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All About Vinyl Siding

There is no doubt that vinyl siding is the most popular siding material used in North America. It is used on exterior renovations, as shown in Figure 1, additions, garages and new home construction.

house with vinyl siding

Figure 1 - House with vinyl siding

Vinyl siding, according to the manufacturer’s brochures, has many advantages. It is economical and can be installed by a home handyman without the need for any specialized tools or jigs. Vinyl siding comes in a host of different colors and can be purchased with a smooth finish or grained that makes it appear like wood siding, at least from a distance.

But, like many products there are also some downsides to the installation of vinyl siding on your home. It is important that you understand the benefits and the negatives in order to make an informed decision on whether or not vinyl siding is right for you, your family and your home.

Note: Vinyl siding comes in different quality levels, most notably the thickness of the material. If you are obtaining quotes from different installers make sure that you are comparing the same quality of siding with each contractor.

Durability:

Vinyl siding will last for a very long time and many manufactures will provide a limited lifetime warranty. High winds can and have been the demise of vinyl siding as the wind can get underneath the vinyl siding and pull it off the wall, exposing the non protected sheathing to inclement weather. This is not uncommon, especially if the vinyl siding has not been installed properly.

Vinyl siding is relatively brittle and can be damaged by hail and other debris during high winds. As well, walls that have vinyl siding can be damaged by basketballs, baseballs and golf balls.

Note: Vinyl siding can be damaged by the placement of extension ladders against it. This must be taken into consideration if window trims or other wood surfaces will need painting at regular intervals.

Finish:

Vinyl siding does not have the coloring coated on the surface. The color is mixed into the raw materials before it is made. This means that if the vinyl siding is scratched it will not show a different color underneath and hence scratches usually are not overly visible. Although the new manufacturing processes lessen the amount of fading that will occur, over time the vinyl siding will fade and the gloss factor of the siding will diminish.

Note: Because of the fading and loss of gloss if it is necessary to install a replacement panel it will not match the siding that has been weathered.

Note: You can paint vinyl siding. However, if you paint vinyl siding it loses its “maintenance free” benefit as the painted surface will need to be painted in the same manner as any other exterior painted surface.

Maintainability:

Vinyl siding should be washed yearly as dirt and grime will adhere to the vinyl siding and degrade its appearance.

The installation of vinyl siding does not alleviate the necessity of caulking around all trims and moldings.

Vinyl siding cannot be repaired. Individual panels can be replaced. However, as the current siding has been exposed to the elements, the new piece of siding will no longer be an exact match and in many cases be aesthetically displeasing.

Note: When mounting items to walls that have vinyl siding make sure that the item is placed correctly and that it is intended to be a permanent fixture. Removal of items such as hose reels, outdoor flood and spot lights will leave holes in the siding that cannot be repaired.

Note: Vinyl siding can be damaged by the placement of extension ladders against it. This must be taken into consideration if window trims or other wood surfaces will need painting at regular intervals and if it will be necessary to use an extension ladder in order to caulk around window and other trims.

Insulation Value:

As a general statement vinyl siding, even vinyl siding with integral foam insulation will do little to save energy costs. If you additional insulation is one of the reasons you are considering new siding you should consider adding insulation separate from the vinyl siding, either in the walls, or as a separate layer over the sheathing prior to the installation of the vinyl siding.

Installation:

Installation of vinyl siding is relatively simple and requires no special power tools or jigs, although a couple of specialized hand tools are required to do a professional installation. A home handyman should be able to install vinyl siding on his own. However, because of the length of the panels, the project will go much quicker if the handyman has a helper.

Note: Vinyl siding is usually installed horizontally, however vertical and angle installations are possible. Check the manufacturer's specifications to ensure that vertical or angle installations of the specific vinyl siding are allowed and still covered by the warranty.

Note: If you are installing vinyl siding place close attention to any holes that may be required in the siding for air conditioning compressors, garden spigots and light fixtures as it a hole placed in the wrong spot cannot be repaired.

Historic Homes:

If you want to maintain the appearance or if you live in a house that is designated as a historic property then vinyl siding is probably not the product for the exterior of your home. While the vinyl siding may look like the original siding, it will change the overall proportions of the exterior of the home and definitely lower its historic authenticity and value. Most historic associations will not accept vinyl siding in historic home restoration.

Environmental & Health:

Most environmental groups do not support the use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is what vinyl siding is made of. Vinyl has a long lifetime and does not biodegrade.

There are numerous articles on the Internet that pertain to the environmental impact of PVC and possible associated health issues.

Note: Vinyl siding that is installed on the exterior of your home poses no health risks. Health risks that are associated with vinyl siding or PVC only relate to its manufacture, disposal and if it is subjected to high heat - should your home catch fire.

Property Value:

Although most home buyers accept a home that has vinyl siding on its exterior it is generally considered to be an inexpensive or cheap alternative to installing a “quality” exterior finish.

If the current exterior finish is in bad shape, then new vinyl siding will most likely increase the value of the property providing it suits the surrounding homes in the neighborhood. Vinyl siding installed on expensive homes or homes that may be considered historical will most likely decrease the value of the property.