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Vinyl siding thickness: what makes the grade?

To the average person, small fractions of an inch don't make much difference in daily conversation. In the world of home construction and vinyl siding, hundredths of an inch mean everything.

Through thick and thin: vinyl siding standards

In general, thin siding is considered builder-grade, while thick siding is considered premium. Average thickness ranges from .035 to .055 inches. Some specialty brands and product lines might be even thicker to accommodate special design profiles.

Thin siding can warp and fade after only a few years. Part of the reason is that thin siding is vulnerable to breaking, pulling out of the nailing hem and revealing imperfections of the wall underneath. This can make the exterior of a home look wavy and inconsistent.

As the thickness of vinyl siding increases, two things tend to happen: Durability increases and aesthetics improve. Thicker vinyl siding is better able to mimic the profile of wood siding and shingles. Better looks, quality and longevity come at a cost. That's why thin siding still exists.

Sometimes, the right vinyl siding thickness is a decision based solely on economics. Called a square, a 10-by-10 foot section of builder-grade siding costs an average of $100. Siding that is .055 inches thick can cost twice that amount. Other common thicknesses like .040 and .048, usually fall somewhere in between on the price scale.

Warranties and wind ratings

Usually, vinyl siding warranties are dependent on the manufacturer and not the thickness of the siding. Companies like Mastic and Certainteed offer limited, lifetime warranties on most of their products. This generally means that only the original property owner who bought the siding gets the full, lifetime warranty; subsequent owners receive a pro-rated, 50-year warranty.

Just as you would check the warranty to get a sense of a siding's life expectancy, you should ask about the wind rating to figure out how well a brand of siding fits the weather in your region. Higher wind speed ratings usually indicate that siding is designed for double-nailing and interconnectivity. Both of these qualities will impact the appearance and performance of vinyl siding.

While vinyl siding thickness is an indicator of quality, it is not the only one, which is important to keep in mind when shopping around.

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