like cedar you have to sniff them to tell the difference. Next up, tomorrow: We’re talking about sticky-back film you’d easily mistake for sheets of stainless steel. Later: Electric fireplaces that’ll warm up your love life.

Is it real? Or is it faux? Do you really care, so long as no one else can tell the difference?

Is there a product or material you want to know about? Just leave us a comment below.

Our first fake find: vinyl shake siding

Say “vinyl siding” and that white, shiny stuff on double-wides and tract housing comes to mind.

But today’s vinyl — the country’s top-selling home siding — mimics high-end building materials, such as cedar shakes, for a fraction of the price of the real deal.

Who knew?

Evidently, Los Angeles designer Yuriko Hirsch knew. Hirsch wanted to use real wood shakes to clad the custom house she built five miles from the Pacific Ocean. But California’s air quality regulations have robbed paint of its staying power. And ocean air, Southern California sun, and Santa Ana winds threatened to eat the wood siding if Hirsch didn’t repaint it every couple of years — more preventative home maintenance than Hirsch wanted to do.

So, she used vinyl shakes instead.

View of the Hirsch's house from the street

She selected CertainTeed‘s Cedar Impressions Polymer Shake Siding, but Novik and Cedar Shingle Direct makes faux cedar shake siding, too.

Vinyl is:

  • Resistant to the elements, including termites
  • One-third the price of wood shakes — $2 to $6 for vinyl (installed) compared to $15 to $20 for wood.
  • Available in hundreds of colors, rather than the tepid pastels of yesteryear.

“We won’t ever have to paint the exterior,” Hirsch says.

Vinyl cedar shakes on side of house

The one thing that Hirsch did worry about is whether vinyl shakes would look like real wood siding, or if new neighbors would sniff at her “plastic house.”

She could have chillaxed. Today’s vinyl siding has loads of personality, because fake shake manufacturers transfer the grain and texture of real cedar boards onto the vinyl replicas. Even home inspectors are fooled.

Downside of vinyl? You’re stuck with the color forever because you can’t paint it. So think hard about the hue you choose.

Vinyl cedar shakes on the Hirsch home

Check back tomorrow when we tackle the look of stainless steel for less.

What imitation material or faux products would you like to know about?

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordon

is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.

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