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Vinyl siding thickness for your climate

The vinyl siding thickness you use on your home can determine how much you spend on utility bills and maintenance. Vinyl siding is sold in five grades for residential use. Your climate - not your pocketbook - should determine the quality of the vinyl panel and insulation that can provide the best protection and value for your home. Thick siding works equally well in extremely hot or extremely cold environments.

The five grades from lowest to highest vinyl siding thickness are as follows:

  • Builder grade (.040)
  • Thin residential grade (.042)
  • Standard residential grade (.044)
  • Thick residential grade (.046)
  • Super thick grade (.050)

Siding and insulation

Insulated siding first became available to homeowners in 1997, according to The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). Thickness is determined by the depth of insulating materials that increase the R-value of the product -- its ability to resist outdoor heat. In fact, the insulation quality of siding can influence the entire wall's U-factor or loss of internal heat in cold climates.

Consumer Reports further recommends vinyl siding with a double nailing hem to battle energy leaks in parts of the nation with high winds. Foam backing can be a solid choice in cold climates where a thick residential grade of siding is used to help increase insulation and add durability.

Reflected heat and siding considerations

The VSI reports that standard residential grades of vinyl siding begin to soften when temperatures reach 160-165 degrees. While your outdoor temperature may be substantially lower, heat reflected on siding by double-pane, low-e windows can reach 200 degrees, darkening siding colors and potentially damaging the siding.

Frame wall assemblies can affect the structural integrity of siding in extreme heat. If you live in Florida, Hawaii, the American Southwest, and Texas, the VSI recommends siding installed with a frame wall U-factor of .082. In the rest of the country, where reflected heat is less of a problem, homeowners can expect adequate thermal resistance from a frame wall U-factor of .057.

Siding manufacturer, Norandex, says that, ultimately, thickness may not be as huge a concern as the total-sum quality of the product, including nailing hem design, UV inhibitors, and locking mechanism quality. Check with siding manufacturers and retailers where you live to narrow down a list of products that work best in your climate.

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