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Vinyl House Siding
Vinyl siding is one of the most popular choices for exterior home siding in the United States. It was introduced in the 1950's and has steadily captured more and more of the market share for exterior siding products due to its relatively low cost, low maintenance requirements, ease of installation and durability.
Originally, vinyl house siding products had some issues and weren't always an attractive or durable option, but with advances in technology, newer vinyl siding choices no longer have some of the problems of older versions, such as cracking, fading, discoloration or sagging. New products are fade resistant, moisture and mold resistant, insect resistant and fire resistant. They require virtually no upkeep to maintain their beauty and last for many years.
Vinyl House Siding Options
Although there are other siding choices that offer beautiful options, such as stone, wood and stucco, vinyl house siding offers a much more affordable alternative with a wide variety of looks and color choices. Of course, there are still people that are do not like the look of vinyl siding. Some prefer the look of natural wood clapboard siding even though it costs more and requires more maintenance and others prefer options such as stone, brick or masonry, even though these again are more expensive options but offer a different look. There are also those that are concerned about the composition of vinyl siding, whether it is good for the environment and safe to the health of homeowners, and whether it will stand up to the rigors of the elements of nature.
When choosing an exterior siding option, it is best to research all available options and to take into account your personal tastes, the architectural style of your home and neighboring homes, how much maintenance you are willing to do and your overall budget. Vinyl siding offers a wide variety of options to please many homeowners and falls within most people's budgets much more easily than many other siding options. Below is detailed information about vinyl siding, including both benefits and drawbacks, so that you can make an informed choice about whether vinyl siding is the right choice for your home.
What is Vinyl House Siding?
Vinyl siding is made of vinyl, which is basically plastic. It is created by a chemical reaction between ethylene gas and chlorine, which creates a fine white powder. This powder is called vinyl resin and the resin is combined and mixed with other additives and then melted to create a compound, vinyl, which can be used for a vast array of products. When the vinyl resin is used to create vinyl siding, the resin is extruded through a machine that can produce panels of almost any length and finished panels are typically more than four feet long. The resin for vinyl siding panels is usually molded using a more expensive plastic, called polypropylene, so that the finished panels can have detailed patterns on them.
Most vinyl siding is manufactured using a core of re-melted vinyl that has been top coated with a mixture of "virgin" vinyl. "Virgin" vinyl means that there is a greater composition of key additives in the resin so that it is a higher quality. Virgin vinyl offers added flexibility and resists fading better.
One important determination of the quality of vinyl siding relates to how thick it is. Most vinyl siding is between .35 and .55 inches thick. Usually the thicker the panel is, the higher the quality and the higher the price. Thicker panels are typically more durable than thinner panels and resist sagging better once installed. Read more on vinyl siding thickness.
How Durable Is Vinyl House Siding?
Vinyl siding, despite its relatively low price, is an extremely durable product. The color of vinyl siding will last much longer than a siding option that is painted, the siding won't dent like aluminum siding, and unlike wood siding, vinyl siding is resistant to moisture, mold and insects so it won't rot or deteriorate like wood can over time. In fact, vinyl siding is one of the most durable options of any type of exterior siding on the market. The thicker the vinyl panels, the more durable the product usually is. Most vinyl siding can withstand extremes in weather include temperature changes and relatively high wind speeds. There are some brands of siding that will even withstand hurricane force winds if installed correctly. Most quality vinyl siding manufacturers offer an extensive and long warranty to back up their claims of how durable their products are.
How Is Vinyl House Siding Installed?
Vinyl siding is a product that can expand and contract due to temperature changes. For
that reason, vinyl siding is never nailed directly to a home's exterior. All vinyl siding panels contain nail hole slots at the top of the panels and the panels are nailed to the house using the nail hole slots. The slots provide excess room so that the vinyl panels can move slightly, if necessary. Vinyl siding is also not tightly nailed and a slight bit of room (about 1/32 of an inch) should be left between the panel and the nailhead to allow the panel to move freely. When installing vinyl panels, approximately ¼" of space must be left on edges to allow for expansion and shifting due to temperature variations. Panels lock into one another in a horizontal pattern, and panels should hang loosely and must not be forced tightly against each other when installed. Since vinyl siding can expand or contract by as much as 5/8" due to changes in temperature, it is important to install the vinyl siding panels correctly so they do not crack, warp or buckle.
