As winter comes on, home exteriors across the country are set to take a beating. From cold fall rains to heavy winter snows, exteriors—from the siding down through the housewrap—show their worth.

While there haven't been any earth-shattering changes in the exterior products industry lately, there have been some new products and best practices discussed that are sure to expand your offerings and boost the quality of your work.

BUILDER, a sister publication of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR, recently announced its Reader's Choice Awards, from which James Hardie's HardiePlank siding was named a winner. The low-maintenance siding is popular with builders because it is long-lasting, easy to paint, and comes in a variety of patterns and styles.

Vinyl siding continues to be popular with homeowners also, thanks to easy maintenance and low costs. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, 110,000 homes sold in 2012 were constructed with vinyl siding, which is also the leading replacement material in exterior cladding.

Fiberglass siding is another option for an exterior siding product—albeit more expensive and with a much smaller market share compared with vinyl. Fiberglass siding's look and strength have turned contractors who sell and install the product into zealots.

The Tapco Group also recently announced a new line of vinyl siding under its Foundry Brand, which looks just like real stacked stone. The siding comes in 40-foot panels that are fire resistant. If your customer would like to accent the exterior of their home with real stone, then be sure to show them Clipstone, a no-mortar, no-mess manufactured stone system that's easy to install.

For customers with homes in areas that experience cold winters, try selling them on insulated siding. Just about every major vinyl siding manufacturer produces an insulated siding product, and such products can save homeowners money on their heating bills. But make sure you follow best practices in installing a weather barrier and laying the siding flush against the outer wall. (See the resources offered by the Vinyl Siding Institute regarding insulated siding for contractors.)

The key to installing any of  these products is in the quality of the installation. For those working with housewrap, remember: it's down and out. In other words, you want the upper pieces of housewrap to overlap the lower pieces so you keep the wood underneath dry.

Do you have a favorite exterior product? Got any tips or tricks for installing siding? Share them with us on our Facebook page.