Vinyl siding already offers homeowners a low-maintenance product with good looks, an array of color selections, and rugged nail hems. Recently, several manufacturers have added yet another appealing feature -- a foam backing that enhances aesthetics, increases energy efficiency, and strengthens durability. Three manufacturers -- Crane, Norandex/Reynolds, and Resource Materials Corp. -- now offer vinyl siding backed by a laminated foam panel, a category loosely defined as insulated vinyl siding. According to these manufacturers, the panels have an R-value of 3 or more, increasing the home's energy efficiency and insulating exposed framing studs. In addition, insulated siding offers up to 300% more impact resistance and a lower sound transmission rating.

Most important, the insulated panels are more rigid, contributing to a solid, wood-like feel and improved aesthetics. "Because it's so rigid, it will allow [installers] to straighten out a crooked wall," says Mike Kern, executive vice president of Resource Materials Corp.

So far, insulated vinyl siding manufacturers are seeing increased success with product introductions and expect growth to continue. With more homeowners demanding cladding that requires little upkeep, products that combine chore-free living with energy savings and enhanced aesthetics are sure to be big sellers.

This story originally appeared in BUILDER magazine, a sister publication of REMODELING.

Nichiha. Newport Brick fiber-cement siding panels offer the look of fresh-cut brick, with clean lines and sharp corners, the maker claims. Four color combinations are available: red-buff, red-red, rose-buff, and rose-red. The siding is installed with no exposed fasteners. (866) 424-4421.

Crane. Designed to complement the company's wood-look insulated vinyl siding, Solid Core Architectural Essentials trim and moldings are 300% more impact resistant, carry an R-value of 4, and are Energy Star rated. The line includes 5- and 31/2-inch window lineals, corner connectors, and crown molding in Aspen white, driftwood, country beige, pearl, and clay. (800) 366-8472.

Owens Corning. The Independence Collection of vinyl siding features the company's TruColor technology, which minimizes heat retention and increases resistance to fading. The siding, which offers the look of freshly painted wood, comes in 4-inch traditional and 5-inch Dutch lap panels. Seven colors are available. (800) 438-7465.

Mitten Vinyl. Part of the Estate Series, Board amp; Batten vinyl siding offers the look of stained wood with a rough-sawn woodgrain texture. The panels are .048-inch thick and carry the company's Lifetime Plus transferable warranty. (800) 265-0774.

Nailite. The company's RoughSawn Cedar and Hand-Split Shake lines of vinyl siding are now available in three Country Classics premium colors: barn red, forest green, and denim blue. The polypropylene panels are durable and UV-resistant. (305) 620-6200.

LP. Designed to coordinate with the company's SmartSystem family of cladding, SmartStart engineered wood trim and fascia offer the look of wood but resist splitting, cupping, and bowing. The products, which come in common sizes and in 16-foot lengths, feature square edges and are free of knots and voids. (800) 648-6893.

Cedar Valley Shingle Systems. Hatteras Western red cedar one- or two-course cedar panels are designed to be installed at the same speed and labor cost of lap siding. The mixed-grain shingles offer a distinctive textured appearance and are applied to a panel with traditional-looking 1/8-inch open keyways. The primed panels are 8 feet long and have a 5.3-inch shingle exposure and a butt thickness of 1/2 inch. (800) 521-9523.

Revere. Sovereign 16 vinyl siding comes in extra-long 16-foot, 6-inch panels, reducing the number of seams by up to 30%, says the firm. The siding withstands winds up to 217 mph with 13/4-inch ring shank nails and features a .046-inch thickness, full-roll nail hem, the Advantage Lock system, and a 3/4-inch butt height. Two styles and 13 colors are available. (800) 548-4542.

ABTco. QuickLap hardboard siding is precisely engineered to create a uniform and dimensionally stable siding panel, says the firm. The rigid 1/2-inch panels lay flat on the wall, with shiplap edges that make it easier to install the next layer. The siding features a deeply embossed cedar-grain texture with bold shadow lines. (800) 566-2282.

WeatherBoards. WeatherBoards Stain fiber-cement siding offers the look of stained wood without the maintenance. The 100% acrylic latex stain highlights the siding's deep grain patterns and is guaranteed not to crack, peel, or flake. The siding features the FiberTect Sealing System to protect against moisture. (800) 233-8990.

Alcoa. Grand Sierra vinyl siding is now available in seven new cedar-look colors: glacier blue, Cape Cod grey, Aspen grey, natural cedar, woodland green, timber stone, and American walnut. The siding features weather-resistant polymers and Kynar 500 to retain color, offers a .046-inch nominal thickness, and can withstand winds up to 190 mph. (800) 962-6973.

CertainTeed. New to the Cedar Impressions line of vinyl siding, 10-inch Random Hand-Split Shakes offer the texture and shadow lines of real hand-split cedar shakes, the maker says. The panels, which come in 10-foot lengths, feature a random edge pattern for a realistic look. (800) 233-8990.

James Hardie. Harditrim fiber-cement trim boards are offered in both smooth and rustic grain textures and can be painted. The boards are low maintenance and are impervious to rot and insects, the company says. (888) 542-7343.