One drawback to vinyl siding installation is that siding panels must overlap each other by approximately an inch when installed. This overlap makes the seams more noticeable, so it is best to try to locate the overlap of panels in areas that are less noticeable (such as away from the front door or near a bush). Seams should be staggered by at least four inches from row to row.
There are a variety of moldings and trim that are available when installing vinyl siding that are used to cover the ¼" space that is left on all edges and around doors, windows and under eaves. These trim selections provide a more finished look to your vinyl siding installation project. J-channel is used to cover the space around windows and doors, inside and outside corner moldings can cover the spaces at the corners and other utility trims can finish off spaces under windows and eaves. Many vinyl siding manufacturers also offer additional accessories and trim coverings, such as crown moldings, soffits and rake boards. These options provide added design elements to the finished product.
How do I find a good contractor to install vinyl siding?
If you are not ready to tackle the installation of vinyl siding on your own, there are many contractors that can do the work for you. It is important to find a skilled and reputable contractor and to ensure that they correctly install the vinyl siding according to the manufacturer's specifications to get the longest wear and best look from your vinyl siding installation. Often, manufacturers provide certification programs and installation education programs that local contractors can take. Be sure to ask whether your contractor is certified, and check to make sure that there are no complaints that have been lodged against the contractor. Ask for references or homes that they have previously worked on so that you can see their work. Also, check that they have insurance. Often, getting a recommendation from a friend or neighbor or someone you trust is the best way to find a reputable contractor. Remember that cheaper isn't always better when it comes to contractors!
How Should Vinyl Siding Be Cleaned?
Vinyl siding is virtually maintenance free, but in order to keep it looking its best for many years, it pays to periodically clean it so that it doesn't build up a layer of dirt and grime to dull its finish. One way to clean vinyl siding is by mixing three parts vinegar to seven parts water and brushing the solution onto the vinyl siding using a soft bristle brush. This will help remove any mold, mildew or dirt on the surface of the vinyl. Another option is to create a solution using 1/3 cup of laundry detergent, 2/3 cup of powdered household cleaner, 1 quart of liquid bleach and a gallon of water and to then use a soft bristle brush with the solution to remove the mold, mildew or dirt. After using either solution, simply rinse the siding with a hose to have it looking like new. Powerwashing vinyl siding is not recommended because too much water can seep behind the panels and get trapped. Also, if the pressure is too high on the powerwasher, it can damage the finish of the vinyl siding.
Can Vinyl House Siding Be Repaired?
Repairing vinyl siding is relatively simple and all that is needed is that the panel that is damaged be replaced. The panel can be removed fairly easily using a tool called a "zip tool" which helps to unhook the panel from the surrounding panels so it can be removed. A replacement panel is then snapped in its place, renailed and refastened.
One issue with repairing damaged siding is that sometimes a new piece of siding does not completely match the old siding due to slight fading or discoloration over the years. If this is the case, it is best to take an old piece of siding from a location on the house that is not that visible and place that in the area where the damaged piece of siding needs to be replaced and then put the new piece in the unobtrusive place where no one will notice a slight difference in coloration.
Does Vinyl Siding Fade?
Most vinyl siding will fade to some extent over time, due to the constant exposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions. Newer technology in vinyl siding options has reduced the tendency for vinyl siding panels to fade, but some fading is still inevitable over time. Some brands and types of vinyl siding may fade to a fairly substantial degree but higher quality vinyl siding should not fade much. Darker colored vinyl siding tends to fade more than lighter colored siding, because darker colors absorb more heat from the sun. In areas with extreme heat conditions, it is not recommended that darker colored vinyl siding be used because the absorption of heat can cause panels to warp and buckle if the heat is too extreme.
If your vinyl siding fades and you are not ready to replace it, then you can give it a fresh coat of paint. Be sure to use latex paint when painting vinyl siding panels, so that it will expand and contract as the vinyl panels expand and contract due to weather fluctuations. In most cases, painting is not required or if it is, it will be many years before your vinyl siding fades to a degree that you think it requires a coat of paint. That is, as long as you invest in a quality vinyl siding product in the first place!
There are many benefits to using vinyl siding as an exterior siding option for your home, as well as a few drawbacks. The relatively low cost, low maintenance requirements and high durability make choosing vinyl siding a great option for many homeowners. For those that prefer the natural look of natural wood, stone, brick, or masonry, vinyl siding may not be the best option, as long as homeowners are willing to invest more money for those other options and in some cases, commit to more maintenance.