In the San Francisco Bay area, there are 4 or 5 common materials used to cover the exterior frame of a home:
Stucco – A cement materials that is applied to a paper and wire mesh sub-surface. It can have smooth to heavy texture. Typical problem with stucco is a tendency to crack. It can be one of the lowest maintenance materials available.
Horizontal Wood Siding – There are different applications of wood in this manner, it can be installed in a “tongue in grove” or “shiplap” pattern. Wood siding is beautiful building material and a bit higher maintenance given that wood tends to resist paint (another way to say this is that paint never permanently bonds with wood) and failure happens far more quickly than stucco.
Wood shingles – typically made from cedar, shingles are a thin, oblong shaped pieces of wood that are applied to the sides of a home in an overlapping rows. Stain grade Cedar shingles are beautiful. They can produce a gorgeous red/blond patina, they also tend to be one of the highest maintenance home building material. They can leach a black tannin material that run in streaks down the shingle and they also turn grey if not coated properly or regularly. Paint grade shingles can also look beautiful. As a painted element they become less maintenance in terms of how often they need to be re-coated, but when paint failure starts to occur, and depending on how widespread and how much area, it can become labor intensive to remove the failure.
Asbestos Shingles – Still found on homes in the Bay Area, this is a manufactured shingle that can have a wider, oblong shape and be more resistant to weathering than wood making it low maintenance. Asbestos unfortunately is a toxic substance and not the most preferable material for environmental reasons. Painting the shingles is a good way to seal them and prevent any airborne particles.