Siding used to be simple because there were only a few choices, but now there are a lot and you really need to be familiar with them in order to make the right decisions. We will cover some of the details, but a site with a great deal of information that is an absolute must to go through is Richmond Virginia Siding.
Lets start with a few of the options you have. You could go with vinyl, brick, brick veneer, stucco, wood bevel siding (pictured above), wood board and batten, engineered wood, metal, stone, stone veneer, and fiber cement just to name a few. You really need to look closely as every one of these to be sure you are getting the very best siding for your home.
You will need to account for the character of the home as well as your own personal preferences before making the final decision. The cost and installation differences between these various options can be considerable. The maintenance involved is different with each one also, so a lot of time should be spent both understanding the choices on-line as well as going to Lowes or Home Depot and looking at the ones they have in stock just to be sure you have a good understanding of them all.
There are a couple, like vinyl or some of the veneers that are more conducive to doing yourself, though there is still a good amount of expertise required to get the old siding off, get the walls prepped with Tyvek wrap and a frame to attach the new siding to, and framing around windows and doors. Once you are clear on what is involved, you are in a good position to make a decision on whether to do the work yourself or hire a contractor.
Mistakes can be very costly. The siding and wrap are protecting the frame of your home from water damage and rot, which is a crucial function. The work must be done with great care to be sure everything is water tight and properly sealed. Unless you are very familiar with the project you are undertaking, hiring a skilled licensed and insured contractor is usually the best alternative.