Siding: Vinyl Siding
Tired of scraping, sanding and painting the exterior of your home? It can be a major undertaking depending upon the size and age of your home and the condition of its siding. As two-income-earning American families become increasingly busier and seek more leisure time as a means of unwinding from the workaday world, the last thing they want is to do battle with their siding. While it’s true that more and more Americans are spending time working on their homes as a source of relaxation, gratification and to save money, when given the choice, decorating and remodeling projects are do-it-yourself favorites that rank well above the painstaking job of restoring a deteriorating exterior. It is this type of project that we would rather leave to a pro.
Either way, caring for exterior siding is a task that can be both time consuming and expensive. Consequently, there has been a boom in more maintenance free exterior materials. The rage is toward products that will last longer and require minimal maintenance. It’s a trend that has impacted many building materials categories including roofing, siding, windows, decorative trim, and decking – to name a few.
In so far as siding is concerned, there are more choices today than ever before. However, there is a clear front-runner when it comes to a maintenance free exterior, vinyl siding leads the pack.
More than one-third of the exterior cladding installed on new and existing homes is vinyl. What makes it so? Affordability, minimal maintenance and, if it’s properly cared for, longevity.
The demand for vinyl siding comes primarily from consumers seeking alternatives to maintenance-intense siding products such as wood and plaster. Some of the appealing features are ease of installation, its resistance to structural pests, such as termites, and the fact that it doesn’t require painting.
Even with its growing acceptance, vinyl siding is still the subject of controversy. Product integrity and lasting quality were once of significant concern, however, technological and manufacturing advancements in the vinyl industry have essentially made this a non-issue.
Today, the debate involves aesthetics. Does vinyl siding offer a home the beauty and character that traditional finishes such as wood, stucco, masonry and stone provide? That, really, is a matter of personal taste. However, the vinyl siding products of late have a low-gloss finish that more closely resembles painted wood. Moreover, most manufacturers offer realistic looking grain patterns and have significantly improved the look and integrity of trim material. Fading and yellowing are no longer an issue with finer vinyl siding products, nor is their rigidity if they are correctly installed.
Vinyl siding is available in varying widths and with smooth or textured panels, with the latter resembling the look of real rough-sawn wood that has been stained. Both horizontal and vertical panels are available — with horizontal being best suited for traditional architecture and vertical offering a contemporary look.
When it comes to minimum manufacturing standards, vinyl siding is subject to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard 3679. Thus, any vinyl siding that you purchase should come complete with this designation on both product fact sheets and packaging. Keep in mind that these are MINIMUM standards. When it comes to building materials minimum standards is not a good thing. Thus, to select a product that exceeds this minimum standard, use the following guidelines.
• Panels should be at least .040 inches thick; .042 to .045 is better. The ASTM standard requires only .035 inches.
• Soffit panels should be about .05 inches thick. Because soffits are suspended horizontally and secured at the edges only, the extra thickness prevents the panels from sagging.
• Look for anti-weathering protection. The warranty is your best clue. Few building products come with the long warranties offered by vinyl manufacturers – 50 years is standard. Some products even come with a lifetime warranty that can be transferred to the next owner of your home.
Unfortunately, most warranties only cover the product and not the labor to replace it.
A contractor’s experience and craftsmanship are essential to a professional installation. While vinyl siding can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer, the vast majority of the product is installed by a professional. Vinyl siding is subject to expansion and contraction from weather conditions, and, therefore, to avoid buckling and other damage, the material must be installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Rigid vinyl siding is made from organic materials and will melt or burn when exposed to a significant source of flame or heat. Precautions should be taken to keep sources of fire, such as barbecues, and combustible materials, like dry leaves, mulch and trash, away from it.
Enough can’t be said about the importance of trim material. It can make or break the appearance of the finished product and the lasting quality of the job as a whole. Only manufacturer-approved trim should be installed as prescribed by the manufacturer.
One of the selling points of vinyl siding is that it doesn’t require painting. In fact, manufacturers recommend that it not be painted. This can be a problem for someone who wishes to change the color of his house somewhere down the road. Therefore, it’s best to select a neutral color that you will be happy with for years.
Even though vinyl siding doesn’t require painting, it is still subject to becoming dirty and soiled. The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), an industry trade association, suggests several methods to clean vinyl siding and remove stubborn stains.
According to the VSI, usually a heavy rain is sufficient to clean the product, or it can be washed with a garden hose. If neither rain nor hosing does the job, the VSI suggests a soft cloth or ordinary long-handled soft bristle brush. For textured surfaces, use only a soft-bristle brush to avoid smearing the stain into the grooves of the texture. When washing an entire house, start at the top and work down to the bottom to prevent streaking.
For difficult-to-remove dirt and stains such as topsoil, motor oil, lithium grease, crayon, felt-tip pen, caulking, lipstick, grass, bubble gum, mold and mildew, the VSI recommends a readily available household cleaner such as Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap, Lestoil or Windex.
Most cleaners are not sufficient for cleaning stains such as pencil, paint, oil and tar. In these cases the VSI suggests using a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as Soft Scrub, Ajax, Bon Ami, etc. The use of any abrasive material, however, could affect surface appearance.
Cleaners containing organic solvents or other aggressive ingredients should not be used because they also could affect the surface appearance of the vinyl. Examples of such cleaners are chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, strong soaps and detergents containing organic solvents, nail polish remover and furniture polish/cleaners.
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