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Vinyl Siding For Your Home's Exterior

Vinyl siding is everywhere these days. Whether it is on newly constructed homes, older residences, or part of a remodeling project, vinyl is steadily gaining popularity. Since its introduction in the late 1950's, vinyl siding has captured more and more of the market, up to 32 percent of the time for new home construction in the U.S.

Vinyl costs less, requires less maintenance, and is easier to install than many other siding choices. Technological advances in chemistry and composition have helped to reduce the cracking, fading, and sagging of the original vinyl product, and have created an attractive siding option. For all of these reasons, vinyl's popularity continued to grow.

Introducing Vinyl Siding

However, not everyone is in agreement on the benefits of vinyl. Many people prefer the look and feel of clapboard wood siding, even with its higher costs and maintenance. The best way to decide whether vinyl siding is the best choice for your home is to know as much information as possible. In this article, we will provide details on the composition, maintenance, installation, and other benefits of vinyl, as well as outlining some of its drawbacks.

What is Vinyl Material?

Vinyl, simply put, is plastic. A chemical reaction between ethylene gas and chlorine creates a fine white powder called vinyl resin. This resin is combined with other additives, mixed, and melted to create a compound that can be used in products ranging from piping and flooring to shower curtains and handbags.

To create siding panels, the vinyl resin is typically extruded through a die, which can produce panels of virtually any length. In order to create the most detailed patterns and sharpest edges, the resin must be molded using a more expensive plastic called polypropylene. These finished panels are usually no more than four feet long.

The term "virgin" vinyl means that there is a greater composition of key additives in the resin. These additives affect the quality of the siding, including its flexibility and resistance to fading. Most siding is made using a core of re-melted vinyl that has been top-coated with a mixture of virgin material.


If you rap your knuckles against vinyl siding, you will hear a hollow sound. This is because panels are very thin sheets of plastic, with only a small area that rests against its sheathing.

Vinyl siding is manufactured at thicknesses ranging from .35 inches to .55 inches. Thicker pieces are touted as "premium" siding, and will be more expensive than other thicknesses. They are more resistant to sagging if installed correctly, and can be more durable than thinner panels.


Vinyl can be an extremely durable product, much more so than other siding options. Small holes in the panels and loose hanging patterns allow moisture to escape better than wood siding. Unlike aluminum siding, the product will not dent when bumped. The color of vinyl siding will last much longer than painted siding, sometimes up to 10 or 15 years before replacement is necessary.

Thicker vinyl panels are even more durable, especially in the presence of high winds. Some manufacturers will offer warranties for wind speeds. CertainTeed's Wolverine Millennium is a siding product that has a "won't blow off" warranty, and is able to withstand winds up to 180 mph when installed correctly.

Installing Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding can expand as much as 5/8 of an inch with temperature changes. For this reason, installation is different from many other siding options. Instead of being nailed directly to the house exterior, as with wood products, vinyl hangs from nails that are placed within horizontal slats at the top of the panel's hem. This allows the panels to move if necessary, preventing buckling and cracking with extreme heat or cold.

In addition to this, panels should not be nailed tightly to the exterior. There should be approximately 1/32 of an inch of room left between the panel hem and the nailhead. In this way, the panels are free to move in any direction, in any weather. Read more on how to install vinyl siding.


As detailed above, allowing room for movement is necessary for vinyl siding installation. This means that there should be room, approximately ΒΌ inch, between the siding hem and the trim of windows, doorframes, and corners. The resulting gap can be covered using something called a "J-Channel".

There are other, trim covering, products that manufacturers offer as well, including soffits, rake boards, and crown moldings. For older homes that are being re-sided, it is recommended to use each of the trim moldings available to you. In this way you can preserve some of

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the graceful moldings and trim that are unique to older architectural styles.


One distinct drawback of vinyl siding is the overlap. Siding panels must overlap one another by about an inch wherever they meet, which can create unsightly vertical lines on your home's exterior. To add to this, vinyl panels are often two to three times thicker than comparable wood clapboard panels, only accentuating the overlaps.

To avoid this issue, your vinyl siding should be installed from back corners to a front corner, and vertical overlap seams should be arranged away from the front door of your house.

Finding Good Contractors

A skilled vinyl siding contractor should be able to help in any area of installation that you are having difficulty with. Manufacturers often certify local contractors and installers through certification programs and proper installation education. Ask for customer reviews and any complaints that contractors have received from business associations and licensing boards. This will ensure that your product will be installed correctly on your home.

Maintenance And Cleaning

One of the greatest benefits of vinyl siding is the reduced cost and time spent maintaining your home's exterior. While this is very true, vinyl siding still requires a bit of work. Cleaning your vinyl periodically with a soft bristle brush and a 30/70 mix of vinegar and water can help to remove the mold, mildew, dirt, and chalky oxidation that can collect on its surface.

You can also try a mixture of 1/3 cup laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner, 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, and a gallon of water, which is recommended by the Vinyl Siding Institute. Using a brush, you can scrub each panel and rinse it off using a garden hose. A power washer is not recommended as it could cause water to seep behind the panels or damage the vinyl surface.

Repairing Vinyl Siding

If a vinyl panel becomes damaged, it can easily be replaced. Using a zip tool, the damaged panel can be unhooked from the surrounding pieces and pulled out from the fastening nails. A replacement panel is simply snapped back, nailed, and re-hooked into its place. Read more on repairing vinyl siding.

The biggest issue that you will face with repair and replacement is matching the color of the surrounding panels. The color of the vinyl can fade over time. A good solution is to replace the damaged piece with a panel from a less visible portion of the home. The unfaded, new panel is then placed in this less conspicuous location.


Vinyl siding will eventually fade due to the damaging effects of the sun and weather. After time, the color can fade to a significant degree. You can update the look of your vinyl panels with a fresh coat of paint, rather than replacing the entire exterior.

If you do make the choice to paint your vinyl siding, you should make sure to use latex paint. Latex will expand and contract with your vinyl panels, helping to avoid any cracking and peeling of your paint. You should also choose light colors to avoid any damage to your vinyl. Darker colors absorb too much heat, which could cause panel buckling.

Vinyl siding isn't for everyone. Many people prefer the look and feel of other exterior choices, and are willing to deal with the elevated costs and maintenance tasks. When deciding on the ideal choice for your home, make sure to consider using vinyl. It's lower cost, lower maintenance, and increased durability make it an attractive choice.

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